In an effort to improve the health and hygiene of the rural population of Sindh, NUST, in collaboration with Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE), has successfully finished installation of a water well for the residents of village Hyder Farm. Located in Ratan bheel Paro of Union Council Khejrari, District Umerkot, Sindh, the desert village is home to a population of resilient people who have been grappling with issue of inadequate safe drinking water for themselves and their livestock for many decades. The newly-installed water well will provide safe drinking water to 350 people from 50 households, contributing to improved health and hygiene.
The desert area of Umerkot is a hostile wasteland of sandy desert and barren rocks which receives erratic rainfall (around 9 to 350 millimeters annually). Every third year, the area experiences severe year-long drought, and, on average, there occurs one famine per decade. Except during monsoon rains from July to September, the residents of Umerkot depend on underground water as their main source of drinking water.
This chronic and historical issue of water shortage in the area has long been a cause of migration, malnutrition, economic vulnerability and other socioeconomic problems.
The difficulty of hauling water out from a depth of 200 feet via open dug wells compels inhabitants to use less water, resulting in hygiene and sanitation issues, affecting health and living standards. Mostly, women and children have had to bear the brunt of the situation. Children have to look after the animals used for hauling water buckets from wells, and women have to walk long distances bearing water pitchers. While fetching water, pregnant women are at an especially higher risk. The open dug wells are also susceptible to getting contaminated by external particles which are harmful to health. Here’s a short video of life in the desert:
NUST’s initiative, therefore, in light of the above, seeks to address the issues of health and hygiene, education, women empowerment and economic well-being.
The project, funded by NUST, and implemented by AWARE, was completed in a fortnight (February 15 to March 31, 2015) on a budget of PKR 46,000.
AWARE has extensive experience in water resource management. The organization has worked for the availability, access and improved quality of water in Tharparkar and Umerkot desert areas and are also working with UNICEF, WHO, ADP, Muslim charity UK and various other philanthropists.
A team from AWARE held a series of consultations and meetings with the community, in order to create ownership of the project from the beginning. A Terms of Partnership (ToP) has been signed with the community organization. Awareness sessions were organized for women, children and elder male members of community for communicating the importance of health & hygiene in relation to safe water. At community level, Water User Committees (WUC) comprising over three members have been formed. The project was monitored and evaluated by AWARE Management and Monitoring Officer.
Here’s a breakdown of the specific objectives achieved through the project:
Provision of safe drinking water to 350 people through the installation of a water well
Reduction of absenteeism and drop-out ratio among school going children through provision of easy access to water
Promotion of participatory development approach through community engagement
Improved health and hygiene, along with greater levels of awareness