Bringing back the water, bringing back the smiles

Julieta Locario, 33, is seen with her daughter in Kinawayan, Arakan, North Cotabato.

Local officials and ACF representatives inaugurate water project in Arakan, North Cotabato.

ARAKAN, Philippines, May 13 — Having a waterpoint about 30 meters from the front door of Julieta Locario is bliss.

Julieta, 33, a mother of three, used to carry gallon containers of water for drinking and domestic chores uphill to her house in Kinawayan, Arakan town in southern Philippines. Clean water is expensive and collecting is consuming and labor intensive. For Julieta, this is particularly true since she has to carry her daughter to the water source every day. Christine, 8, cannot walk, after she fell off a hammock when she was still a baby. In her younger years, Julieta would carry Christine down and back to the water source to attend to her bath and personal hygiene. Through the years, Christine grew heavier and taller making it more difficult for her parents to move her around, until a friend lent her a wheelchair.

Another gift that the Locarios are thankful for was the rehabilitation of the village water system and construction of the reservoir.

ACF International through the funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme embarked on a major initiative in May 2014 to solve the water and sanitation issues in the area.

The project provided clean water and improved sanitation by erecting five newly built water systems and 200 communal latrines, and rehabilitating existing springs and reservoir to benefit nearly 2,000 students from schools and over 500 households (4,000 people) in the towns of Arakan and President Roxas in North Cotabato and Cotabato City.

Because of this project, the Locarios and other residents started to fetch water from a nearer water point.

“Having the water point near our house is much easier for me since we do not need to walk far to get water anymore.  I don’t need to worry about leaving my girl in a wheelchair. We are so grateful for this water project, Julieta says.

Julieta’s neighbor, 49-year-old, mother of three, Geraldine Olao, now enjoys the privacy she has and her children in attending to their personal hygiene. “The water point is close to us, so my three daughters now have a private space to manage their menstrual hygiene in our own toilet,” Geraldine shares with a smile.

As the village’s water association bookkeeper, Geraldine has been collecting the village monthly contributions with a vision to set up community income-generating activities. “We are only ensuring that cash is ready to cover the cost for repairs and maintenance of the water system in the future. They have learned the hardest lesson of having and yet losing water supply because of negligence, according to Geraldine, referring to an old water system project that lost its value due to their own mismanagement. “We will strive for it not to happen again.”

For ACF, focusing on water crosses all aspects of development. “Water has direct effects to economic, health, nutrition and gender issues. Access to safe drinking water fosters economic growth, improves education and development of children, especially girls,” says Javad Amoozegar, ACF country director.

“The highlight of our work is hearing people say ‘thank you’ to us that their children no longer suffer from diarrhea; mothers and fathers can now concentrate on more productive economic activities like farming and marketing, the elderly and persons who face physical and other disabilities do not have to walk long to fetch water,” says Amoozegar.

“This initiative goes a long way to ensuring that the best possible conditions related to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) are in place so that one of the most prominent underlying causes of undernutrition can be avoided. Our long-term goal is to bring access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to as many towns as possible that face similar problems,” Amoozegar adds. #

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