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Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

UNICEF restores water supplies in cyclone-affected Myanmar

© UNICEF Myanmar/2009/Linn
Villager Daw Pauk Sa, filling a water jar provided by UNICEF, in front of her house in May Sa Ngu village, Myanmar.

By Sandar Linn

KATIPAR YWAR THIT, Myanmar, 17 June 2009 – A child laden with heavy water buckets isn’t always a cheerful sight. But in Katipar Ywar Thit village, it has a different connotation.

Even a few months after Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar’s delta region in May 2008, no one could draw any drinking water from the village pond. It was choked with saltwater and debris.  With most rainwater storage facilities destroyed, the ponds were the only other water source.

"We were overwhelmed with worries about how we were going to empty and clean the pond before the monsoon starts. Everything felt hopeless. We were worn out and our lives had been torn apart," said the head of Shaw Chaung village, U Zaw Min.

Communal water ponds

Communal rain water ponds are immensely important to families across the delta. Without them, many families would not have access to clean water for most of the year. Communities need to catch enough rainwater during the rainy season to last them throughout the dry season, which begins around November and can last until May.

Water storage is crucial. UNICEF support has provided about 2,500 families in the cyclone-affected district each with two 227 litre jars. Combined, the two huge jars store around 25 per cent of a family’s water in the dry season.

"We could not afford to buy a jar because the family has to depend only on my husband's income as a day labourer, which can’t cover much beyond the food expenses,” said Daw Pauk Sa, 48, who lives with her four children in May Sa Ngu village.

Other means of storing water

Drawing on the United Nations Central Emergency Resource Fund and other donors, UNICEF with its partners helped re-establish other means of storing water.

UNICEF worked with the Myanmar Red Cross Society and other partners to clean one pond per village. They provided water purification materials and hygiene kits to every household, along with shovels, hoes and wheel barrows to encourage the construction sanitary latrines.

UNICEF installed a 400-gallon water storage tank at Katipar Ywar Thit’s primary school and other schools, as well as prefabricated latrines and two sets of ceramic water filters.

 “We do not have a lot to worry even if there is water shortage,” says Than Htay, a mother of three.

Jars improve life quality

"I'm so happy to receive these jars," said Daw Pauk Sa. "I'm very proud to have earthen jars in front of my house. They mean more than water storage—they are also a precious asset."

Though they still fetch water from the communal pond, Daw Pauk Sa’s family no longer has to spend hours filling other people’s jars. Too poor to buy their own jar, they were allowed access to a neighbour’s jar in the long dry season in exchange for filling several jars.

The jars also enable Daw Pauk Sa to work in the paddy fields to supplement the family’s income. And her children have more time for playing with friends.



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