The Miracle of Water: How Providing Access to Clean Water Has Improved the Lives of Families
UNICEF’s WASH support following the 2018 floods in this province is now being carried forward by the local community.
36-year-old Phonsai, a mother of three, is a resident of Sanamxai District in Lao PDR’s southernmost province, Attapeu. In her village of Khanmaknao, water has always been scarce and many villagers always relied on water from the nearby Sekong River for basic chores, such as cooking and bathing, as well as for drinking.
“The daily task of fetching water from the river was a tedious one,” said Phonsai. “It was a 15-minute round trip from my house to the river and I often needed to make that journey multiple times a day,” she added.
To add to their woes, the province experienced severe floods in 2018. Although Phonsai’s village was spared the brunt of the flood’s destructive effects and there were no casualties, their only source of water, the Sekong river, became tainted and no longer safe to drink from. Suddenly, thousands of villagers were deprived of access to clean water.
UNICEF immediately stepped in to respond to the emergency. As part of the effort to help Attapeu Province recover from the 2018 floods, UNICEF implemented a Schools and Community Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in the province.
With generous assistance from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF has provided support in the construction of a new water pipeline system throughout Khanmaknao village in 2020. The new pipeline system will ensure that all households throughout the village have access to clean water. Additionally, UNICEF also supported the installation of water meters for each individual household in the village as part of this WASH intervention.
Together with Phonsai’s family, an estimated 82 households in Khanmaknao village, comprising of 418 people (75 children), have benefited from this intervention. The village now has a proper water supply system in place and its populace now have access to an uninterrupted supply of clean water in their homes.
“Absence of a water supply system in the village had long led to inequalities in access to clean water between families. Poorer families were forced to rely on the river, while those with enough funds drilled boreholes at their own homes,” said the local village Chief, Mr. Khamone
The credit for the success of the programme also goes to the community members, who have played an active role in its implementation. Through their own initiative, the villagers have established a committee to setup, maintain and expand the new water supply network throughout the village, and they have also led the installation of water pipelines throughout the village so that all homes have access to clean water.
“Under my leadership, the committee has installed water meters in individual homes to collect monthly fees as per the usage. The collected fees will help us maintain our water system as well as pay for necessary repairs and the village’s electricity bills,” said the village Deputy Chief Mr. Bounyeun. “So far, 74 out of around 90 families in the village already have water taps installed at their homes, and we expect everyone to be connected to our water supply very soon,” he further added.
Phonsai and the villagers are ecstatic with their community’s new resource.
“Now, I have an ample supply of clean water right at my doorstep. Life has become much more convenient since I don’t have to spend time walking to the river to fetch water everyday anymore. I now have more time to spend with my children and at the rice fields,” shared Phonsai.
“There was no point in having a toilet without a water supply system,” she reasoned.
However, new toilets are now appearing in every house throughout the village. Mr. Khamone has expressed his desire to build even more toilets in the village as part of the drive to make his village Open Defecation Free by 2021.
Now that her home has uninterrupted access to clean water, Phonsai too is taking part in this drive. She has saved up enough money of her own to begin building a new toilet for her family.