Sat, 25 May 2024

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Coping, but not yet thriving Water and sanitation still high on agenda in post-quake Nepal


3 min read Partner content

As the world remembers this week the tragedy of the twin earthquakes that rocked Nepal on April 25 and May 12, 2015, the international non-profit WaterAid marks one of the country’s most untold achievements and calls for continued support to overcome water, sanitation and hygiene challenges that persist for survivors one year on. 

Fast-acting and far-reaching sanitation and hygiene awareness efforts made by the Government, community health workers, volunteers and organisations like WaterAid Nepal in the weeks immediately following the earthquake resulted in the prevention of outbreaks of cholera or other dreaded diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene often seen after natural and humanitarian disasters of this proportion. The fact that a secondary public health crisis was prevented is a major untold triumph.

WaterAid Nepal’s Country Representative, Tripti Rai, said: “The fact Nepal avoided a cholera outbreak, and prevented widespread disease following the disaster, is a tremendous success, and one that WaterAid is glad to have helped achieve. Unfortunately, however, thousands of people across the country are still living in desperately difficult situations and in continued need of support. One year on, more aid and proficient delivery is urgently needed to ensure the rebuilding process happens as quickly as it possibly can. At WaterAid, we are especially concerned about the long-term welfare of the poorest communities.”

Whilst WaterAid recognises the government’s efforts to create a strong, streamlined framework for helping the country build back better, the lack of proper investment in capacity to delivery and inadequate financial resources means hundreds and thousands of people are still living in temporary housing. Many are living in cramped encampments for internally displaced persons with no long-term solutions for water or sanitation facilities. As a result, access to clean water, toilets and hygiene services is compromised – as well as people’s health, education and dignity.

Compounding the complicated situation of damage to basic infrastructure, many natural springs – which a large number of people in rural Nepal depend upon for their water supplies – produce less water, or have dried up all together. Some communities that once had 24/7 access to water now have just one to two hours per day, and many people are having to bath in rivers or queue for hours at taps.

To combat this, WaterAid, together with its local partners and the communities it works with, is working to find new spring sources and construct new intake structures for water supply schemes.

“This will be a long journey and WaterAid is committed to helping the people of Nepal build back better. Access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene helps build resilient communities. ,” said Rai. “In Kharelthok, for example, a new intake to increase the flow of water into a water supply scheme has been constructed, and communities are receiving training on how to protect and maintain fresh water springs. To date, we’ve helped communities restore nearly 400 water points, constructed over 300 handwashing stations, and restored toilets in public school, camps for internally displaced persons and local villages.”

WaterAid had been active in Nepal for over 30 years and has a long history of water, sanitation and hygiene related successes with communities. Immediately after the emergency the WaterAid Nepal team, strengthened with staff from the wider WaterAid family, joined the international relief effort delivering water purification drops and tablets, sanitary towels, nappies, bars of soaps, buckets, jugs of latrine disinfectant and other essential items to those affected reaching over 160,000 people.

The organisation calls on the Nepalese government to take action on water and sanitation services, while providing community-level training on water safety plans that are designed to ensure water delivered by water supply schemes is free from contamination. At the same time, communities are being encouraged to collect rainwater in safe storage tanks to supplement available water supplies.


Foreign affairs