Life changing water pipes

The villagers used to wash all their clothes in the river, far away from their village. Photo: UNDP

"I always feel tears coming, when I talk about this project. We are very happy, because people now can go out on their doorsteps and turn on the taps to get water. Some of us even have a shower," says Chief Esau of Ekipe village on North Efate island in Vanuatu.

Ekipe village has gone through a great change in the last year, as a Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) project implemented by the United Nations Development Progrmamme (UNDP), has helped the village install running water. Located only 40 minutes drive from the developed capital Port Vila this village was left without running water for so long and they are now grateful that the project was initiated to help them.

A big change
Seventy five (75) households now have water taps in their home and this also encourages the villagers to build more secure houses to be prepared for cyclones and other natural hazards.

“At the moment many of us are starting to build houses with bricks, because we can use our water and mix it with the sand. Before we had no idea about any of this,” Chief Esau said.

The GEF-SGP project implemented by UNDP also receives technical assistance from the New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID). The villagers have also learned how to manage project funds and through NZAID have been trained in plumbing to be able to build bathrooms and toilets for their homes.

"They were trained to do basic plumbing system and also with the funding it has assisted them to help manage the funds of the project. Now they are generating income through water fees to help them sustain their water for a long time," Ms Leah Nimoho, National Coordinator SGP Vanuatu, explains.

Many local communities use spring water as their water sources in Vanuatu, but for Ekipe it was especially challenging because their source was threatened by sea level rise. They also had to wait for low tide to collect their water and there would often be too little water for them to be able to do their domestic duties like cooking, washing and bathing kids.

"I have five children and it used to be hard before when I had to go and collect water to bath and cook for them. Now it is a lot easier because I have a water sealed toilet and bathroom for my family to use," says Marie, one of the women in the village.

"We go to the market in Port Vila to sell and we often come back late. Before we had to collect water far away after this, but it is better now, because we have water close to our homes,"

Traditional Ways
"The girls in the family have some responsibility that we normally do in the village. We have to prepare food and make sure that we have enough drinking water. The men are doing the heavier job like getting firewood and strengthen the house", Ms. Clerah Tari says.

The community are used to prepare for cyclones. They know that the season start in November and they prepare with and without a cyclone warning, as they have experienced how much damage this natural hazard can create.

"We were hit very badly by the Nigel hurricane in 1985. Many of our houses fell and all our kitchens were damaged. Our gardens got destroyed and we lost many animals. The threes were left with no leaves, which also showed the strength of the hurricane," Gloria Tari adds.

The village has learned from this experience and they are now trying to make their houses stronger and more capable of coping with future cyclones, but they need help from the outside to build a better road for potential evacuation and enough water to make it through isolation.

"The disaster risk management plan will identify what their needs are and it will also include how they can approach local authorities and international donors to get assistance," Mr Godfrey Darubi, planner in the Penama province, says.

Water is a human right
One of the targets of the seventh Millennium Development Goal on Environmental Sustainability is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and this is an aspect of the project in Ekipe.

“Access to clean water is a human right and the Ekipe community that has a need to get clean water for the people that are living in this village that is why the programme here is assisting them to provide them with this,” Ms Nimoho said.

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