Thursday, June 19, 2014

Simple but effective: Water taps in remote areas

Ms Bou and her grandson © UNICEF/Laos/2014/S.Nazer
A simple water tap can bring huge benefits to many people, especially for women and children in rural areas who are often burdened with the responsibility of collecting and carrying water each day. In Yang village, in the northern province of Luang Prabang, villagers spoke of how new water taps have helped change their everyday lives for the better.

Ms Bou, a grandmother of one who thinks she is around 50, sat with us in a dusty wooden village meeting hall to talk about how things have changed since she was young. As a young girl and later a mother, she recalls how tiring it was collecting water with children.

Ms. Bou talks about how life became
easier with the new water taps
© UNICEF/Laos/2014/S.Nazer
“It was hard. I had to put the child on my back and fetch many buckets of water. It was even harder when you’re pregnant; you need to collect more water because more people are visiting you and we have to serve them. The husband even has to help…” she said, as the village chief listened, nodding in agreement. 

The village chief explained that women and children got up at daybreak to collect water for their households, often having to go back and forth several times, before heading into the fields for a sweltering day’s work.

It seemed days in the village were particularly long for women, but Ms Bou seemed happy that the taps have made her life, and her daughter’s life, a little easier.

“After coming back from working in the fields, I can just wash and change very close by. It’s very convenient now,” said Ms Bou. She had just taken her grandson to wash in a nearby tap.

As she spoke villagers were returning from the fields, clearly hot and weary. It’s rainy season now and although temperatures drop a little, energy sapping humidity levels rise dramatically. As families return home, a woman walks past the meeting hall with two buckets of water balanced on a pole across her back, her trip to fetch water now taking only a few minutes. 

With support from AEON and Japanese pop star Ai Kawashima, the Lao Government and UNICEF installed seven water points in Yang village. This means nearly 500 people now have easy access to clean, safe water just metres away from their homes.

Ms. Bou's grandson and daughter wash themselves and their clothes
© UNICEF/Laos/2014/S.Nazer
Although relatively simple in design, the taps serve many purposes. The villagers can use the water for drinking and cooking, and they can wash themselves and their clothes. All of these elements are vital to help people stay healthy and for children to lead fulfilling lives.

As well as saving time and energy, the water taps bring other important benefits. Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death for children under 5 years in Lao PDR and easy access to safe drinking water is one of the best ways to combat this problem. 

The taps also bring safety benefits. Villagers would often return from working the fields late in the day. In order to get to the spring to wash themselves, they would have to walk over rugged terrain in the dark. This is particularly dangerous for women carrying babies, as well as for young children.

The villagers are now responsible for looking after the taps and are grateful for all the support they have received. UNICEF works throughout Lao PDR to help villages access clean water and learn how to keep themselves healthy.


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