In remote Timor-Leste, a piped water supply reaches one community for the very first time

In remote Timor-Leste, a piped water supply reaches one community for the very first time

UNICEF Timor-Leste
In remote Timor-Leste, a piped water supply reaches one community for the very first time
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2020/Monemnasi
26 August 2020

A UNICEF-supported project high in the mountains of Ermera Municipality is seeing children and their families become healthier and happier

 

Against all odds, the small village of Bura in the mountains of Timor-Leste’s Ermera Municipality has finally been equipped with its first-ever supply of piped water. Close to 400 people call Bura home, with 190 students attending its school, known as EBF. 1281 Passa-Hei. 

“Since being able to access water at school, our students feel healthy, and not many have gotten diarrhea. Our students can now wash their hands and the women who cook for the students through the School Feeding Programme also feel happy because water is now always available,” says Domingos Soares, the EBF. 1281’s School Coordinator. 

But it has often been a bumpy road to get here. The source that now feeds the community’s gravity-fed water supply system is located some four kilometres from the village, up the side of a steep and rugged mountain. Roads were built just to get there, but progress was slow due to access difficulties. As a result, construction took longer than expected, as supplies had to be carried up by hand. Without access to a reliable water supply, students and community members faced myriad challenges.

“Before we got water from UNICEF, it was a big problem for us in this school because children wanted to wash their hands but there was no water here,” says Domingos. “For the school feeding programme, we had to get children to bring water from their home when they came to school - at least one bottle per junior student and one jerrycan for the higher-grade students. If they did not bring water with them, we had to ask them to go to the coffee plantation to fetch water and bring it to school. They had to spend about 30 minutes per student to collect their water.”
 

In remote Timor-Leste, a piped water supply reaches one community for the very first time2
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2020/Monemnasi
Domingos Soares, the School Coordinator at EBF. 1281 Passa-Hei, says far fewer children are experiencing diarrhoea since the school has had access to a reliable water supply.

More than 40 per cent of the 1,362 schools across Timor-Leste do not have access to an improved water source and close to 30 per cent do not have toilet facilities. Similarly, more than 30 per cent of rural households do not use improved drinking water sources, and more than 40 per cent of all households do not use improved sanitation facilities.

Alberto Soares, the village chief of Bura, says that apart from the coffee plantation, some families would go to the nearby river to collect water. In the dry season, they wold have to dig a hole to look for water. Now, however, children and their families have a reliable water supply that allows them to practice better hygiene, focus on school work and spend more time with their loved ones.

“Women in our village are now happy because they do not have to spend a lot of time travelling far to fetch water. They can cook whenever they want, children can take baths at least twice a day, they wash their hands before eating, and they have more time to play with their friends and classmates.”

Bura’s gravity-fed water system is one of six in Timor-Leste being constructed or rehabilitated with funding from Japan’s Ono City.