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Water & Sanitation
Thank you for the vital role you are playing in transforming the lives of families in Timor-Leste. We're delighted to share a case study from a village in Liquica that demonstrates the life changing difference access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene makes to the lives of children and families.
Kaikasa village is located in Liquica in the sub-district of Maubara. The village has a population of 302 people, including 117 children under the age of 15.
Before this project was undertaken hours were spent collecting water, impacting the health and productivity of the entire community, particularly for women and girls. Having to navigate steep terrain multiple times a day would stop the women and girls from going to school, playing, spending time with their families and partaking in other productive activities.
With most households lacking proper toilets, many people had to go to the bathroom outside, negatively impacting the health of the whole community. Open defecation puts people, especially children, at risk of disease and ill health. The lack of clean, safe water and basic toilets meant diarrhoeal illnesses were common, one of the leading causes of death among children under five years old in Timor-Leste. Women and girls also faced risks to personal safety and dignity not having access to a safe, private toilet.
Families in the village came together, along with our staff and local partners, to install a supply of clean water and safe, private sanitation facilities. In this case, due to the mountainous terrain, a gravity water feed was installed to supply water to all households and importantly the local school, health post and Suco (local council).
The new facilities have transformed the village, and made it a much cleaner and safer environment to live. The walk for water that used to take hours out of every day, now takes only minutes.
The local school in particular was affected by lack of reliable water supply. Even though there were toilets at the school around lunchtime students had to spend at least half an hour fetching water from different sources to be able to use the toilets. They were also unhygienic and lacked hand-washing facilities. Now that the pipeline is connected to the school, students can enjoy their lunchtime, wash their hands and prepare their food hygienically.
Hygiene education in both the school and wider community has been a vital component of this project.
All 48 homes in the village constructed their own toilets after being motivated by the community led total sanitation process. Part of this process is to work with the communities to map out the locations of the bushes people use as toilets. That way we demonstrate how much faeces is accumulating in the environment and polluting their water and food. This gives the community an incentive to build their own toilets and be active partners in project implementation, reducing their dependence on external investment.
20 public tap stands were constructed throughout the village, at a distance of only 15 metres from their homes. 48 hand washing stations, one per home, were constructed to help prevent the spread of water related diseases, like diarrhoea.
The community has been taught hygiene practices such as hand washing with soap after going to the toilet, before breastfeeding, and before cooking and eating. This has been particularly important in the local school where hand washing has been incorporated into students’ daily activities.
A recent study in Timor-Leste revealed that nearly 96% of girls who dropped out of secondary school cited household chores, such as fetching water, as the primary reason. To try and counteract this, and other issues of gender inequality, we facilitate gender training in every village where we work.
This involves bringing the men and women together to discuss the responsibilities that men and women have in the home. In Kaikasa village this gender training has helped women to make the first steps towards becoming leaders and businesswomen in their community. Women are also active partners in project implementation and maintenance (see featured case study below).
To ensure the long term sustainability of the water tanks, tap stands, toilets and hygiene facilities, the community has developed a water user committee with a clear structure, roles and responsibilities. One of the guidelines is that each house hold pays 25 cents a month into a maintenance fund. The committee will receive training to help them learn how to fix simple problems. We also ensure that half the committee is comprised of women.
A sustainability officer will also return to the village over the next two years to test the quality of the water source and check that the tap stands are in good working order.
The hard work of the families in Kaikasa village, along with our staff and local partners, has paid off and they are delighted with the positive impact they have helped bring about in their village.
A major component of the project has been encouraging strong hygiene practices to ensure the long term health benefits to the community. Guiomar is 44 years old and has six children ranging from three to 22 years of age. She is also a member of the local water use committee (GMF).
Before the project Guiomar spent at least an hour and a half each day fetching water – only enough for cooking and drinking. Though her family had a pit latrine, it could not be maintained hygienically due water scarcity. There was also not enough water for hand washing and Guiomar’s children were often sick with diarrhoea.
After the project’s completion Guiomar told us: “Everyone is now using the toilet and keeping it clean and hygienic. My family and children now wash their hands at critical time: after using the toilet, before cooking and before the meal. My children are not sick as often and I have more time to do craft and look after my cassava and banana garden.”
Not only has Guiomar’s day to day life changed for the better with the gift of clean water and sanitation, she is also now a leader in her community. As a member of the local water committee, she has been active in stewarding the implementation of new facilities and is also tasked with maintaining these vital resources.
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