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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Thailand: UNICEF provides clean drinking water to schools

© UNICEF video
Students at Ban Bang Muang school now have access to a reliable supply of clean water thanks to a water purification and filtration system installed by UNICEF.

By Natthinee Rodraksa

PHANG-NGA, Thailand, December 2005 – Like her schoolmates, 11-year-old Aye tries to ignore the scorching midday sun and joins in the many activities that are part of Ban Bang Muang school’s first ‘sports day’ in several years.

Exhausted after a game of volleyball Aye refreshes herself with big gulps of crystal-clear drinking water – a basic necessity that the students at the school were denied before, unless they could afford to pay for bottled water.

“It’s so good that our school has clean drinking water available all the time now,” says Aye, drawing another glass to quench her thirst. “The water from the tap used to be dirty and rusty, and it tasted awful.”

A tangible sign of hope after tragedy

For the students of Ban Bang Muang, the availability of clean drinking water at the school is a sign that things are indeed getting better. The December 2004 tidal waves took the lives of 51 students at the school, and also killed the parents or guardians of 54 others. No school in the six provinces hit by the tsunami suffered a greater human toll.

© UNICEF video
Ban Bang Muang school is one of the 800 schools in all six southern tsunami-affected provinces of Thailand that receive UNICEF’s support for water supply improvements.

Before the tsunami the school relied on an underground water source, which was pumped up and stored in an old tank that was built in 1960. Students who did not want to drink foul tasting water piped to the school from the tank had to regularly contribute one baht each to buy clean drinking water.

“One baht might not seem like much, but it is for some of my friends who are very poor,” Aye explains.

Thanit Thippitak, the school’s deputy director, says many students at the school previously suffered from stomach aches and diarrhoea.

“But we couldn’t identify the cause until we were told by the water inspectors from the District Health Office that it was because of the dirty water at school,” Thanit said. “It was contaminated with rust.” 

Thanit says that the problem worsened during the tsunami aftermath when there was high demand for water following the school’s reopening. Both students and the hundreds of humanitarian personnel who used the school site as their operation base desperately needed clean water supply.

Building back better

UNICEF responded to the needs at Ban Buang Muang school by providing it with a water filtering and purification system that provides a  near-endless supply of clean water.
The school is one of the 800 schools in all six southern tsunami-affected provinces of Thailand that receive UNICEF’s support for water supply improvements.

“In the past I could neither wash my hands before meal nor brush my teeth after meal because the water was rusty and dirty,” says Aye. “Now I can do it. And now no longer need to pay for drinking water.”

Thanit says the water system “is the best tsunami assistance the school has received. Just look at our students: they are healthier, happier and enjoying sports day. When they are tired and thirsty they have clean water to drink and refresh themselves. This is definitely helping them to recover both physically and mentally from the tsunami.”




UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on how UNICEF is providing schools in Thailand with clean drinking water.

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