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Water brings cleaner, healthier lives

By Tabongphet Phouthavong, UNICEF

© Tabongphet Phouthavong/UNICEF/Lao PDR
Taking a break from weaving, Ms Chan goes to wash clothes. It is hot, but she is still smiling because clean tap water is not far from her house

Xieng Khouang Province, Lao PDR, 27 June 2011 – Chan, 24, carries her five month-old son and a bucket to a water tap just five minutes from her home. It’s a simple daily task, but one she doesn’t take for granted.

“When I was young, I had to walk more than 30 minutes to fetch water,” she says. “I had to leave very early in the morning and then go again after school. It was hard work, and I had not time to time to study.”

But it’s more than just the distance to clean water that’s made life in her village easier.

As a child, there was no school in her community. She had to walk more than an hour each way – crossing a river with no bridge – to a neighbouring village for her studies. During the rainy season the river would swell too high to make it across, and she and her friends were forced to miss their classes.

“There was no water or even toilets in the school, which was especially inconvenient for girls,” she adds. “At that time, my family needed us to work in the rice field. Eventually, I just dropped out of school.”

Now Chan has two sons. But even with the extra work of caring for her children, the simple difference of not having to travel long distances for water means she still has enough time to do housework, gardening and other activities.

water for better life2
© Tabongphet Phouthavong/UNICEF/Lao PDR
During school holidays, Khamphong and her friend spend most of their time helping parents working in the rice field. They are not rushing home for showers, because they have clean water near their house.

Generational impacts
Although they can’t relate to all the major changes that Chan has seen in the village, younger generations are also aware of the improvements. Now there is a new school that meets Government standards of quality, and sanitation facilities are readily available in the village.

Khamphong, 10, and her friend at the water pump explained they previously didn’t have the luxury of washing with such readily available, clean water.

“The water is really fresh and clean compared with the river where we used to go to wash” she says. “We’re happy, and we know we’re lucky to have water so near our house... And yes, now I have more time to study and help my parents with chores.”
Others agree.

Weaving and smiling, Chin, 18, said that now she has more time for to weave, and her income has increased because she doesn’t waste her time going to get water. “The water tap is two minutes from my house, I can go any time to get clean water and have a bath in the evening. It’s very convenient”.

Funding change
Mr Akihiko Harada, Board Chairperson of the Japanese AEON retailing corporation, visited Say Nadou Village in June. “We are very happy that local communities have access to clean water,” he said.”This helps to reduce the prevalence of water borne diseases and improves people’s health.”

©Tabongphet Phouthavong/UNICEF/Lao PDR
Mr Khammeung Phengmala, Village Head of Ban Say Nadou, proudly shows the clean water from a tap to Mr Akihiko Harada - Board Chairperson of AEON and Mr Ken HAYAMI - Executive Director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF.

AEON and the Japan Committee for UNICEF have funded school construction and water systems across Xieng Khouang, Luangprabang and Savannanakhet provinces since 2006.

Mr Khammeung Phengmala, Village Head of Ban Say Nadou, explained that people in the village are healthier overall thanks to the new water system.

“We are very grateful for the support from AEON and UNICEF that has made life easier and healthier,” he said.

The AEON Company raises funds from customers and employees and donates a percentage of its yearly profits. The Japan committee for UNICEF then matches the contribution with other donations from the public.



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