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"Now we have water to give and to share"

29-09-2006 Feature

Over the last six years, through its water and habitat programme, the ICRC delegation in Colombia has supported more than 230 projects aimed at improving the living conditions of people affected by the armed conflict. In Orobugo (Antioquia), thanks to the construction of an aqueduct, the 360 inhabitants finally had clean drinking water in their homes.

   

  ©ICRC/    
 
The inhabitants of Orobugo enjoy the drinking water from the new aqueduct.    
    In the rural school of Orobugo Medio, preparations for the big celebration were almost finished. The women were rushing around making sure everything would go according to plan. The children were playing happily. The men were chatting amicably amongst themselves as they tested the sound system.    
   
 
Aware that the population of Urrao municipality is extremely vulnerable to the effects of the armed conflict, the ICRC has expedited work in this region to the tune of 156 million pesos. 
  • In the village of Pavón, it supported the renovation of the rural school; a project that has benefited 240 children.
  •   In the village of San Matías, the organization built a classroom and a school canteen, which are used by up to 450 people.
  •   In the rural school in Sabana, it built baths for the community's 84 children,
  • In Vásquez the ICRC supported the construction of a health centre, which is due to open at the end of 2006 and will serve more than 2,000 people from nine communities, three of which are made up of indigenous people.
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The great day had arrived. After nine months of hard work, the 360 inhabitants of the village of Orobugo (Urrao municipality, Antioquia), finally had clean drinking water in their homes, thanks to the construction of an aqueduct. Gone were the days when they just had to hope that the water would flow down from a natural spring through a makeshift arrangement of hosepipes. Gone too were the days when the children used to fall sick after drinking the poor quality water.

Now, the situation has changed. Fourteen kilometres of underground piping bring the precious liquid to every single house in the village. The aqueduct was constructed on the slopes of one of the mountains surrounding the village, some two hours away by mule. Three ten-thousand-litre water tanks and all the material required to complete the job were brought up fro m there a step at a time. " Just how did they do it? " is the question on people's lips when they see the location of the installation, which consists of an inlet pipe, storage tanks and a plant capable of treating water at the rate of 1 litre per second.

But more significant than the challenges that had to be overcome during construction of the aqueduct are the benefits the project will bring to this community. The 56 families, which include a total of 180 children, are living in an area severely affected by the armed conflict. That was what prompted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia to support the local authorities and the community in implementing this important project.

To ensure sustainability, the residents of Orobugo have set up a management board to administer the aqueduct. In the words of Elkin Martínez, treasurer of the local council: " After all that effort, it's important to make sure that the aqueduct works well and that we maintain a high standard of water quality. To help us achieve this, we have set a fixed monthly payment of a thousand pesos, and a very low price per litre " .

Blanca Gladys Cartagena has been living in the village for 11 years. She has seen her seven children grow up there. " It used to hurt me to see how the children got stomach upsets every time they drank the water. And I used to have to go down to the river to wash the clothes. Now, the children will be able to drink the water without getting sick and I'll be able to do the washing right here in the house. Now we have water to give and to share " .