Clean water, healthy life

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, 27th May 2011

DAWN was breaking as the government trawler, mv Artemis slowly cut through the waves heading for our destination – Potpot Village on the island of Garove, the biggest of all the Witu Islands, 90 nautical miles from the West New Britain mainland.
The dark ghostly shape of the island rose and stretched across the sea before us like a mysterious sea creature.
I stood in front of the boat staring towards the island, which I have never been to despite the fact that I was born and raised in Kimbe, even to the extent of calling myself a “Namba 2 Nakanai.”
My mind and stomach yearned to get off the boat and stand on solid land after last night’s dreadful bout of sea sickness. In fact, I have not been on a ship for the past five years.
The Witu Islands are among hundreds of other little islands including, St Matthias Group and the Umboi Islands where principal islands of New Britain itself, New Ireland and the Admiralty Islands formed a semi circle known as the Bismarck Archipelago, which partly encloses the Bismarck Sea.
I was among WNB provincial government delegates led by the deputy administrator – field services, Lt-Col John Porti on our way to the Potpot to witness the launching of newly completed water supplies and sanitation projects.
That Thursday was a dream that came true for the people of Potpot after 22 years.
They never imagined that they would have 20 water supply points supplying fresh spring water and 53 sanitation toilet pits surrounding their village in just two months.
Potpot is  the first village within the Bali-Witu local level government to have these water supply and sanitation projects.
These projects were funded through the European Union (EU) and facilitated by the non-governmental organisation – Live and Learn (L&L) through its rural water supply and sanitation programme (RWSSP) at the cost of K110,000.
Capt Sam Kivia sailed the vessel into Meto, a little harbour, which according to locals was used by the Japanese as a hideout during World War 2. This is also where Capt Kivia built his home.
After a briefing with Lt-Col Porti the delegates were transported from the boat to shore in a 32-foot dinghy where they were given an emotional welcome by villagers.
The nearest school in the area, Kivia Primary School suspended classes for the day. Children joined teary eyed mothers and their husbands, elderly men and women to sing and dance beside two colorful tumbuans  to the rhythm of kundus to welcome the delegates.
“It’s unbelievable,” villager Jared Kantaure said.
“We can never explain how happy we are. Our wives, mothers and young girls will no longer walk miles to get fresh water for drinking, cooking and washing of eating utensils and clothes.”
Kantaure said such fresh and clean water was a basic health need in their village and other villages on the island and the good Lord has heard their silent prayers and responded by way of this project.
Lt-Col Porti when speaking on behalf of the WNB provincial government said the project came about following a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the L&L and the provincial government.
He said the provincial government is working closely with NGOs such as L&L to ensure that safe and healthy living is introduced, practised and maintained in such island communities where health risk are high including difficulties in getting treatment on time.
Lt-Col Porti said there are several projects initiated and set up by the organisation in line with the provincial government initiatives to improve living standards for the rural people of WNB.
The L&L Western Pacific water and sanitation technical advisor, Paul Lewtwaite is working with the WNB provincial administration and government to develop such initiatives in rural communities.
 Lewtwaite said non-availability of fresh clean water in such areas is the fundamental issue that open doors to people having health problems and people spend money to find treatment which can be avoided early through such projects.
Lewtwaite, a hydraulic engineer, came to West New Britain from Vanuatu to set up frame works on sites and help get water and sanitation projects off the ground.
He said the project required a 10% contribution by the benefitting parties or owners of the projects towards the material costs.
In this case, Lewtwaite said the material cost was K67, 000. The Potpot people paid up 10% with counter funding by the WNB government through the district support and improvement programme (DSIP) funds via the Bali-Vitu LLG.