Delivering urgently-needed water by boat

WASH for emergency

Ye Lat Yi and Kris Cahyanto
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Maung Maung Oo

26 June 2019

Sittwe, Rakhine State – Water is extremely scarce in Rakhine State this year. The rains have not yet come. Due to the long dry season, nearly all the rainwater-harvesting ponds are empty. More than fifty villages are facing water scarcity now, according to the Rakhine State Department of Rural Development.

Gripping her metal water container and daily water voucher, Daw Zaw Yi Na Kha Ta, a mother of eight children and a resident of Ah Naeuk Ywe camp for internally displaced people joins the queue at the camp water distribution point in the mornings and afternoons.

“I collect fifty-five litres of water a day for my family of nine people,” says Daw Zaw Yi Na Kha Ta, whose youngest child is five years old.

Around 4,300 internally displaced people live in the Ah Naeuk Ywe camp, established in Pauktaw Township by the Rakhine State Government nearly seven years ago. Another 2,000 displaced people live in Ah Naeuk Ywe host village. Residents of the Ah Naeuk Ywe camp are not allowed to leave the camp, not even to visit the nearby town.

“At the moment there is just enough water but it won’t last. I really hope the rain comes soon. We need water now,” urges Daw Zaw Yi Na Kha Ta.

UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Maung Maung Oo

UNICEF and Solidarites International are collaborating intensively to maintain a supply of treated water to the camps for internally displaced people and rural villages in Rakhine State. They are carrying water for drinking, cooking and bathing, basic survival needs, from Sittwe town by boat to Ah Naeuk Ywe camp, about five kilometres away, across the Bay of Bengal.

U Hla Mg Thein, a father of five, in his fifties, has been a resident of Ah Naeuk Ywe camp for almost seven years. He is in charge of unloading and pumping of the much-needed fresh water, moving it from the boats onto the jetty and then transporting it to the camp. 

“All the water ponds are dry now.  Bringing in water by boats, we can only provide seven and a half litres per person per day,” explains U Hla Mg Thein. 

The logistical challenges to bring water to the camp are enormous. Access to Ah Naeuk Ywe camp is difficult. It can be only reached by boat. At some low tides, the boats delivering the water cannot reach the drop off point.

The rainwater harvesting ponds, which have been constructed and are regularly maintained by the Myanmar government and Solidarites International, are the only source of drinking water in Ah Naeuk Ywe camp. For now, all are dry, empty. 

Sourcing underground water is not feasible in this area. Attempts by some local communities to dig wells inside the dry water ponds failed to draw much water. Boating water into the camps cannot be avoided this year. 

Up to the end of May 2019, UNICEF had delivered over 1,600 cubic metres of water to Ah Naeuk Ywe camp and village.

“Definitely the internally displaced people in the camps need more safe drinking water. Carrying in water by boat is challenging. We are trying to find more sustainable solutions,” explains Kris Cahyanto, WASH Programme Specialist at UNICEF Myanmar.