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Pakistan Water Action: A Year after the Quake, Sanitation Changes Lives

Pakistan Water Action: A Year after the Quake, Sanitation Changes Lives

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Oct 12, 2012
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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Pakistan: A Year after the Quake, Sanitation Changes Lives
November 2006

The earthquake that hit Pakistan in October 2005 left 4 million people without toilets. The UN estimated the need for 200,000 toilets for earthquake victims who would otherwise be defecating in the open. A relief organization responded and provided emergency latrines. One year after the quake, what impact did better sanitation have on the lives of people in Pakistan? EMERGENCY TOILETS FOR ALL

Before the quake, communities did not have the luxury of an improved sanitation system. People had to relieve themselves outdoors, which proved to be dangerous for Qasim’s husband. Qasim narrates, “One night, it was raining and my eighty-year-old husband went out to relieve himself. When he didn’t return after half an hour, I got worried and sent my son after him. My son found him lying in a ditch. He had fallen off the slippery edge and three of his ribs were fractured.” Sitting by Qasim’s side, her 10-year-old granddaughter, Jamila, says, “Because we now use toilets, our teachers in school teach us how to keep ourselves clean, to wash our hands after using the toilet.” Jamila says she’s getting used to defecating indoors now, but her three-year old brother refuses to. “He screams, and says he will fall in the pit,” she laughs. GETTING USED TO THE PIT Thirty-eight year old Aurangzeb and his family, also from Bari Bandi, had never used a toilet before either. “The CRS provided us with materials and trained us in the construction of these latrines. I’m happy because it has provided relief for the 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 squatting across an open pit. And sitting in an enclosed place that stinks causes nausea,” she says. CRS enlisted the services of women in Pakistan’s villages to go from door-to-door and deliver, in their own language, simple and precise messages about hygiene and proper toilet use.

“Since we started using the toilet, we cannot even think of life without one now,” 70-year old Qasim Jan, grandmother of 10, mused. Qasim, along with 17 family members that include her husband, three sons and their wives, and her grandchildren, uses the emergency toilets built by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) after last year’s massive earthquake that shook parts of Pakistan. CRS, a partner organization of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), provided over 1,800 emergency toilets—“ventilated improved pit” or “VIP” latrines, as they are called—to 80 villages during days following the quake. They also trained a team of master builders, including carpenters and masons, so that the community can carry on the work themselves. “We provided them with ready-to-use toilets. But it does not end 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, usually in kind, and to participate in mobilizing resources and skills, and implementing this project so that they have a greater sense of ownership of the toilets. SANITATION BEFORE THE QUAKE Qasim Jan lives in the beautiful mountainous village of Bari Bandi, Siran Valley in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The October 2005 earthquake that measured 7.6 on the Richter scale flattened parts of the NWFP, killing over 73,000 people and leaving 3.5 million survivors homeless.

“Personal hygiene or even health awareness among the people is very poor here,” says Asma Bano, a staff nurse working with Caritas International, a Catholic organization that provides relief during emergencies and calamities. “These people have always lived this way. They never had toilets in their homes,” explains Jawed Ali Khwaja, Caritas’s program manager for health. “But what they must realize now is that they have been given a new lease on life, with improved water and sanitation.” Ijaz Sikandar says, “This was a good opportunity to sensitize the community and bring about change in hygiene practices. It will happen, but it’s a gradual and slow process.” For some, the change toward better hygiene practices has already come about. MORE TOILETS IN DEMAND For women, Qasim says, having a proper toilet has been a godsend. “Our privacy is assured now,” she explains. “Our backyard is not so filthy, and does not stink. This means less embarrassment as well as decrease in diseases.” But the pit latrines are fast getting filled, with so many people using them. Qasim says, “We’ll have to dig up another pit and shift the material there.” Sikander and his team assessed the impact of the emergency latrines in the villages and were pleased with the impact these have made. “With most pits filled, the villagers now want us to build pour-flush ones.” CRS decided to build 2,750 pour-flush toilets for communities that were not given the VIP latrines. Sikander also says they are trying to modify toilet designs so that construction costs can be halved. They also repaired damaged water supply schemes, constructed new ones, and provided communities with fiberglass water tanks with a 1,000-liter capacity. Aurangzeb says he will build a new latrine when his toilet becomes full. He has also purchased toiletries when the ones provided by CRS ran out, but he says, “Most people here are so poor they cannot even feed their families properly. In such a situation, sanitation and hygiene practices are obviously not going to be a priority.”

______________________________ Based on the article of Zofeen Ebrahim, Asia Water Wire journalist The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in November 2006: http://www.adb.org/water/actions/pak/quake-sanitation.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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