Fresh water, fresh hope for our communities in Sri Lanka
Adding in a few taps doesn’t sound like a big deal to us in Australia, but in Sri Lanka, it can mean saving hours of time and effort, and ensuring a healthier family.
Especially for those who have lived through many years of civil war and are now returning home, a tap can give them back hope and dignity.
Rebuilding a community after civil war has many challenges. Forced to flee their homes as their villages became the ground zero of a conflict between the LTTE (or Tamil Tigers) and the Sri Lankan government army, many families were left with nothing. They returned after the war to find their savings gone and their homes and schools shelled. There was little left.
Despite the devastation, families have been resettling. Infrastructure, however, takes money and time to build, and many families still lack the basic necessities, like access to clean water.
Two such villages lacking essential infrastructure are Nesan Kudiyirruppu and Thimbili - re-settled communities in our Mullaithivu district project area. Homes, schools and other buildings have slowly been rebuilt, but the immediate need for access to clean water has been a major concern. 30% of the families in the area have to depend on common facilities or on neighbour’s wells, spending a lot of time travelling to fetch suitable water.
In the Nesan Kudiyirruppu settlement, 16 of the resettled families, some of whom are still living in temporary sheds, had to spend 30 minutes going to fetch water for cooking and cleaning. In Thimbili, the situation was even more desperate and difficult, with 65 families having to walk for up to 3 hours to collect drinking water.
To meet the needs of the community, International Needs Australia partnered with International Needs UK and Mission Enterprise to fund the construction of a common well for Nesan Kudiyirruppu and a tube well with a filtration system and 9 access points to supply drinking water in Thimbili.
Pictured: The common well at Nesan Kudiyirruppu was funded by International Needs Australia, International Needs UK and Mission Enterprise.
Now finished, the two water sources are fully operational and opened for public use, providing access to safe water for nearly 80 families. That means 80 families who don’t have to worry about drinking contaminated water, don’t have to worry about the safety of their women and children collecting it, and who don’t have to trek for hours just to fetch it.
The project has been so successful that water testing has revealed a higher water quality than expected at the Nesan Kudiyirruppu well; so much so that it has been designated for drinking water only. Water committees have also been established in both communities to ensure the sustainability of the well and water system, so that they remain clean and functional, and well maintained.
Pictured: Taps located around Thimbili allow families to access clean and safe water without having to walk for hours to fetch it.
Speaking with the families who now have easy access to clean water, the impact is obvious and heart-warming. Families are healthier and have more free time. Life quality has improved in particular for women with disabilities and medical conditions. Other women who care for young children no longer have to worry about leaving their children, sometimes alone, for hours while they get water.
Women and older children are also able to now spend more time working on their land, which means that they will eat better food, and are also able to increase their income by selling vegetables at the local market.
Pictured: Clean drinking water frees up time for women to allow them to have more input into household income and gives them dignity to live better lives.
The communities are gradually learning how to get back on their feet, with many people enthusiastically getting involved in community activities and willing to take on responsibilities like joining committees to make sure children and safe and cared for.
Other activities such as savings groups and child rights clubs are also giving back the women and children in these communities dignity and fresh hope, gradually rebuilding their lives, taking them further away from the difficulties that they have faced for years.
Life is still a challenge in Mullaithivu, but easy access to safe, clean water is one thing that the families don’t have to worry about anymore.