Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Bringing water to children and their families in northern Laos

What would your life be like if you had to walk two hours each day to get water? It’s hard to even imagine but this is today’s reality for many children in Laos.

Waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea, are the world’s second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. For communities in northern Laos, water scarcity for drinking and washing is a significant issue.

Many villages rely on local natural springs for water, which during the dry season often dry up and force people to walk further in search of water. This is especially a burden for children who are often responsible for water collection.

In the dry season, children may undertake a two hour return trip to fetch water for their family each morning before school. Their journey is made more treacherous by some springs that are located in areas which are yet to be cleared of unexploded bombs, leftover from the Vietnam War.

For children, the risks are great and faced daily.

ChildFund Laos is currently working on an extensive water, sanitation and hygiene project in Nonghet district to improve access to safe water and sanitation, and to reduce the risks for children.

“Before we got a water tank, parents and children had to walk so far to get water. Having the water tank nearby is better for our children and much more convenient,” says Mr Phabia Ya, Village Chief of Korthong village. “We can now use the water to take a bath or to easily bring home for other things. This has improved our lives.”

Since June 2012, ChildFund Laos has supported the construction of seven new water tanks in seven villages in Nonghet. ChildFund has also trained local people in latrine construction so they can build household latrines to improve sanitation. Prior to installation almost 400 households were checked for unexploded ordnance.

The new water tank in Paka village is helping to make 13-year-old Xai feel safe: “I`m not afraid anymore. Before, I had to walk far away to get water and I was scared to go to get it,” she says. “Now that the water tank is close, I get to take a shower with clean water more often and use the latrine knowing there is always water.”

ChildFund is raising awareness of the importance of clean drinking water and improved sanitation facilities. Since June 2012, ChildFund has provided hygiene sessions for more than 4,500 community members.

We are also helping to improve the knowledge of children through our ˜Green and Clean` activities at ChildFund Child Clubs. “We have learnt the ways to wash our hands to prevent illness and disease,” says 11-year-old Yai, from Paka village.

In Laos, water and sanitation projects are critical. Access to safe water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene can reduce illness and death, and has an impact on reducing poverty.

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