Khoun, a 39-year-old father of two, had to go to great lengths to make sure they had water during Laos’ dry times. “We had to get up at 3:00am in the morning to carry the water from the well and by 5:00am the water would run out. After a day spent working on the farm, we would have no water for baths or to wash our cooking ware,” Khoun shared.
Mrs. Phim, the vice village chief, echoed Khoun’s concern on the challenges her community faced, “It’s very hard on the community when we are lacking water for daily use. We didn’t have latrines due to no water system, so people went to the bush around the village for their daily business. This led to the spread of communicable and seasonal diseases.”
Khoun, his wife, his daughter Souksada, and son Bansa used to regularly have diarrhea, and with a lack of water and nearby medical clinic, dehydration was a real concern.
New water systems, new practices
In 2017, World Vision visited Phonelay and other villages to conduct a health awareness campaign on hygiene and sanitation, and to install new water points. 12 water supply systems were built across four villages and residents were taught how to operate and maintain the water systems for long term sustainability. The awareness campaign also taught people about practices to keep their water supply clean.
Souksada and her brother Bansa have learned the importance of washing their hands.
In the past, the well Khoun and his family relied on for water often went empty during the dry season.
For Khoun these improvements have had a dramatic impact. “I don’t worry about water because it is easy to get. I also don’t worry as much because now my children are healthy. The new health center is only about a kilometre and a half away from our home, which is very reassuring,” Khoun shared.
“We have more time to work in our farm, we have our own latrine and we are able to use the water for our home garden,” Khoun added.
To continue supporting her family and children, Khoun plans on growing crops for their own consumption as well as to sell.
Souksada now has easy access to water for the family’s vegetable garden.
In Phonelay and beyond
To improve sanitation and access to clean water and reduce the spread of communicable and seasonal diseases, World Vision works closely with the Lao government in Phonelay and three other villages.
Each village has a functioning water committee who provides continuous maintenance of the water systems and educates their community of the importance of safe drinking water and hygiene practices.
World Vision also conducts education campaigns that help communities understand the link between good sanitation and health. This includes teaching people about the importance of washing with soap, cooking with clean water, and using a latrine.
The most efficient and sustainable programs are when communities play an active part in planning, implementing and managing their own water and sanitation work. In the case of Phonelay and other Laotian communities work with World Vision, this has been accomplished.