Rural Karen community enjoys new access to water in dry season
01 September 2022
Water for everyone
Travel fourteen miles out of Hlaing Bwe town and a further four miles along a narrow dirt road that connects village to village, and you arrive at the tiny settlement of Upper Me Pa Ra.
Set alongside a lively, bubbling stream and surrounded by paddy fields and mountains, its 219 dwellings house a population of 1200, most of whom belong to the Karen ethnic group. The community’s primary source of income is rice production.
Upper Me Pa Ra village is administered by the Karen National Union (KNU). The village tries to maintain a peaceful way of life, despite frequent clashes between the KNU and the Myanmar military over the years. The community meets each eruption of armed conflict with resilience.
In addition to armed conflict, the community faces a second challenge – the dry season from April to June leaves them dramatically short of clean drinking water. In the past, the villagers relied on shallow tube and hand-dug wells that inevitably dry up at the height of summer. The only alternative is water from the stream. But as U Ba Aye, leader of the community water committee, explains, it is polluted by run-off from the paddy fields that includes animal waste and insecticides used by farmers.
As a solution, villagers in Upper Me Pa Ra created a gravity-flow water supply system and water storage tanks for households to collect water. However, these interventions weren’t enough to deliver sufficient water for the entire community.
In early 2022, teams from UNICEF and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA Myanmar) assessed the water, sanitation and hygiene needs in the area. And upper Me Pa Ra village was selected for an upgrade of its water supply system.
“Now the families in our village can get water any time,” said U Ba Aye. “Both pregnant women and children no longer need to fetch water. If they need water, they just open the tap. The pipeline provided by UNICEF and ADRA Myanmar can give a lot of water, so we have sufficient water throughout the year.”
Local families are delighted with the new and upgraded water supply system. “We used to get water from the stream on our way home from work. But that is a thing of the past. We now have running water from a pipeline that is connected to our house,” said 67-year-old Dar Mu Bu.
UNICEF and local partners have established reliable water systems for eight villages in Hlaing Bwe, providing clean drinking water to approximately 6,100 people, including 2500 children.
Naw Pe Naw enjoys the fact that she can now bathe her son close to their home without having to walk long distances to fetch water. “In the past, it took so much time to carry water from the community wells. Now, we no longer need to fetch water as the running water reaches our house. This gives me more time to take care of my child and family.”