UNICEF and the Government of Japan make water possible for rural children
By Monica Awad
Rujeeb, State of Palestine – 28 October 2013. What seems like a natural thing to do for many children in the world, turns out to be a challenge for some Palestinian children.
“For many years, washing my teeth and my face before going to school was complicated,’ says 17-year old Hamoudeh, a Palestinian student living in Rujeeb village, north of the West Bank.
Hamoudeh and his siblings used to waste time trying to find a way to have enough water while getting ready to go to school every morning. Most days of the week, no water reaches their house through the network. They could use water that their parents had been able to purchase from private vendors, at a price four times higher than the water network and without quality control.
Due to the high price, there was not always enough purchased water to enable the siblings to wash properly.
“It was impossible to tell whether the water I was providing my children with was safe or not,” says Hamoudeh’s mother, Laila. “This was really upsetting. I have always strived to secure a better life for my three children, but I could not provide them with enough of something as basic as water.”
Hamoudeh recalls how he would sometimes have to rush to his grandparents’ house early morning, so he could wash himself before classes started. “Because their house is at the bottom of the hill, it receives more water from the network than our house, which is further up the hill,” he explains.
The village of Rujeeb, home to 7,500 people, is perched on a hill. Lack of water pressure made it difficult for water to reach every single house, especially those located on higher ground. The latter used to receive water only once a week, while houses located downhill would receive water twice a week.
The lack of water pressure was further compounded by the lack of material to carry water up to the houses. “Half of the water destined to our village was lost before it even reached us because of old water networks, worn-out water pumps, and limited capacity of storage,” explains Owni Dweikat, Head of the Village Council.
Rujeeb municipality used to receive water every other day, for two hours only. “Because it takes more than two hours to fill municipal reservoir with water, and more than two hours to distribute it to some houses, we could not provide all the families with water,” Dweikat says, adding that families whose houses were located high on the hill, are those who received the least water.
As a result, residents in the village consumed only 56 litres of water per person per day, half of the World Heath Organization’s recommendation of 100 litres per person per day.
The situation has improved since UNICEF, with funding from the Government and People of Japan, renovated the old water network, installed new water booster pumps, and built a 500 cubic metre municipal reservoir, all things which now help secure that water can reach every house in the village.
“From now on, families in the village will all be provided with a sufficient amount of water for drinking, personal hygiene and domestic use,” says Bilas Dongol, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme at UNICEF. “Every household will be able to fulfill its right to water, no matter how high up the hill they live.”
The project has resulted in a 16 per cent increase of access to water and in major savings for vulnerable families, who no longer have to purchase water at high prices, and can now trust its quality.
Hamoudeh says he is relieved to no longer have to worry about how he can access enough water for his daily needs. “Now, all I have to focus on is studying and playing with my friends,” he tells. “I have always loved playing football, but used to worry about whether I would have enough water to wash after the match, which bothered me,” he says. “Now that I no longer have to worry about it, it’s like a fresh start.”