By TOMMY MAIMA
IMAGINE a woman having to carry a load of over 20 litres of water for half a kilometre every day for 20 years. And this is just one load of two or three loads she has to make in a day. The total number of litres she carries over 20 years is equivalent to over 60, 000 tuffa tanks of standard size.
This is a story of a woman named Janet John who has carted water since she married into the Sarauan village of Markham District in Morobe.
“I have been carrying water here for almost 20 years since I moved here with my husband when we got married. The load of water I carry over the years has affected my health and I experience pains around my limbs and my back. At night, I cannot sleep because of the pain and my legs ache and swell every time I carry water from the creek back to the village,” said Janet.
Like all paternal societies in PNG, the burden of fetching water is usually the responsibility of women and girls, or young children. The impact of fetching and lugging weights of water up to 40 litres per trip has affected Janet’s health causing severe pains in her back.
PNG is located in the tropics and sees access to clean safe drinking water a challenge for many parts across country. Out of the estimated 8 million people, 4.5 million people face challenges in accessing safe drinking water. Yearly, over 200 children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation facilities (Water Aid-http://www.wateraid.org/au/where-we-work/page/papua-new-guinea).
Markham District is one area that experiences low rainfall throughout the year and located in the biggest and longest valley in the country, making it arid for much of the year.
For decades, Sauruan villagers travel long distances to find water sources, usually located near creeks, rivers and water wells, and are usually dirty.
“If I stop carrying those containers (of water) because of pains I experience, my family will be without water. Therefore, I ignore the pain and continue to carry water,” said Janet.
Like Janet, many other women in Sauruan village who cart water for long distances over time are also affected by the heavy weights of the water they are forced to carry. Many try to make only one trip a day, which forces them to overload.
The carting of containers continued for years until July this year when the village finally opened a new water supply that will not only make sure the water is cleaner, but also make the work of fetching water less strenuous and less taxing on the body for mothers and young childen.
The villages celebrated with a traditional singsing and feast to officially mark the end of the old and signify a new era for the community who could not hold back the joy of seeing water taps installed right near their houses. A total of 21 water taps were mounted throughout the village with four homes to use one tap.
“It is such a blessing to see water taps at our doorsteps. Our mothers and their mothers long before have walked miles to fetch water and to have water taps at our door steps is a blessing for the community. Our children and their children will no longer travel distances,” said Jacob David, Ward 1 Councillor.
“I’m relieved and happy to see water taps at my doorsteps. I no longer experience body ache like I did before. My body is recovering well now and the joy of seeing water at my door step is overwhelming for me and my family. Thank you World Vision for such initiative to our humble village,” said Janet.
School children from the nearby Ampan Primary School also took part in the celebrations. The School is also benefiting from the water supply system with taps installed for drinking and hand washing.
The PNG WASH Project is funded with support from the Australian Government through its NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and World Vision Australia and is facilitated by World Vision PNG in partnership with the Markham District Development Authority.
The project has initiated access to clean water and improved sanitation practises in Sauruan, Naraiagwang and Dabu Maffin villages in the Markham District, including seven schools and two health centres. The project has benefited a population of 5,405 across the three villages in Markham District.
- The writer is Advocacy and Communications Officer – Country Program Office, World Vision.