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With Funds from KARCPP, UNICEF Provides Safe Drinking Water for Communities in Balochistan

By: A. Sami Malik

Muslim Bagh, Balochistan - 23 November 2015: Scarcity of water, especially safe drinking water, has been one of the major issues in the mountainous and rugged but otherwise beautiful Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan.  Considered to be the least served in terms of public “For many years, water was a very precious item in this area,” says Haji Mohammad Janservices – health, nutrition, hygiene, education, water and sanitation – Balochistan has low population density and communities live far apart some of which are hard to access due to the difficult terrain.  

“For many years, water was a very precious item in this area,” says Haji Mohammad Jan, a construction contractor and resident of a mid-size town called Muslim Bagh in Qilla Saifullah district. “We had to fetch water from far off sources and use it very carefully. It was particularly hard for children as they would play around in the open and then wanted to drink lots of water. Often, the water they drank was not good for their stomach and caused health issues.”


© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/Sami Malik

Haji Mohammad Jan is a construction contractor in Muslim Bagh and heads a household of 22 people including 16 children.

In 2010, Pakistan experienced the largest ever floods in the country’s history. Ten out of 31 districts in Balochistan were affected. The existing water sources and infrastructure in these districts were severely damaged. As a result, a large number of people were forced to consume unsafe drinking water.

As part of its immediate relief and rehabilitation activities, UNICEF began restoring the damaged water sources and constructing new schemes in collaboration with the relevant department of the Government of Balochistan (GOB). The King Abdullah Relief Campaign for Pakistani People (KARCPP) which had stepped in to help the flood-affected people, provided UNICEF USD 1.6 million for rehabilitation of 76 water supply schemes in ten of the affected districts in the province.

Around 70,000 people living in Muslim Bagh, a town in the flood-affected district of Qilla Saifullah, faced serious water crises. UNICEF focused on resolving this age-old problem of the people which had become acute after the floods.


© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/Sami Malik
A view of Muslim Bagh from the higher ground where one of the water tanks has been constructed by UNICEF. From the tank, safe-for-drinking water flows down with gravity to reach the community even if there is no electricity.
  

As part of his business, Haji Mohammad Jan has worked on a number of water supply projects in the recent past and is well aware of the water issue the people of Muslim Bagh faced especially in the aftermath of the floods. He has also seen both the population of the city and the need for water grow with time.

“The entire Balochistan had an ancient system of underground water canals called ‘Karez’. Rain water collected in these canals and remained preserved for people to use. This was the only source of water. Over the years, with fewer rains, the canals “With the generous support of the KARCPP, UNICEF in collaboration with the PHED, has managed to rehabilitate 72 drinking water systems in 10 flood-affected districts,” says Muhammad Masud Alamdried up and the system became redundant. We then started digging in search of ground water but that was difficult due to rocky terrain and the depth at which water was to be found.”   

With funds from KARCPP, UNICEF and the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of the GoB have upgraded the water supply system in Muslim Bagh by installing ten new tube wells which take water from a depth of nearly 500 feet. Three new water tanks each with the capacity of storing 100,000 gallons of water and another two tanks with the storage capacity of 50,000 gallons have been constructed.  

“After the rehabilitation of the water tanks with funds provided by UNICEF and the construction of a new tank with the capacity of 100,000 gallons, the overall storage capacity of water in Muslim Bagh has been increased from 250,000 to 350,000 gallons,” says Mohammad Azam Zarkoon, the Executive Engineer Qilla Saifullah. “Power outage is a major problem in this area and at times there is no electricity for many hours. We have constructed the water tanks at a higher ground so that water flows down with gravity to reach the community which resides at a lower ground. When there is a power outage, the tube wells stop working but people get uninterrupted supply of water in their houses.”

Improved storage and supply system of safe-for-drinking water has contributed immensely to the reduction in morbidity and mortality caused by diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene. This has tangibly and intangibly contributed to an overall improvement in health indicators in Muslim Bagh.


© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/Sami Malik

Haji Mohammad Jan watches his grandchildren drink water from a tap installed in his compound. He is no longer worried about them falling ill due to unsafe water.

When comparing the availability of safe drinking water before and after the construction of new water schemes in Muslim Bagh, Haji Mohammad Jan says, “There are 22 people of my family living in one compound. Sixteen of them are children. They run around in the streets all day long but do not drink water from anywhere except the water taps installed at the tube wells or in my house. I have no fear of them falling ill by drinking dirty water.” 

UNICEF, to date, has restored and constructed 112 water supply schemes in the rural and urban areas of Balochistan, The KARCPP funded project provides safe drinking water to more than 115,000 flood affected people through the rehabilitation of 76 drinking water supply schemes in 10 flood affected districts of Balochistan.  


© UNICEF/Pakistan/2015/Sami Malik
A child washes her hands before drinking water from a tap that provides safe drinking water as a result of the KARCPP funded and UNICEF supported water schemes, in ten flood-affected districts of Balochistan.

“With the generous support of the KARCPP, UNICEF in collaboration with the PHED, has managed to rehabilitate 72 drinking water systems in 10 flood-affected districts,” says Muhammad Masud Alam, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist UNICEF. “The project for rehabilitation of water supply systems has benefitted more than 115,000 people who now have access to safe drinking water. It is particularly beneficial for rural women who earlier had to fetch water from far off sources which in many cases was not safe for drinking."

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