Awaiting for the vital liquid
Thirty-year old Telma Mazariegos, awaits impatiently for the truck that sells water to the 199 families who have been living for two months in the Aníbal Archila neighborhood located in the community of Carmen del Monte, Barcenas, Villa Nueva, and whose homes were built by the Government of Guatemala to support those affected by the tropical storm Agatha, which left about 400,000 victims across the country.
“We are pleased to have at least a roof because we were left with nothing; but one of the problems we have here is that there is no water nor drainages”, said Telma, who lives in this new community along with her children Jackelyn, four years, and Robin, eleven.
She previously resided in Cañaveral Peronia, Villa Nueva “We lived on the edge of a sewage gully that overflowed and all the dirty water got into our homes. We lost everything and so we moved into this new colony”, she says.
Although no human casualties resulted from this sewage overflow, many families lost their belongings. For several days, Telma’s family was sheltered in a church and later moved into this neighborhood inaugurated by President Alvaro Colom on June 6th.
The Guatemalan President explained that this community was built on land formerly owned by the army and was named after journalist “Aníbal Archila”, who died while fulfilling his duties during the Pacaya Volcano eruption on May 27th.
Víctor Duarte, Director of the Housing Development Unit, reported that this neighborhood holds a total of 199 homes of 72 square meters with two rooms, totaling four million Quetzales (US$ 500,000).
Telma continues telling that the government provided them with free water on the early days, but three weeks have passed since the delivery man came for the last time and, from then on, a tanker truck comes every other day selling water. “We pay eight Quetzales per tank which lasts less than two days. We have no other choice but to buy it because we cannot live without water, but it is very difficult for us to afford it; my husband, a mason’s helper, earns very little”, she says.
Josefa Guardas, 29, says Oxfam donated plastic containers they use for water storage, and also gave them cleaning kits containing soap, chloride, towels, diapers, toothpaste and other items.
Staff from Refugio de la Niñez Organization provides this community with educational material developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and training on basic sanitation for households and communities.
“We have been organized in “immediate reaction committees” operating in each sector of the neighborhood. Although a truck comes every other day to clean public toilets, a family cleans them twice a day with chloride to keep flies away and prevent our children from getting sick” says Josefa.
“Since we have no drainages, the colony has only public latrines placed in the corner of each block. While we have organized to use them, sometimes we have problems because children need to go to the toilet at night and the psychologist have told us not to let them go by themselves to protect them from being sexually abused,“ said Josefa.
“We have also been advised to chloride drinking water to avoid our children and us getting sick with diarrhea”, he adds.
In this regard, the Ministry of Health’s Water and Sanitation Program points out that UNICEF supports water analysis and sanitation diagnosis in affected communities, as well as the rental of mobile toilets to alleviate hygiene and sanitation needs of families affected by Agatha storm.
Telma finished saying she hopes Government authorities will install running water into their households and drainages will be constructed so they can have a toilet inside their homes. “My children and I hope this situation will be solved soon so that we may have a better living condition”.