Water sanitation ‘crucial’ for new resettlement areas

clean water
CLEAN WATER. Residents in the island-village of Taloto-an enjoy clean water from the solar filtration system built by Iloilo CODE and Christian Aid. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

An aid group working on post Yolanda rehabilitation project says clean water sanitation is usually overlooked in disaster-hit areas

ILOILO, Philippines (Sept. 12, 2016) — While creating new homes should be a key priority of the government and aid groups in rehabilitating communities in the aftermath of disasters, the intervention should not end there. 

This was the sentiment of Cynthia Espinosa, an area coordinator of the Iloilo Caucus of Development NGOs (Iloilo CODE), who added that water sanitation is a problem that many groups overlook.

“This is a problem especially when the disaster survivors are relocated in new areas,” Espinosa said. “Water source and sanitation is overlooked and neglected so the people have a difficult time in their new homes.”

In the town of Concepcion in northern Iloilo, Espinosa experienced this firsthand while dealing with her organization’s post-Yolanda initiative.

“In our resettlement projects in barangays Taloto-an and Polopiña, this was a major concern among the beneficiaries. We tried to look for sources of potable water in their areas but we couldn’t find any. So we had to look for sources and make sure that the water they have is clean,” Espinosa said.

Cleaner water

This gave birth to the water sanitation projects in the island barangays of Taloto-an and Polopiña which utilizes solar energy to pump water from the well and undergo filtration process. The effort was integrated in the post-Super Typhoon Yolanda project: “Rebuilding for Better and Resilient Shelters” by Iloilo CODE and Christian Aid-UK.

“The project in Taloto-an has been completed and the beneficiaries of the project in the area are already enjoying the water system powered by solar for drinking and other common uses. On the other hand, the one in Polopiña is currently being built,” she added.

Espinosa noted that the new filtration system has improved the health condition of the people in the island village. Barangay health workers had reported that cases of diarrhea went down after the water well was sanitized.

“Diarrhea was high especially among children 0 to 5 years old and senior citizens. But after the water filtration system was built, the health workers said there are almost no new cases,” she added.

Prior to the project, villagers had to go to the town proper to fetch water. In other island villages, the people still have to go to the mainland just to buy potable water.

Gaps in LGU response

water filtration system
SOLAR POWERED. The water filtration system is operated using solar panels. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

According to Espinosa, the project has put to light some gaps in the response of local government units (LGU) and regional health units (RHU).

“Especially for the RHUs, supposedly it’s their role to go to the remote villages and check if the water sources that they have are potable or if it’s curable through chlorination. The water will be potable if they put small amounts of chlorine,” Espinosa emphasized.

She added: “But the only action we see the LGU doing was to get water samples, then test and analyze it. After that, there are no concrete follow through actions.”

In terms of finding new areas where survivors can be relocated, Espinosa said LGUs need not always transfer people back to the mainland.

“This is a major concern for the survivors. They don’t want to be far from their sources of livelihoods and their boats. The LGUs don’t have to bring them all to the mainland since there are also safe zones in the islands,” Espinosa noted.

While government response is seldom lacking, Espinosa concluded that this is where NGOs can step in and make efforts that can address the gaps. For the people of Taloto-an and Polopiña, getting clean water is a big step towards going back to normalcy.

  by David Lozada | Rappler.com