Colombia: water, sanitation and hygiene for communities in Nariño

18-04-2012 Feature

Extract from Colombia report 2011.

The only way for women in the communities of Sande, Conquista and Negrito (five hours by canoe from the town centre of Roberto Payán municipality, Nariño) to have water in their homes for cooking, washing food and drinking was to go down to the river Ispí, fill their buckets with water and carry them on their shoulder uphill to their house. “It was difficult and exhausting; even the children had to drink this water, which wasn’t clean,” explains Solangie, who lives in Conquista.

Water collected in unhygienic conditions became a breeding place for mosquitoes, which transmit malaria and other diseases. Diarrhoea, respiratory infections, parasitic diseases and other health problems affected these communities on a daily basis, owing to poor water supply and storage conditions and deficiencies in basic sanitation.

These displaced communities left their homes in 2010 because of clashes associated with the manual eradication of illegal crops. When they decided to return home, the ICRC helped them to improve their quality of life there, encouraging them to stay in their homeland and lessening the risk of displacement in the future.

A total of 157 families were given water tanks fitted with a tap to store water in their kitchens for direct consumption, tanks for storing rainwater and rubbish containers, which each household installed using local materials and with the support and guidance of the ICRC and Colombian Red Cross volunteers. This water and sanitation project benefits more than 670 people and over 150 children who eat at school canteens in the three communities. Community leaders were trained using the participatory strategy for a healthy environment and undertook to teach their neighbours what they had learned, with a view to improving hygiene conditions and thereby preventing diseases.

“It used to be difficult to get water and keep the house clean. It was a long way down to the river, but the main problem is our health. We have always lived a long way from civilization,” explains Marina, a community leader in Sande. “We have managed to reduce diseases. We are never without purified water in my house now, and the whole experience has been very valuable, because I have learned a lot and I like to learn”.




© ICRC / B. Heger

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