Philippines: When water saves lives
Due to Oxfam’s support for safe water and sanitation practices, the community has access to clean, drinking water coming from the tubewell but for the villagers, “knowledge” is the most important support that they received from Oxfam.
Is there someone who can bring solutions to water problems? Everywhere I look, various water problems exist and everyone is at risk, just like in my country, the Philippines. Here, I have witnessed in rural areas the scarcity of safe water. In Lipao village safe drinking water has been a problem for a long time.
As I enter Lipao, I see a small aircraft circling above the banana plantation spraying chemically processed fertilizers and pesticides. For the villagers, the airplane spraying fertilizers and pesticides endangers their health and livelihood.
“Water and cleanliness is a big problem in this village…” says Zamora Abdillah, 40 year-old village leader of Lipao. “The strong chemicals of fertilizers and pesticides for the plantation are contaminating our water sources, leaving our health and livelihoods in danger. Even the children scatter their waste everywhere,” as he continues.
By 2006, mothers, fathers, and especially children are arriving everyday at the nearby municipal hospital due to diarrhoea, chronic fever, and vomiting. More than 10 people died in just a few months, many of these were children. It was heartbreaking to hear how water can claim lives. It is depressing.
“The children here are all beautiful now because they are clean all day,” added Mr. Zamora. Children do not like bathing before but now they race to the water source to clean themselves. They know and use the proper toilet areas. “We can now pick mushrooms growing everywhere because we know they are clean and edible. Before, we used to stay away from them because they grew over human waste”.
Kawsar Abdillah, mother of two boys and Mr. Zamora’s daughter-in-law, shows me the old water source the community used. She explained that unless the tube’s ground depth is below 20 metres deep, human waste easily contaminates the water source.
“We don’t want to contradict Allah’s supremacy to make everything possible, but we really believe that the incidents of illness have been caused by our unsafe water sources,” says Kawsar Abdillah.
She has a very cute and chubby 5-month old baby boy. The baby used to drink water that she bought from commercial water stations, the nearest being 3 kilometres away from Lipao. “The water used to be so unsafe, and I didn’t want my baby’s health and life to be endangered. I budgeted for my baby’s water even if it ate up much of our income”
Due to Oxfam’s support for safe water and sanitation practices, her baby and 300 other children, as well as mothers and fathers, have access to clean, drinking water coming from the tubewell. They trust that water coming from the tubewell is clean and safe. Cleanliness of surroundings have been improved, too
“The water from the tubewell tastes just like spring water, cool and safe to drink,” expressed Kawsar and the villagers of Lipao.
The villagers told me that “knowledge” is the most important support that they received from Oxfam. They are confident that even without Oxfam, they can stand on their own feet and share with others their learning.