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Water & Sanitation
Thank you for the vital role you are playing in transforming the lives of families in Timor-Leste. I’m delighted to share a case study from a village in Manufahi that demonstrates the amazing difference access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene makes to the lives of children and families.
Cotalala village is located in Manufahi, in the sub-district of Same. The village has a population of 192 people, including 37 children and at least seven people living with disabilities.
Without a nearby water source, they had to walk one and a half kilometres over steep terrain to collect water, a journey that took almost one hour each way. They had to make multiple trips every day to ensure they had enough water. The time and energy required to fetch water, together with the negative health impacts of using dirty water, had a huge impact on the ability of everyone, particularly women and children, to work or go to school.
The community did not have toilets, and were going to the bathroom outside. Diarrhoeal illnesses were common, impacting the health of the entire village.
Safe water and toilets for families in Cotalala
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.
The community’s involvement is key to ensuring the facilities are maintained over time. When the people who are going to use the new facilities are involved in their construction, they are much more likely to feel ownership of the project. This makes the likelihood of a sustainable solution is much higher.
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 5 minutes.
We’ve ensured that the facilities are appropriate and easily accessible for all community members, including people living with disabilities, elderly people, young children and pregnant women.
Water sources and toilets in Timor-Leste are often constructed without consideration for the needs of people with disabilities. For example, if a tapstand is constructed with steps or there is a slippery path leading up to it, it can be difficult for people with disabilities to collect water. In Cotalala village, we made sure the toilet blocks and water points were accessible to all. We also supported the community to encourage people with disabilities to get involved in decision making, planning and designing of safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Toilet blocks All 24 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, reducing their dependence on external investment.
Drinking water and hand washing facilities Two tanks and five tap stands were constructed throughout the village, at a distance of only 100 metres from their homes. 24 hand washing stands, one per home, were constructed to help prevent the spread of water related diseases, like diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is a leading cause of death among children in Timor-Leste.
Hygiene education The community has been taught hygiene practices such as hand washing with soap after going to the toilet, before breastfeeding, before cooking and before eating. Children were taught songs about hand washing to instill the message further.
Gender training 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, in every village where we work we facilitate gender training.
There we bring the men and women together and discuss the responsibilities that men and women have in the home. In Cotalala village this gender training has helped women to make the first steps towards becoming leaders and businesswomen in their community.
Maintenance 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 pay 25 cents a month into a maintenance fund. The committee will receive training to help them learn how to fix simple problems.
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 Cotalala village, along with our staff and local partners, has paid off and they are delighted with the positive impact they have seen in their village.
We spoke with Anya, a 39 year old mother of four children. She is living with a disability.
She told us about working with her community to construct the water thank and toilets:
“I helped my husband to prepare the food, boil the water to make coffee to give to other community members working in the construction process.
I also supported my husband to collect the stone for constructing my own toilet.
I am very happy, because I will not and never use again outside toilet, now I am free and secure from the buffalo and pig when I feel want to go to the toilet.”
Our work in villages like Cotalala helps us demonstrate to government effective ways of supporting communities around the world.
You, our supporters help politicians to understand how much access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the world’s poorest people matters to Australians. You can send a message to world leaders that you care about safe water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone, everywhere by adding your voice to our petition.
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