Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Thousands in Ampara harness the benefits from the Red Cross Water & Sanitation project

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By Zafran Packeerally, Red Cross Communications Officer in Sri Lanka

Olluvil, Ampara, Sri Lanka. - "People in this area had to drink unhygienic water from wells and other water bodies which in the rainy season were contaminated due to floods. Due to this we are always sick. Thanks to the Red Cross WatSan project we now get clean healthy drinking water. Our health is not at risk now...."

This is the testimony of 46 year old Sithy Umma, mother of five who lives in Olluvil 04, Ampara, in Eastern Sri Lanka. Like her, most of the families that live in the community do not have access to safe drinking water.

Water wells, which are the primary source of drinking water for most people in this area, were either destroyed or rendered useless by contamination or salination of the aquifers soon after the tsunami and recently by floods. In many coastal areas the salinity level was too high for consumption and many wells were not even rehabilitated for secondary use.

Existing small scale supply schemes, which were poorly maintained, suffered heavy damages due to these natural disasters.

"The well in our property is the first well built in the area. My grandfather built this well. People in this area used to fetch water from this well for many years. But the issue is during floods or in a drought situation this well becomes unusable. We had to face many hardships during these periods. This happens each year." Sithy Umma added.

Like Sithy Umma, many people living in the area face the same problem. Most of the wells in this area were unusable since the tsunami struck the area in 2004.

In this backdrop the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) began the Ampara Water and Sanitation project aimed to address the existing chronic health issues and provide a long term solution to the water needs of the tsunami affected residents (75,000 beneficiaries) of Akkaraipattu, Addalachchenai, Olluvil and Ninthavur in the Ampara district.

The Red Cross Ampara Water supply project will not only improve the living conditions of the beneficiaries and the communities by providing easy access to safe water in all seasons, it will also assure a reliable water supply not affected by the perennial flooding and droughts of the coastal region.

"Safe Drinking water is a challenge and a need for everybody, especially in coastal areas. I feel very happy to work in this project. Now the project is in near completion. We are handing over the first phase of this project on the 22nd of March in line with the World Water Day." Said Wardell Eastwood, Senior Manager, Construction of IFRC.

Under the first phase of this 70km of pipes laid in the Alayadivembu area in Akkaraipattu, Ampara benefiting nearly 17,000 people.

Sithy Umma is also one such beneficiary of the Ampara Hygiene promotion programme.

Sithy Umma and her family also participate in Hygiene Promotion activities to educate themselves.

"This programme was very useful. We were educated on good hygiene practices. Also the importance of water" said Sithy Umma.

Hygiene promotion was another area which was covered under this project. The main objective of this programme was to improve hygiene practices at community and household level and increasing hygiene information in community.

Safe practices are being promoted and many training programmes, awareness campaigns including distribution of promotional materials was also put in place in order to improve the hygiene conditions.

The prime Objectives of the Ampara Watsan & Hygiene promotion programme was project was to improve health of the target population in Tsunami affected areas and promotion of safe practices plus water use awareness campaign.

The project was implemented and funded by the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement (IFRC) and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) with the technical support of the National Water Supply and the Drainage Board.