A pipe dream no more: Clean water in Kyrgyzstan

Aug 19, 2016

Marifat Seitbekova fetching water from the dirty channel. Photo credit: Asel Omorova, Project Specialist, UNDP Osh Area Based Development Programme.

Marifat Seitbekova is a nurse at a small community hospital. She lives in the border village of Karamyk in the southern region of Kyrgyzstan. As with many others in the village, she spends a lot of time and effort fetching drinking water for her family, as well as for her patients and the hospital personnel.

 “The lack of safe water makes it very difficult to provide high quality services to our patients,” she says. “I have no other choice but to fetch water from the nearby irrigation channel and let it stand before use. Otherwise it’s too dirty to use due to the rain coming from the pastures and livestock crossing the channel. We have showering facilities for our patients but no water.”

To fetch clean water, the locals, mainly the women and children who are traditionally responsible for the task, have to walk 6,5 km to the nearest source at the outskirts of the village. They use containers and buckets, often riding donkeys on the way there and back. During harsh and long winters, water in the channel freezes and turns into thick layers of ice.

“In the winter I am afraid to send my children to fetch water; it is very cold and slippery out there. They could fall into a crack. They would not be able to get out by themselves. So I use snow for laundry, cooking and even for drinking,” she adds.

Donkeys are very helpful to villagers with transporting water. Photo credit: Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP)

To make things worse, according to Marifat, intestinal infections started earlier this year than in the previous years.

All this is due to change soon. The New World Project, implemented by UNDP and funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, has begun to lay out water supply pipes for communal use. The preliminary assessments of Mountain Societies Development Support Programme have shown that the new pipes will be able to deliver up to 6-7 liters of safe drinking water per second.

There are also plans to put in place a water reservoir and a chlorinating system to maintain safe quality supply of the water to the local school, the health care center, kindergarten and households.

“We are happy to be working together with the local self-government of the village on this,” said Mira Subankulova, Manager of UNDP Office in Osh. “We both agree that this was a very high priority issue to address in this region and we are happy to see their support, both moral and financial.”

The initiative is also closely collaborating with the School Health Committee, teachers, parents and health workers towards public awareness raising of the sanitary and hygiene issues and rules using different techniques like information campaigns, workshops and training materials.

School students. Photo credit: Mountain Societies Development Sport Programme (MSDSP)

 “I am really happy that finally we’ll have an uninterrupted water supply and my worries for delivery of water will be resolved.” Marifat cheers. ”This way, I will have more time to take care of my children and patients, instead of spending lots of my time collecting water”. 

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