Pakistan: Improving displaced communities’ access to water and sanitation facilities
15 April, 2013
Displaced by insecurity in their village in Pakistan’s north-west, eight-year-old Sana Batool and her family now share a rented house in one of the many communities hosting displaced people in and around Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Sana’s family had to leave their home, agricultural land and cattle in Bara, Khyber Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas last year. With no assets and limited income, the family had to live under extremely difficult conditions with limited access to food and clean water.
“We have less food and less space. We have to sleep on the floor without any mattress and we have no money for food. There is nowhere to play and we miss our friends from home,” said Sana.
Critical need for clean water
One of the biggest daily challenges facing Sana and her sisters is the need to secure clean water. Their rented house is located next to a well, but the water is not clean.
“The water is muddy and full of twigs, dry leaves and sometimes even dead rats and frogs,” explained Sana’s mother, Rahat Bibi. “I know we should boil our water to make it clean, but we cannot afford to buy enough firewood. I also worry that my children could fall into the well when they are drawing water. One day our hen fell into the well and died.”
Sana’s family lacked access to safe, clean water, so the only option was to send someone to collect water several times a day. With the older girls restricted to the home under the traditional practice of gender segregation known as purdah, Sana and her sister, 11-year-old Fahiya Batool, had to ask their neighbours for water.
Water and sanitation support
Thousands of displaced families in the area face similar challenges. In response, the OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund (ERF) quickly mobilized funding for emergency efforts. With funds of nearly US$250,000, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) launched a project to improve the displaced communities’ access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Sana’s family immediately received a hygiene kit including anti-bacterial soap, buckets and laundry detergent. The family also benefited from the construction of a latrine and the installation of a hand-pump to draw water from the well.
“If this hand pump was not constructed in our village, I would have continued to suffer because in my family I am responsible for bringing water from the neighbour’s house and they do not like to share their water,” said Sana. “Now I can easily bring water from the communal hand pump because it is just outside our house, and now that the well is secured I don’t have to be afraid that I’ll fall into the well.”
“Now I feel better that my daughters do not have to go to other people’s houses and get scolded for begging for water, and even I can fetch water at night since the hand-pump is so close to the house,” added Sana’s mother.
Reporting by IRC