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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Nicaragua and Colombia: Young people help improve water safety in their communities

© UNICEF Mexico/2006/Chevigny
Jorge Luis Contreras of Nicaragua at the Children’s World Water Forum.

By Blue Chevigny

MEXICO CITY, Mexico, 4 April 2006 – At the Children’s World Water Forum, held in Mexico’s capital from 16 to 22 March, children reported to one another on their water and sanitation projects around the globe – including some important initiatives here in Latin America. Following are profiles of two such projects in Nicaragua and Colombia, and the young activists behind them.

Jorge: Positive change through youth radio

Jorge Luis Contreras, 16, lives in Estelí, northern Nicaragua and has been involved in children’s radio since he was 9. Jorge works with Radio Cumiches, a UNICEF-supported youth radio project in Estelí that focuses on the rights of the child. He records, produces and reports stories on children’s rights every week.

Children, youth and adults throughout northern Nicaragua hear the youth radio programme, and its success has given the Radio Cumiches reporters access to the Mayor of Estelí and other city officials. As a result, Jorge and his peers have opportunities to voice the concerns of young people to policy-makers.

A big focus for the radio reporters has been environmental degradation in their community. “One of the problems is with the Estelí River,” says Jorge. “It used to be a full and flowing river. But now, homeless people live on the banks of the river, and they cut down all the trees to build shanties. Now, because of the lack of tree cover, the river has dried up in the sun.”

But Jorge has seen positive changes that, he believes, are due in part to listeners being educated by Radio Cumiches. For example, he says there is now a school project in which children go to the Estelí River and plant new trees in an effort to improve conditions.

Jorge is pleased to have been a part of the Children’s World Water Forum. “I’m happy to be representing Nicaragua to the rest of the world,” he says.

© UNICEF Mexico/2006/Chevigny
Anyeli Gonzalez Ramirez of Colombia at the Children’s World Water Forum.

Anyeli: Education campaign sees results

Anyeli Gonzales Ramirez’s mother is a teacher, and when Anyeli grows up, she wants to be a teacher too. At 16, she is teaching children how to take care of the environment and protect themselves from unsafe water in her community of Riosucio, in western Colombia.

Anyeli says the students at her school are lucky because they have toilets for girls and boys, and safe water. But she also knows that not all of her friends at school can get clean water at home. “Many of my friends miss school because they do not have safe drinking water, and they get sick from using contaminated water,” she says.

One of Anyeli’s goals is to help her peers and the community work together to use water wisely and improve environmental conditions. To that end, she is developing class projects about water and protecting the environment. The projects run across several school grades to cover every major aspect of the living world.

With Anyeli’s help, the students have formed environment committees that distribute posters and flyers, and help the state-owned sanitation companies to organize conferences on water conservation. The children have also organized local community water and hygiene education projects using murals on public walls and public service announcements.

Anyeli welcomed the chance to attend the Children’s World Water Forum and share her experiences with other young people last month. “Children are the future,” she says. “And if we don’t conserve water and make it clean, there won’t be any left for our children.”




31 March 2006: UNICEF Radio Correspondent Blue Chevigny reports on the efforts of two Latin American youth to improve water conditions in their communities.

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