This month the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) together with Choiseul Provincial health team officially handed over three water supply projects, Veqa-Siro, Loloque- Panarui and Vavudu –Tambasaru project in the Choiseul province.
This was made possible through funding provided by the European Union (EU) through the Ministry of National Planning and Development Coordination (MNPDC) and implemented by the MHMS Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (RWASH) in collaboration with Choiseul provincial RWASH unit, Choiseul Provincial government, and partnership with the recipient communities.
Project coordinator for Veqa-Siro water supply project Mr. James Remobatu thanked the EU, MNPDC, MHMS, the provincial government, and RWASH team for the funding and technical support towards the project which has now come to fruition.
“For over 42 years even before independence Veqa-Siro community has never had such a project like this and throughout these years, access to water remained a real problem for us especially for our mothers and girls who had to travel alone into the bushes to access water from nearby streams. Therefore the successful completion of the project is truly a blessing of our community”, explained Mr. James Remobatu.
He highlighted that because of the desire of the community for ease of access to clean and safe drinking water, the cooperative attitude was significant towards the successful and timely completion of the project. “My people had toiled some six to seven kilometres from the water source, digging trenches along the hill and valleys to lay the water pipes, carry water tanks along the route and the village women were extremely supportive too with the preparation of food and drinks for the workmen every day for the past two months or so”.
Delivering remarks on behalf of communities under the other two water supply projects, Paranarui-Lologae and Vavondu – Tabasaru projects in South Choiseul, was their member of Provincial Assembly Honourable John Matabaza who also acknowledged EU, MNPDC, MHMS and the community for the provision of funds and technical support that has enabled the completion of the project.
Community representatives in each of the two communities highlighted that the new approach towards this water project has not only provided ease of access to clean and safe drinking water but also built community capacity for the sustainability of the water supply system. “We’ve had similar support in the past but because it was provided without any training to repair and maintain the water supply system, the systems broke down and we’ve had to return back to fetching water in nearby streams,” said one of the community representatives in Vavudu-Tambasaru during the handing over ceremony”.
Similarly, in Loloque and Panarui, after the 2007 tsunami, a water system was built unfortunately connection of water pipes was only considered as a temporary measure to quickly respond to the victims and displaces villagers.” As such, we are overjoyed when our community was selected for this water supply project, as we know we will now receive a permanent piping system bringing clean and safe drinking water upstream right down to our communities”.
Mothers and girls in all three communities spoke of their struggles in the past decades having to walk into the bushes to access clean drinking water from nearby streams. “As mothers, we are managers of our homes and so we have to ensure that there is always adequate water in our homes. But, to travel to nearby streams to collect clean water, we are putting our safety at risk as well as that of our children, so our new water supplies does not only mean ease of access but also safe acess to clean and safe drinking water”.
Veqa-Siro project includes a water system with 35 water standpipes serving water to 52 households with a population of 314, though numbers of beneficiaries could be much higher considering those outside of the catchment population of the water supply who also uses the Sirovanga clinic and Sirovanga mission for church services.
In Vavudu-Tabasaru 32 water standpipes for 75 households with a population of 384 and Panarui –Lologae, 33 standpipes for 69 households with a population of 414. Total value for all three projects is over 1.3 million, over 460 thousand to Veqa-Siro, 406 thousand to Vavudu-Tabasaru and 458 thousand to Panarui-Lologae water project. The average cost per household is almost 7 thousand dollars.
Deputy Provincial Secretary Mr. Nelson Kere Tanito emphasized that access to clean and safe drinking water is very much part of the provincial government’s top priorities. “Therefore, having to support and witness the handing over of these newly installed water supplies is truly an honour”.
Like others, Mr. Tanito also encourages community members to take good care of the supplies and to utilize the knowledge and skills gained in the WASH training to make sure the system remains operational.
Delivering keynote address in all three handing over ceremonies, MHMS Deputy Secretary Corporate Services Dr. Lazarus Neko highlighted that the Ministry of Health is very pleased with the support rendered by the communities towards the project. “The success of development projects such as this very much depends on community support and participation. I am pleased to note that this has been the
case in your communities as such sincere thank you to each and every one of you and please ensure that you all take ownership, responsibility and good care of your newly installed water supply systems”.
“Also sincere appreciation to our donors, European Union for provision of funds to improve rural water, sanitation and hygiene which these projects are part of. As such it is important that we the community take good care of our newly installed water supply to ensure that it continues to serve our communities to improve our livelihood”.
With the COVID-19 global pandemic, Dr. Neko also used the opportunity to encourage parents and children to nature the habit of frequent handwashing with soap in preparation of possible outbreaks and community transmission of COVID-19.
As part of the handing over of the projects, communities received boxes of relevant tools from the provincial RWASH and a token of the gift from the provincial government to enable them to maintain the functionality of the water supply systems.