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World Water Day 2017: Working together for safe water in Lebanon’s vulnerable communities

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World Water Day, celebrated on March 22 of every year, was designated by the United Nations to focus on the importance of fresh water and promote the sustainable management of freshwater resources in the world.

ACTED Lebanon, through a project funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) to mobilise neighbourhoods and local institutions to meet emergency water, hygiene, sanitation, shelter and protection needs, is joining in on the effort by organising water forums in several regions of Beirut and Mount Lebanon with the Lebanese community as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Lebanon has abundant reserves of freshwater unlike its neighbouring countries but the different communities (host and refugee communties) living in the country suffer from water scarcity during summer due to the poor water management and infrastructure. In addition to this, according to the UN, 70% of the freshwater resources are polluted and have continued to decline in health since the start of the garbage crisis in July 2015.

Hygiene promotion, an integral component of ACTED's community support in Lebanon

Today, ACTED is operating in Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s vulnerable communities through the “Neighbourhood Approach”, which aims to bring a holistic response to the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon, complementing emergency assistance with community empowerment and collective works to have a meaningful impact on poverty. To reach this objective, the neighbourhood approach focuses on improving the delivery of humanitarian assistance in urban areas by mobilising local communities to meet their needs.

With this approach in mind, ACTED’s hygiene promotion team holds monthly community forums facilitated by neighbourhood committee members and focal points. The importance of these forums is that they are essentially an information fair where beneficiaries can find suitable answers for their questions as well as participate in the decision making process for projects implemented within their own community. Due to ACTED’s on-going interventions over several years in the target areas, the hygiene promotion team is able to ensure that messages are effectively spread throughout the communities through a combination of forums and information campaigns.

On World Water Day, raising awareness on the importance of safe water

ACTED’s hygiene promotion team is currently conducting household-level water testing and distributing chlorination kits in Ghobeiry, Mount Lebanon governorate, while addressing prevention and detection methods, as well as shedding light on daily practices that are further exacerbating water sanitation problems across Lebanon. Building on the capacities they already have, ACTED’s hygiene promotion team has helped residents of these communities gain important technical knowledge for issues related to water quality, filtering, and treatment while fostering a knowledge-sharing network between residents of the same community in order to raise further awareness of the importance of safe water.

Thanks to these monthly forums, ACTED’s team has been able to talk to residents about safe water options, including ways to treat and store water that are low cost and easy. Other conversations tackle the problem of informal vendors who provide unsealed or refillable portable water for a reduced price and the importance of opting for safer water options, especially for children.