Pakistan water project to help 2,000 families

A Tearfund-funded project is set to improve access to clean drinking water and sanitation for more than 2,000 families in south-east Pakistan.

Some 60 villages will benefit from a three year programme covering the district of Mirpurkhas in the Lower Sindh.

As well as boosting the health of thousands of people, the work being coordinated by Tearfund partner, the Society for Safe Environment and Welfare of Agrarians in Pakistan (SSEWA-Pak), will improve people's ability to make a livelihood.

Self-help groups are being formed in each village which will take responsibility for the water and sanitation facilities once they are complete.

Ashraf Mall, Tearfund's Country Representative for Pakistan, said, 'People who have benefited so far are really happy about it.

'Villages have seen less waterborne diseases, like diarrhoea and cholera, and women no longer have to walk such long distances to get water.'

Many of the villagers benefiting are very poor. They tend to be small farmers or tenants, often caught in a cycle of debt owed to powerful landlords and money lenders.

Money is therefore tight, living conditions poor and families are frequently malnourished, surviving on only two meals a day.

Illness due to poor access to clean water and sanitation, particularly amongst children, is a constant threat and keeps people in poverty.

The village of Paro Patel, for example, is home to 40 families. Prior to the work of SSEWA-Pak there were no sanitation facilities, forcing people to urinate and defecate in open fields. This health hazard contaminated food and water.

Their water for drinking, cooking and washing was taken from a pond, often used by livestock too with all the inherent risks to health.

The climate has also not helped their cause. Continuous droughts from 2000 to 2006 caused the water table in the area to drop and sea water seeped in turning ground water brackish in most places.

Floods in 2006 raised the water table, causing further salinity which has reduced the quality of the soil, in turn affecting agriculture.

The partner's answer was to mobilise the community to build a cement water tank, complete with filters and pumps, at a cost of 80,000 rupees (about =A3700).

Further filters are provided for households to purify the water of harmful bacteria.

The result is that water is now accessible and clean and together with the provision of toilets, sanitation is safer and also ensures privacy and dignity.

Under the Tearfund-funded programme, 60 water storage tanks and more than 300 latrines will be built, plus self-help groups established in each community.