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Washing Away Barriers to Children’s Health

In Timor-Leste having access to clean water can be a big challenge. In rural areas only 61 percent of the population are using improved drinking water sources and a lack of clean water can have severe consequences for people’s health, especially for children. This is why Plan International is working in some of the most remote areas of the country to improve communities' access to clean water sources.

Children fetching water in Timor-Leste

It has been a challenge for the people from Edi village, Ainaro Municipality. For a long time, they have been facing problems to access water. Every day, the people had to fetch water from far away, about an hour-long walk from their houses or more and children could often not wash themselves before going to school due to a lack of water. In order to improve this situation, Plan International Timor-Leste has cooperated with the Ainaro District Water Authority (SMASA), the village community and local NGO, Fundasaun Hafoun Timor-Loro Sa’e (FHTL), to make clean water accessible for the community.

The life of the community before

Ten-year-old Candida told us the story of her life and about her access to water. She usually had to fetch water with her sisters and mother two or three times a day and it was a long to walk to the spring.

“We fetched water far away from home. Sometimes we all had to wait in a long queue for more than an hour because we only had this one water source”, says Candida with her innocent face.

“We fetched water far away from home. Sometimes we all had to wait in a long queue for more than an hour because we only had this one water source”

Candida’s father Mateus, 43 years old, stands close to her and also tells about the family’s difficulties in everyday life.

“I sometimes helped my wife and children fetching water when they were late for school”, he tells and he adds: “But during the dry season, it was very difficult to get water because the water source was almost dry. So there was only a little bit of water for everyone.”

Mateus and his family are farmers. They usually farm coffee, cabbage and vegetables. After harvesting, they sell the goods to the market to sustain their daily lives. Mateus and his wife have seven children who are going to school in the village. The consequences of water scarcity became particularly problematic when it came to farming and thus affected the family’s livelihood. When there was no water, he could not plant vegetables in the farm and in the backyard. He could only wait until the rainy season came to plant the seeds.

After getting access to water 

Community water source

Wanting to change this situation the community took action. They set up a Community Water Management Group (GMF) in charge of organizing the construction of a new water system.  They received technical support from Plan International Timor-Leste, FHTL as well as funding from LDS Charities. Mateus and many more community members rolled up their sleeves and helped install the new water system. Water tanks were brought to the village, transmission lines installed to bring the water from the source closer to the village and water taps were set up on various points at the village.

Mateus and his daughter are very glad about the change. “I am so happy because the water is close to our home now and we do not need to spend our time to bring water from far away like before and I can take a shower every morning and am not late for school anymore”, says Candida happily.

I can take a shower every morning and am not late for school anymore

And Mateus adds with a smile on his face: “Our situation is better now compared to last year. With the new water source, we can now also build our own toilet at home. My children can use as much water as they need and I can run our farm very well.”