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Taking clean water and hygiene awareness to rural Pakistan

22 March is World Water Day. This year’s theme is water cooperation. After devastating floods, a village in Pakistan is energized by a major initiative taken by the government, UNICEF and partners to bring water, sanitation and hygiene to rural villages.

By A. Sami Malik

FAQIR WALA, Dera Ghazi Khan district, Pakistan, 22 March 2013 – Asma is a member of an 18-person household in the rural community of Faqir Wala, Pakistan. Until recently, the some 1,000 people of this village drank polluted water and defecated in the open.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Zaidi
Asma preserves water purification sachets and other items from a hygiene kit she received from UNICEF as part of a programme to bring clean drinking water and sanitation to rural villages such as hers. The use of clean drinking water and soap has improved her family's health tremendously.

Six months ago, Faqir Wala was hit by floods.

“We used to take water from the nearby canal or the hand pump in the village,” says Asma. “The water was dirty and got even worse after the floods. My children would often fall sick due to diarrhoea and stomach worms.

“Everyone in the village suffered,” she continues. “After the floods, we got this new hand pump, which has clean water. We also use medicines to make drinking water clean. Thank God, my children are much healthier now,” says Asma.

Clean drinking water enters village

After the floods, food became scarce, and people were forced to drink polluted water. The situation aggravated health issues, especially among children. As the floodwaters receded, UNICEF and its partner Muslim Aid started conducting community hygiene sessions in the village.

For the first time, the people of Faqir Wala were introduced to the linkage between hygiene and health. Raising awareness raised demand for services. UNICEF installed a hand pump, constructed 11 toilets and 5 bathing areas and distributed about 200 hygiene kits in the village.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Zaidi
Children in Asma's village, Faqir Wala, take water from the UNICEF-installed hand pump, which is a source for safe and clean drinking water for the entire village. Faqir Wala was struck by devastating floods in 2012.

Amir Hussain is a member of the WASH committee. “We want every house in the village to have a latrine and at least one more source of drinking water,” he says. “We do not have the resources, as our land holdings are small and most men in the village work as labourers on daily wages. With UNICEF’s support, we are willing to make our own latrines and install the hand pump ourselves, as we realize the benefits of drinking clean water and the convenience of using a latrine.”

According to UNICEF Water and Sanitation Officer Muhammad Tufail Khan, “The hand pump in the village prior to the flood was installed in a shallow depth at about 35 feet, and water testing was not done to ensure provision of safe drinking water. We had a new hand pump installed, which draws water from more than 60 feet deep. This water was tested and approved by the Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources before we advised people to use it for drinking.” 

WASH committee motivates community

In the wake of UNICEF’s post-flood relief and rehabilitation activities in Faqir Wala, the community was energized to learn and adapt a healthy way of life. A water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committee was formed of volunteers who try to ensure that people in the village adhere to health and hygiene practices.

Members of the WASH committee motivate fellow villagers to maintain cleanliness in and around the village, drink water from the UNICEF-installed hand pump, defecate only in latrines and wash hands with soap after defecation and before meals.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Zaidi
Amir Hussain's daughter pours water as he washes his hands with soap. Mr. Hussein is a member of the village's WASH committee.

Holistic approach improves water and sanitation

The Government of Pakistan, with UNICEF as a leading partner, has started implementation of the Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS), a UNICEF initiative taken in the wake of the 2010 floods to scale up rural sanitation in flood-affected areas. All villages in Union Council Kot Chutta, including Faqir Wala, will benefit from PATS in the near future.

“On World Water Day, UNICEF reaffirms its commitment to work closely with the government, to support increased access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation facilities,” says Chief of WASH for UNICEF Pakistan Simone Klawitter. “PATS is a holistic human rights-based approach to sanitation. On one hand, it creates public demand, and on the other, encourages communities to construct their own latrines and regularly use the facilities. This is especially important for women and children, as they are most vulnerable to waterborne diseases.”

Within the next few weeks, various measures will be taken in Faqir Wala under the PATS programme. A series of hygiene promotion sessions will be held, village masons will be trained in construction of low-cost household latrines, community resource persons will be identified, entrepreneurs will establish sanitation marts to provide sanitation materials, and related linkages will be developed.

For her part, having witnessed the positive impact safe drinking water and sanitation have had on her children's health, Asma treasures the contents of the hygiene kit she received from UNICEF. 




In Focus: World Water Day

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