During the summer, Nigora, like most of the children from Savda, often went to play near the stream, situated about two kilometres from her village, in south-west Tajikistan.
Until recently the natural source stream was the only way for the village of Savda (500 habitants) to get fresh drinking water. Access to the stream is particularly difficult, especially in winter when snow and ice cover the rocky path. On average it took at least half a day to climb up to the stream and back down to the village carrying the heavy water containers and sometimes the inhabitants were tempted to drink stagnant water. Last year, Niagora caught hepatitis after drinking infected water and died. She was only seven years old.
Recently, things have changed for the inhabitants of this isolated community. Drinking water is now brought from the stream to a big reservoir situated in the village centre. Four manual pumps have been installed to supply the whole village and guarantee that the community’s essential water needs are met.
“Life is different for us now that water arrives directly to the village”, Amir, the head teacher at the local school, told us, “before the women and children walked for hours to go and collect water from the stream, it was tiring and dangerous, and the amount of water that they could carry was limited. There was never enough, and sometimes people used water that they found closer to the village but it wasn’t clean”.
Teaching the villagers about the risks of using impure water is as important as supplying them with clean water. Amir explains “as soon as the water distribution system was put in place, we began working with volunteers to explain to the people and children how to use the water and what to do to avoid infections. This year no one in the village has been ill.”
This project was financed by ECHO and implemented by ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development). The villagers installed the pipelines and constructed the water installations supported by the World Food Programme’s (WFP) “food for work” project. The water reservoir was donated by local authorities.
ECHO has concentrated its activities in the province of Khatlon which was hit hardest by the recent drought. Today in this province, more than 3300 manual pumps provide drinking water for around 200,000 people.
Too many Tajikistani children like Nigora, have been victims of water related diseases, their resistance reduced by extreme poverty and a lack of adequate food in a country which is struggling to recover from the effects of severe drought and civil war. ACTED and other ECHO partners have contributed to improving access to drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in Tajikistan.