According to the Millennium Development Goal-7 factsheet on drinking water and sanitation, Lao PDR has steadily increased the access to safe drinking water, but will need to accelerate progress to achieve its 2015 target Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source is 80%.
During 2011 and 2012, some 70 per cent of the total population had access to improved sources of drinking water, an increase of two-and-a-half times the coverage in 1990. Both the urban and rural areas have made steady progress, but the rural-urban gap has not decreased since 2005.
Just a few years ago, Tew’s village had a problem with a lack of clean water. They had to carry dirty water from the well, a far walk away, especially during the rainy season, but it was the only water they had.
“Every day my parents had to carry water back home after spending all day working in the rice fields. On the weekend I also helped them carry water,” says Tew, 13-years-old.
His village is green, surrounded by forest and rice fields. A visit to his village from October to December will prove to show pale yellow fields ready for harvest time.
“My children were small, and it was too hard for them to carry water every day,” says Tew’s father Phieng, 40-years-old.
In their village, at least 6 people died from diarrhea and malaria in the village. Medicines are not readily accessible there, so they use roots of trees and other herbal medicines that are available to treat their ailments.
“During the rainy season it was even worse. We had to drink unclean water because we have no place to get clean water. My son Tew had diarrhea almost every week. I was worried about him. It was hard to get medicine,” Phieng recalled.
“I was absent from school because I was got diarrhea from drinking unclean water,” Tew says.
During the rainy season, water became dirty because of the rain. The well was in a low land area so insects could easily go inside. Frogs, snakes and dry leaves would be found insine. In the dry season, the well would dry up.
“I was often absent from school because I wanted to help my parents fetch,” Tew says.
In 2012, a water and sanitation programme began in Tew’s community in Xaybouathong. World Vision wanted to help them have access to clean water permanently. World Vision provided four clean water pumps to Tew’s village, benefitting more than 200 families. As part of the programme, they also began conducting health awareness campaigns on hygiene and sanitation. The health awareness campaigns taught villagers about keeping their water supply separate from everything else, including keeping their animals in enclosed areas, keeping a clean environment in their house, and going to the hospital when they are sick.
“Before, we had to carry the water all the way from the well, but now we have the clean water near my house. I am very happy that we have clean water and I can now take a bath anytime I want,” shared Tew’s with a grin.
“Children in the village are much more healthy since using clean water and learning how to boil water before drinking it. Awareness prevents people from drinking unboiled water when working in the fields for example,” says Palivath Souvannasen, World Vision Xaybouathong health assistant.
“I’m happy that my children are healthier; I don't worry about them as much. I would like to thank the government and World Vision for supporting and helping our community. My children are healthier and now able to attend class regularly,” says Phieng.