Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • A day in the life of Tillotama and Rabinarayana

    Ananta Prasad

    September 2nd, 2015

    By Ananta Prasad & Warwick Franklin

    Yesterday we visited two communities who will be included under a new water and sanitation project in Odisha, India. Leaving the hotel at 4.30am(!), we first arrived at Gurujang Jabardastpur in Khurda Municipality while it was still dark. Everyone was still asleep and the silence was deafening. The only noise being the barking of the semi wild dogs that patrolled the single street.

    Rabi Narayan & Tillotama Sahu Our first impression was of a few old people walking down the street with small pots carrying water. As we followed them, we could see a number of men defecating in the nearby field.

    Gradually as the sun came up, families awoke, began to light their indoor cooking stoves, wash off the dishes at the open wells and go to the field which they used as their toilets.

    We were invited to spend the morning with Mr & Mrs Rabi Narayan Sahu and Tillotama Sahu, and their young daughter (16) and son (7).  They were happy for us to film and photograph their daily routine.

    They showed us the well that they shared with five other families for all their household needs such as cooking, cleaning and drinking, and told us of having to go to a plot of land behind the house which was used as a toilet. Mrs Sahu explained that she and her daughter only went there in the early morning and evening to avoid male eyes. However, this brought with it the danger of snakes (particularly deadly cobras) and insects. They have to collect 35-40 bucket loads of water a day for the household.

    We saw the son leave for school and the daughter (who finished school last year, because they could not afford her education) begin to clean the house and prepare their food on a smoky clay stove, which filled our eyes and throats with choking fumes.

    Mrs Sahu working on her loom

    Mrs Sahu then explained her weaving work on a hand loom. Mr Sahu was then preparing to leave in search of work as a daily labourer.  She could earn 80p from making a saree  (5 hour’s work) while he could earn £3 per day for 8-10 hours physically exhausting toil. However, there was no guarantee of his getting such work.

    Mr Sahu explained that they had no savings and they spent what little they earned on food, electricity (a few light bulbs, two fans and a TV), medicines and the education costs for his son.

    Mrs Sahu and her husband looked forward to escaping from the shame of open defecation and the availability of clean water.

    We all felt a privilege to have been able to share a few hours with this family and look forward to their being part of the new project and enjoying a significant improvement to their daily lives.

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  • What the increasing use of desalination means for the world

    Jonny Casey

    August 25th, 2015

    Hundreds of new desalination plants are cropping up across the globe to meet the growing needs for water – estimated to be increasing by an astonishing 640bn liters per year. But as the world looks towards technology to solve the growing crisis of fresh water access, what does this mean for people and our planet? (more…)

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  • This slum was nothing like I expected

    Elizabeth Dunn

    August 21st, 2015

    I’ve just come to the end of a 10 day visit to Bangladesh, it was my first time to the country and I feel privileged to have been able to go and visit such a beautiful place and meet such remarkable people. What I like about working for Practical Action is that it works in partnership with communities and organisations to drive change and improve lives. And this is exactly what I saw in Bangladesh.

    putulAs part of the visit, I went to slums in Faridpur and Jessore in the south. I’m lucky to have travelled and seen quite a lot of our projects but I’ve never seen any urban work before and was very unsure what to expect.

    When people say the word slum, all the worst images come to mind, I had visions of cramped communities, sewage running between them, a complete lack of water and sanitation, not to mention the terrible smells. I could not have been more wrong.

    I should tell you before I carry on that Practical Action has been working with these communities for a few years. The people living in the slums are considered to be the lowest caste, they are hindu and considered by many to be unclean and uneducated. This means that life is even harder for them as they do not have the same opportunities as others do. They have always carried out the most menial jobs such as street cleaning and pit emptying.

    Before the project began, I was told that there was no drainage, so during monsoon season the water would rise and would wash dirty water into their small homes.

     They also had no waste collection, so they had no other choice but to live amongst their own rubbish, or to dispose of it on the streets.

    There were no schools and many people had no skills meaning they struggled to gain employment.

    This project has worked with the women, children and men of these communities to truly lift themselves out of this poverty. They still live in cramped homes but the feeling of ‘community’ and unity amongst them was something rarely seen. They all work together to help each other and not only are their living conditions changing, the impact is much much bigger.

    Training in useful and vital skills means that people can earn an income, people just like Rashida. Rashida explained “at the beginning I had nothing. From Practical Action I had training and I was able to start my business with these skills.” Rashida was trained in tailoring, she makes tops, dresses, shirts and just about anything! This training means so much to her, she said “I can send my children to school and invest in the future.”

    I also met a lady called Sukia, she told me that “the environment of the slum is better than before,” they had less toilets and no water. They were forced to collect water from other sources but this water was often dirty. But now, they have their own pump, which means that they no longer have to risk their health just to have a drink.

    I left feeling uplifted and inspired. These people were empowered and had the knowledge to continue improving their own lives. It was a true example of sustainability and I will be telling everyone about the great work that Practical Action and our partners are doing to support the amazing, strong and welcoming people that are living in the slums. Just like Sukia said, “you and me make a difference together.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Dalit communities plan their own future

    Amanda Ross

    August 20th, 2015

    Would attending your local council budget setting meeting be high on your wish list? Certainly not on mine!  But the Dalit community of Jessore in Bangladesh, consider the right to attend these meetings one of their proudest achievements. The minority Dalit community who live in slum areas previously faced exclusion because of their caste from all political, social and economic activity and traditionally work in very low paid jobs as road sweepers, pit latrine emptiers and cleaners.

    IMG_0316Last week I visited some of these communities along with partner organisation DHARA who are working with Practical Action to improve the living conditions of these minorities. This is the second phase of the pro-poor urban development project, IUD2, which has been running since 2012 and is funded by the European Commission and DFID.  The project is also operating in Faridpur in Bangladesh, Butwal and Bharatpur in Nepal and Kurunegala and Akkaraipattu in Sri Lanka

    The first step was to develop a Community Improvement Plan to prioritise the work they wanted to see done in each area and to select community leaders to voice their demands to the municipality.

    Sukia (above in the green sari), a widow in her late thirties, was chosen as a leader of her area, Old Pourashava, a dalit area for about 200 years. It is a small community of in a dense cluster, accessed from an alley off the main road.  The streets are narrow – suitable only for pedestrians and bicycles.

    Sukia is enthusiastic about the project’s achievements:

    “Previously the ground here was covered in waste, water, mud and urine, now we have a paved walkway with drainage.  Our environment is better than ever before.  Before we collected water from a dirty source, now we have clean water from our deep tube well and a wall to give some privacy from the main road when we are washing.”

    She speaks with the confidence of a woman proud to represent her community. She goes on to tell us that while before there were only 2 toilets for the 30 household in Pourashava, they now have 1 for every 10 families, with a member of the community given the job of keeping them clean and in working order.  When it rains heavily (as it does frequently in the monsoon season) the water now flows down holes in the pathway into the drains instead of flooding houses as in the past.

    Tube well Old Pourashava JessoreSukia showed us their community action plan and explained that they still have work to do on improving housing and creating an area boundary but she is confident that now they will be able to access municipality funding, something they would not have dreamed of five years ago.

    The partner organisation DHARA, led by the highly charismatic Lipika Das Gupta (above behind Sukia in the pink sari) are helping to deliver similar improvements in 5 other dalit communities in Jessore, working with 1,824 beneficiaries, half of whom are women.

    IUD2 project achievements in Jessore

    • 6 Settlement Improvement Committees formed and given leadership and governance training
    • Training on tailoring, handicraft, mechanics and mobile servicing to 1,836 beneficiaries for income generation and 28 sewing machines
    • Budget allocation from the municipality for Dalit communities for the first time
    • Infrastructure development – protected water pumps, toilets, drainage, road surfacing and a community centre in each area

    But the main achievement has been to give a voice to this Dalit minority. Women especially have been empowered to talk to people in authority and to request improvements in their living conditions.  As a result have boosted their status, their environment and their incomes.

    Sukia spoke enthusiastically about the future: “With your support we will be able to complete our plan. I am so proud that I can now do something for my family.”

    This is a demonstration of local democracy in action and a truly uplifting experience.

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  • A man who sold his mobile to build an improved toilet is a role model in his community

    Dev Bhatta

    July 10th, 2015

    Ramkishor Khaira, 38, the head of a household of eight from Khairanjhal Tole, Gulariya Municipality, Bardiya radiates with pride over his newly constructed toilet including a bathroom.

    Ramkishor recalls, “I worked in Malaysia as a wage labourer for three years. After I went back, I wanted to construct a toilet at my household but wondered how I would manage the financial resources to build it. Finally, I decided to sell my mobile to start toilet construction.”

    Ramkishor shows his improved toilet

    Ramkishor shows his improved toilet

    He sold his mobile for NPR 20,000 (£129) and started to build a toilet including bathroom. He was unable to complete the structure within this budget. So, he also sold his buffalo and completed the construction that costed NPR 40,000 (£258).

    Previously, he and his family members faced a lot of problems from not having a toilet. Ramkishor’s mother Jalabarshi Khaira, aged 60 says, “It was very difficult for my family to go to the bushes. There was always fear of snakes and it was a huge trouble during rainy season and at night time. When a guest arrived in the community, it was embarrassing if they were not used to defecating in the open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children in my family. The three children in our house suffered from diarrhoea frequently about 3-4 times a year. We used to spend around NRs 7,000 (£45) to 9,000 (£58) a year on medical expenses.”

    Ramkishor’s mother Jalabarshi Khaira is happy to have a toilet.

    Ramkishor’s mother Jalabarshi Khaira is happy to have a toilet.

    But things have changed for the family now and they are very pleased with this change. Ramkishor shares, “Because of the toilet, my home and surrounding environment is cleaner, odourless and healthier. It is more convenient for my family. I do not regret selling my mobile phone as I got this great facility as a replacement.”

    He provides four full-proof reasons that compelled him to construct a toilet:

    1. Getting used to using toilets in Malaysia
    2. Pressure from his wife
    3. A video documentary  on sanitation organised by SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project and
    4. The provision of sanitation cards commenced by Gulariya Municipality

    Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya Municipality with the objective of declaring an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.

    Jalabarshi, Ramkishor’s mother, now feels dignified using the toilet, “I learnt about the adverse effects of open defecation. I did not want to be the one causing pollution and exposing other people to risks. So, I easily acknowledged the proposal of my son. I find it very convenient using it instead of going to the bushes. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity. And our children have not fallen sick for the last seven months after the construction of the toilet.”

    Ramkishor’s household has become a role model in his community as many started following his example and constructed toilets in the same design as his. Apart from Ramkishor’s example, his fellow community members participated in behaviour change campaigns organised by SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project which emphasise the significance of improved sanitation and hygiene. This motivated them to have their own toilets.UK AID

    Now the entire community of Khairanjhal has become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as all 71 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing improved toilets in their homes. This proves that change starts from a single person.

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  • Can we recycle human waste into a useful resource?

    Hasin Jahan

    July 6th, 2015

    In the national sanitation survey in Bangladesh in 2003 it was observed that only 58% households had some form of latrines whereas the remaining 42% of households had no latrines at all.

    With a special compost from human wastedrive undertaken by the Government of Bangladesh and development partners with the active engagement of local government institutions and communities, sanitation progress gained momentum with a focus on building different types of low-cost pit latrines. As a result, the open defecation rate has been reduced to less than 3%. But does this mean the problem has been solved? Not really, rather a second generation sanitation problem has emerged in Bangladesh.

    In this country, about 80 metric tons of human waste is generated every day of which only 960 tons is treated at Pagla treatment plant – only about 1%. The question is what happens to the remaining waste?

    Less than a quarter of Dhaka city area has a sewerage network. In Dhaka, where there is no sewerage network, more than half of the buildings do not have any proper septic tanks and the sewer pipelines of these buildings are directly connected to either the open drain or to the storm drainage system polluting the surface water and the environment. A huge number of pit latrines exist in rural areas and low income urban communities. Due to the rapid expansion of low-cost latrines, pits fill quickly and require frequent emptying. Even septic tanks (not connected to sewerage network) require emptying at longer intervals.

    Growing vegetables with human-sludge-compost is used as manureInterestingly, people in general are not aware about how this waste is disposed and how it impacts the surrounding environment. There is no proper emptying mechanism for pits or septic tanks. In most cases, it is done manually by sweepers when the problem becomes visible by overflowing or creating nuisance. The sweepers dilute the substances with water mixed with kerosene oil and dump it manually to the nearby open drain. Mechanical suction devices such as vacutugs are rarely used and when they are used, they dispose the human waste into open drains or nearby ditches. Current waste removal practices invariably pollute the shallow aquifer.

    The country has put enormous emphasis on promoting low-cost latrines without thinking of waste management. Recycling of the human waste by converting it into proper organic fertilizer would be one practical solution. Bangladesh uses around 3.5 million tons of fertilizer every year of which about 2.6 million tons are imported. Government provides a subsidy of around 18 taka (15p) per kg of fertiliser to  farmers. Hypothetically if we could convert the entire amount of human waste produced in the country into organic fertilizer, it will make 3 million tons which will be more than the amount we import every year. Even if we could utilize a certain percentage of this potential, it would be a huge gain for the country. However, this should not only be considered from a monetary perspective; use of this fertilizer will improve soil texture and most importantly, prevent surface water pollution.

    vegetable field human-sludge-compost used as manureRecently different actors have shown interest in human waste management and are experimenting on several small scale initiatives. Unfortunately there is no proper human waste management value chain in Bangladesh. Creating awareness among the masses and sensitizing them to their roles as citizens are critically important along with clarifying the roles of the city authorities. Emphasis should be given to introducing technologies in different country contexts and promoting the use of organic fertilizer. Entrepreneurship should be developed for collection and transportation of waste. Most importantly actors like department of agriculture, agricultural universities, research agencies and private sectors should introduce standardization of organic fertilizers and explore marketing strategies for the products. However changing the mindset of the people and the policy makers remains a challenge.

     

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  • Just throw it on the ground! Waste disposal in Nairobi’s informal settlements


    June 29th, 2015

    From May, 2015, three university students joined Practical Action, Eastern Africa, as interns within the Urban WASH team to assist in conducting research for the “Technology and the Future of Work” project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The WASH intern team consists of Eric Mugaa and Charles Kwena, both in their fifth year at the University of Nairobi in the Civil Engineering programme, and Megan Douglas, a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh in the International Development programme. The project is examining the enabling and disabling impacts of technologies on work opportunities among informal workers in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Read about Megan’s reflections from her time in the field…..

    By Megan Douglas

    Megan pic

    On a recent research trip to Kawangware, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements, our field guide contact treated me to a large slice of watermelon from a roadside vendor, packaged in plastic wrap to keep it fresh. After finishing my slice, the warm juice running in rivers down my arms and the wrapper growing sticky in my hand, I looked around for a bin to dispose of the waste. “There are no rubbish bins around here,” my contact laughed. “Just throw it on the ground!”  I couldn’t bring myself to do such a thing; throwing waste on the ground just seemed wrong, despite the multitude of old watermelon rinds and plastic wrappers strewn across the road in front of me. After carrying the rubbish for several minutes, the flies began to come. Begrudgingly, I bent down and gingerly laid the rind in a ditch, where it floated away to join the garbage dam choking Nairobi River. The plastic wrapper I ‘nobly’ stuck in my purse pocket, where it later formed a large sugary stain.

     

    Is it about having ‘principles’ or having options?

    Being from a relatively clean city in Canada, littering feels foreign to me. It is not only illegal in Canada, punishable by hefty fines, but is also considered by many to be immoral in a sense. I had never seen anything like the sheer enormity of human waste competing for space with homes in Kawangware.

    It isn’t that residents of Kawangware produce more waste; it is that there are few viable options for rubbish disposal. Nor are informal residents apathetic. Many of those interviewed make ‘tsk tsk’s with their tongue against their teeth when surveying the carpet of garbage across the streets. “It’s a shame,” expressed one woman, in response to my question about her opinion of the waste situation, then, immediately following, tossed a black plastic bag she had been eating a samosa out of into a ditch. While it was amusing, I didn’t consider her a hypocrite; her littering doesn’t necessarily discredit the genuineness of her displeasure with the amount of waste on the ground. At times, pragmatism must trump ‘moral’ sentiments in the informal settlements. Either she tossed the oily plastic bag, or carried it in her purse (most likely indefinitely, unless she ventured to the outskirts of the district, costing her time and money, all for the sake of not littering).

    Do I not litter in Canada because I am against littering? Or is it because I don’t have to? Most likely, a combination of both, but the two are likely mutually reinforcing.  Some sort of innate concern for environmental conservation isn’t likely the principal reason I grew up with such an adversity to littering. When you have accessible, affordable and sustainable methods of human waste disposal, one never has to be reminded of the volume of non-biodegradable waste you produce every day; garbage is simply thrown in the trash bin, which is collected once a week, never to be seen again. Canada isn’t without waste. It is one of the world’s largest producers of it. But the difference is that garbage is just shipped off to dumps far away from urban centers, or sent across the ocean to fill another country’s dumpsite, allowing citizens the comfort of never having to be visually reminded of the size of their carbon footprint.

    The poorest of the poor in Nairobi, however, must constantly live with their waste and that of others, piled high in mountains and overflowing into rivers, a visual reminder of the spatial and socio-economic and political marginalization of informal residents. The combination of a high concentration of people (60 percent of Nairobi’s population live on only 5% of the total land mass), the increase in non-biodegradable waste, and the lack of a public waste-collection service within informal settlements, culminates in a shockingly large amount of garbage on the ground, leading to a myriad of environmental and health issues.

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  • 11 differences between urban and rural CLTS

    Last week, African Ministers spent the week at the AfricaSan4 conference discussing the urgent need for better progress on Sanitation and Hygiene on the continent. They signed up to a new vision (the Ngor Declaration) in line with the likely UN ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ due out later this year, to achieve universal access to adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and eliminate open defecation by 2030.IMG_7312

    It is great to see an update of the commitments made at a similar meeting back in 2008. Clearly, a ‘focus on the poorest, most marginalised and unserved’, must include the needs of poor people living in urban slums alongside their rural counterparts. However, there is precious little experience in ‘eliminating open defecation’ in urban slums. This will be a huge challenge that should not be under-estimated.

    Over the last three years, Practical Action and Umande Trust have been working in two big informal settlements in Nakuru, Kenya, on an ambitious project to transform the sanitation situation. The aim was to declare two thirds of the 13 ‘villages’ within two big low-income settlements (population approximately 190,000) as Open Defecation Free. In these areas, the majority of residents are tenants, living on plots with 10-20 rooms (sometimes up to 50). While almost all of these plots had some form of toilet, their quality was so poor, and their numbers woefully inadequate to count as ‘adequate’ sanitation.

    At the end of the project, we worked with the CLTS Foundation reflect on how we had adapted the usual CLTS process for the challenges of an urban context. The report highlights the greater scope of action required in urban contexts because of the importance of better-quality toilets, and the need for safe faecal sludge management. It explores the whole range of stakeholders who need to be involved from tenants and landlords, to pit emptiers, builders, banks and micro-credit, different levels of government, the local water and sewerage utility company, and many more.

    Here are the 11 key differences we found between rural CLTS, and this urban context.

    Rural Urban
    1. Low toilet coverage and strong preference for or habit of OD High toilet coverage but they are highly unsanitary. OD is out of necessity rather than preference or habit.
    2. Majority of households own land on which they can build their toilets Most households are tenants and have to rely on landlords to provide sanitary toilets. However, it is tenants’ role to maintain them well.
    3. A single triggering aims to reach whole population Two types of triggering exercises are needed: one for landlords and one for tenants
    4. The triggering methodology is principally based on eliciting feelings of shame and disgust to motivate behaviour change. The triggering methodology with landlords is based more around obligation and threat of legislation. Eliciting disgust is still a motivating factor in triggering with tenants.
    5. The key challenge is triggering behaviour change to break the long held habit of open defecation. The key challenge is ensuring adequate provision and maintenance of facilities. Open defecation is no longer a habit but an outcome of poor facilities.
    6 Once a toilet is full, there is usually space to build more within the household compound. Space is limited and density of population is high resulting in the need to dispose of faecal sludge outside the plot once toilets fill up.
    7 Households can build very basic low cost toilets, starting and the lowest rung of the sanitation ladder if they choose. There are often regulations about the standard of toilets substructure and the superstructure. Negotiation with authorities can be an important aspect of intervention.
    8 Households can usually finance low cost toilet building without external finance. Landlords often require external finance in order to be able to adequately upgrade sanitation facilities. This may require negotiating a loan facility, whether through banks or a community fund.
    9 There are few stakeholders external to the community who have an influence on sanitation provision. There are several stakeholders involved, such as tenants, landlords, planning department, public health officials, water and sewerage companies.
    10 As there are few stakeholders involved, the intervention process can be relatively fast. Due to the regulatory environment and the number of stakeholders involved the intervention process, even before any triggering takes place, can take quite long.
    11 Natural leaders and community consultants are key players in driving and scaling up CLTS In this particular urban context natural leaders and community consultants were not developed as Community Health Volunteers already existed.

     

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  • More disastrous for the poor; the Earthquake is unjust

    Swarnima Shrestha

    May 21st, 2015

    The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25 and the major aftershock of 7.3 on May 12 did a lot of harm in Nepal. The loss of lives, homes and heritages; and the constant fear of losing what is left; has put the whole nation in despair. People are in the state of trauma, with many in serious state of fear and stress. The busy streets of Kathmandu are deserted, small and large businesses all closed down. And it is already almost a month of the first quake.
    The whole disaster has caused a serious damage to the already struggling economy of the country. And the ones who are hit the worst are (always) the most marginalised; the poorest of the poor people. The people who earn their living on a daily wage basis, the ones who already had very little, now are left with nothing.
    The (informal) waste workers in Kathmandu valley are among the most marginalised people. They lived in the most vulnerable parts of the city; in the river banks, renting the oldest of the houses. Thus, they have suffered more loss than the rest of the population. Most of the waste workers from the neighbouring country India, have gone back to their own country. The Nepali waste pickers are mostly from the districts like Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha and Kavre which has been hit more badly than Kathmandu, leaving them no option to go back to their hometowns.

    Tents at Waste Transfer Station, Teku, Kathmandu, where waste workers are taking shelter.

    Tents at Waste Transfer Station, Teku, Kathmandu, where waste workers are taking shelter.

    “My house at Kavre is totally damaged by the earthquake and so is my rented room here in Kathmandu”, says Thuli Maya Tamang (35), a waste segregator who has been living in a makeshift tent made of tarpaulin.
    More than hundred other waste workers like Thuli Maya who lived around Teku area of Kathmandu are now living under tarpaulins in the premises of Waste Transfer Station at Teku, Kathmandu. They are living just by the side of heaps of waste; with no option to move to a better open space. They do not have access to better open spaces, as the people from other (better-off) communities are unwilling to share the space with them.

    As most of the waste workers worked in daily wage basis or were dependent on the waste they collected every day, their earning has suffered a lot due to this disaster. They were not able to work for many days due fear and now they cannot work even if they want to because the ‘Kabaads’ (Scrap house) where they used to work are closed.
    “It is difficult to keep the family fed, as we cannot find any work. And I am so scared that I don’t think that I can work for few more days,” says Thuli Maya.
    They have not received any aid or support from any organisation apart from the support of tarpaulins from PRISM project staff on a personal basis. “We have heard that the earthquake victims are getting relief materials but we haven’t received any yet,” says Thuli Maya.
    Gautam Lama (50) is worried about finding a proper space to live after the aftershock gets reduced. “My house at Kavre is totally damaged. The rented room here has many cracks and is not in a liveable condition. I don’t know how I will be able to find a new place to live, as people were already sceptic about renting rooms to us poor people even before the earthquake,” Gautam shares his woes. Finding a space in Kathmandu will definitely be a challenge to these people as a huge number of houses are damaged and renting spaces are already difficult to find.
    Gautam’s daughter Samjhana’s (25) rented rooms at Balkhu, Kathmandu crumbled down into pieces due to the first quake. She feels lucky just to get outside of it in time with her 11 month old baby. “I could not take out anything from the house. Don’t even have clothes for the baby,” says Samjhana who used to be a waste segregator and is currently living with her parents at the transfer station at Teku.

    Samjhana, in front of her shelter with 11 month old daughter and 3 year old son.

    Samjhana, in front of her shelter with 11 month old daughter and 3 year old son.

    Maya Tamang, who works at the co-operatives run by the waste workers, shared that children are suffering a lot due to living outdoors. “Children have started to get sick with cough and cold, as it gets cold in the night time. Rain creates more difficulty, so does mosquitoes, other insects and also snakes,” says Maya.
    Maya opines that the only thing that has helped them survive during the past few weeks is the ‘Sanyuta Safai Jagaran’ co-operative which started operation with the support of the PRISM project and is being run by the efforts of the waste workers themselves. “Thankfully, we had been saving regularly in the co-operative. Most of the waste workers are using the saved amount to run their lives in this time of crisis. We would have been left hungry, if not for the co-operative,” Maya adds. “But it is still difficult for most of the families. I have no idea how we all will be able to find a proper shelter and for how long will we have to live under the open sky.”
    Disasters like earthquake harm everyone; but it certainly affects the poor more severely.
    As the world starts to forget about this disaster in Nepal and its coverage slowly starts to fade from the world media, there are thousands of people like Thuli Maya, Gautam and Samjhana who still need help and assistance to build back their lives.

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  • Help women and children recover from disaster

    Samjhana

    May 2nd, 2015

    It was 3.34 in the morning on 27 January 2010, when the earth starting shaking with the magnitude of 8.8 Richter Scale while I was sleeping safe and sound in the Valdivian City of Southern Chile. Together with my colleagues from the Philippines and Bangladesh, we suddenly moved out of the house. There were several aftershocks, no internet, no telephone, no water, no shopping malls open for food, etc. at least for four days.  It has been five years and I have not yet forgotten a single moment I underwent during this disaster in Chile; and this repeated a week ago on 25th April 2015 in Nepal.

    I was busy preparing for the celebration of my daughter’s birthday, which is actually on 20th April; for some cultural reason, we postponed it to 25th April. I started feeling the movement of my house – which became stronger just in few seconds. From the third floor, I saw a collapsing five-storey house just a few blocks from mine burying 16 people inside. More than ten thousand have died and many more are seriously injured across the country, our cultural properties are gone and the nature has pulled us back so many years of development. What makes me cry over anything else are the children who have lost their parents and loved ones. Nearly a million children are already affected from the earthquake. Many more will be affected due to waterborne and infectious diseases and respiratory infections as they are forced to live under the cold open sky.

    House destroyed from earthquake in Bhaktapur

    House destroyed from earthquake in Bhaktapur

    Hundreds of women have suffered miscarriages due to earthquake, thousands of new moms are suffering with their infants with a hope that things will change, and many have died while trying to protect their kids during the earthquake. While women and children are closely associated, they are most vulnerable. The latest figures from Nepal show that 53% of the affected population from the earthquake are female. This ratio is expected to increase in the coming days due to increased death of women and children if proper water and sanitation services are not provided in time. There are risks that women will suffer from urinary tract infections due to lack of proper sanitation and the taboo attached to menstruation in remote parts of Nepal.

    Focus on water and sanitation

    One of the major focuses of Practical Action during this relief period is water and sanitation. Our belief and actions on promoting appropriate technologies will be realised through the provision of potable water supplies, toilets, awareness on sanitation and hygiene, and management of waste in the temporary camps in Gorkha and Dhading Districts of Nepal. Destruction from disaster can not be undone, but we are confident in reducing the post-disaster deaths mainly of women and children through improved sanitation and hygiene.

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