Children create giant mural for World Water Day in Laos
By Tom Winkler / UNICEF
Vientiane, 24th March 2009 - Some 60 Lao school children joined forces to create a huge pictorial representation of life along the banks of the Mekong River system as part of international celebrations for World Water Day 2009.
The painting – measuring 8 by 15 metres – was created in a park close to the celebrated Patouxay arch in central Vientiane. Working under a hot sun, the children added their impressions and images of people and living conditions along the Mekong, which is the most important shared water resource for six countries in South East Asia.
“I’m really happy I can be here with many friends and drawing pictures of people, nature and animals on the Mekong,” said 12 year old Sithida.
The open-air painting event was inaugurated by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Somsavat Lengsavath, and attended by senior officials from a number of government bodies.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations, UNICEF representative to Laos, Laila Ismail Khan, said the World Water Day 2009 theme of Shared Waters, Shared Opportunities made it particularly appropriate that so many children were involved. “When we talk about the need for people and nations to share and cooperate in their use of water resources, it is future generations that have most at stake,” said Ms Ismail Khan.
The vital contribution of the Mekong as a source of clean water to people living throughout the river’s catchment area was underlined by Mr Somdy Nadtavong, Vice Governor of Vientiane. “It is important to raise the awareness of children and communities in general about the use and sustainable management of water,” he said.
The same point was borne out by events in August last year – when the Mekong River and many of its tributaries burst their banks and flooded Lao villages across ten provinces. In the nationwide emergency that followed, UNICEF and the rest of the UN played an active role, rehabilitating drinking water sources and schools. Emergency supplies were provided to families most at risk, while a joint UN appeal raised nearly six million dollars in relief assistance.
In the mural the children created on Saturday, the young artists created examples of how families and communities can protect the water sources they depend on.
Activities were coordinated by the Lao Youth Union, a government agency through which UNICEF supports different projects in the country. Youth participation is an integral component of UNICEF’s regular WASH programming that supports water and sanitation initiatives in the poorest rural districts of the country.