Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsPakistan: A Year after the Quake, Sanitation Changes Lives
The earthquake that hit Pakistan in October 2005 left 4million people without toilets. The UN estimated the need for200,000 toilets for earthquake victims who would otherwisebe defecating in the open. A relief organization respondedand provided emergency latrines. One year after the quake,what impact did better sanitation have on the lives of peoplein Pakistan?
EMERGENCY TOILETS FOR ALL
“Since we started using the toilet, we cannot even think of life without one now,” 70-year old Qasim Jan, grandmotherof 10, mused. Qasim, along with 17 family members thatinclude her husband, three sons and their wives, and hergrandchildren, uses the emergency toilets built by theCatholic Relief Services (CRS) after last year’s massiveearthquake that shook parts of Pakistan.CRS, a partner organization of the Catholic Agency forOverseas Development (CAFOD), provided over 1,800emergency toilets—“ventilated improved pit” or “VIP” latrines, as they are called—to 80 villages during daysfollowing the quake. They also trained a team of masterbuilders, including carpenters and masons, so that thecommunity can carry on the work themselves. “We provided them with ready-to-use toilets. But it does notend there. We have to ensure that they help themselves,” says Ijaz Sikander, a CRS program manager. To this end,CRS requested communities to meet 15% of the cost, usuallyin kind, and to participate in mobilizing resources and skills,and implementing this project so that they have a greatersense of ownership of the toilets.
SANITATION BEFORE THE QUAKE
Qasim Jan lives in the beautiful mountainous village of BariBandi, Siran Valley in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province(NWFP). The October 2005 earthquake that measured 7.6 onthe Richter scale flattened parts of the NWFP, killing over73,000 people and leaving 3.5 million survivors homeless. Before the quake, communities did not have the luxury of animproved sanitation system. People had to relievethemselves outdoors, which proved to be dangerous forQasim’s husband. Qasim narrates, “One night, it was rainingand my eighty-year-old husband went out to relieve himself.When he didn’t return after half an hour, I got worried andsent my son after him. My son found him lying in a ditch. Hehad fallen off the slippery edge and three of his ribs werefractured.” Sitting by Qasim’s side, her 10-year-old granddaughter,Jamila, says, “Because we now use toilets, our teachers inschool teach us how to keep ourselves clean, to wash ourhands after using the toilet.” Jamila says she’s getting usedto defecating indoors now, but her three-year old brotherrefuses to. “He screams, and says he will fall in the pit,” shelaughs.
GETTING USED TO THE PIT
Thirty-eight year old Aurangzeb and his family, also fromBari Bandi, had never used a toilet before either. “The CRSprovided us with materials and trained us in the constructionof these latrines. I’m happy because it has provided relief forthe women, the elderly, and the disabled.” But for some elderly people, like Aurangzeb’s grandmother,the change is uncomfortable. “I am a bit scared of squattingacross an open pit. And sitting in an enclosed place thatstinks causes nausea,” she says.CRS enlisted the services of women in Pakistan’s villages togo from door-to-door and deliver, in their own language,simple and precise messages about hygiene and proper toiletuse.