Friday, April 24, 2015

WASH projects reaching children in remote non-state actor controlled areas

By Theingi Soe, UNICEF Myanmar WASH specialist
April 2015

©UNICEF Myanmar/2015

Field Mission
At the beginning of April, I went to Kyarinseikkyi Township in Kayin State to visit a UNICEF WASH project that included water supply, WASH in schools and Community-lead Total Sanitation (CLTS) in both Government Controlled Areas and areas controlled by non-state actors (NSAs). Implemented by the national NGO, Social Vision Services, this UNICEF project covers a total of 60 villages, 60% of which are in areas controlled by NSAs. 
On the road
First we had a six-hour drive from Yangon to Mawlamyine Field Office. On the second day, we drove more three hours to reach Kyarinseikkyi Township. But that was only the beginning of a very long journey. In total, I visited 5 villages in two days, and 3 out of these were in NSA controlled areas.
Villages in Non-State Actor (NSA) controlled areas
To reach those three NSA controlled villages, we had to drive for one and a half hours on a terrible road that is still under construction. When concluded, this future highway will connect to the Thai border. But that is in the future: the situation now is a tough unfinished road.
After those 90 minutes by car, we had some moto drivers waiting for us. For security reasons, they came directly from the NSA controlled villages to show us the way and take us there. To get into these areas, we had to ask for travel permission in advance and this also means having good relations with NSAs. UNICEF is lucky to work with Social Vision Services, as they have established good relations with both Government and NSAs.
©UNICEF Myanmar/2015
Moto ride    
There’s no road to reach those villages. There’s an “up-and-down” path. We crossed bamboo shaking bridges, paddy fields and dozens of streams. I was so scared of falling, getting completely wet, and of getting heat stroke. I had lots of gear to protect me, especially my shawl and a helmet. We rode by narrow cliffs and edges. As the way was so narrow, I kept being hit by bamboo branches. I am so glad I had a helmet. Actually, I saw someone falling from a moto into a drainage channel. I immediately tried to help this lady, who fortunately only got some scratches.
I was also scared about landmines, as this can be a contaminated zone. I do know the main principles on prevention, but still…
This trip only lasted for 45 minutes but it felt like an eternity.  
Village visit  
In one of the villages, 1 block of 2 latrines units, 1 hand washing station and 1 hand dug well were already installed.  Plus, the villagers had already constructed their latrines with the CLTS approach, which means they built them with their own mean and resources. That’s the beauty of this project. And people were so happy to meet UNICEF and NGO staff. They were very welcoming. The local Christian priest and teachers took us around and proudly showed us the latrines. For most of these villagers, it is the first time they have received proper health and hygiene education. I am sure that very soon, some of these villages will be Open Defecation Free.
Children’s role
I believe the behaviour change will start in schools with children. They will start to go back home and tell their parents that they need to have latrines and that is important to wash their hands. That’s why we also focus on WASH in schools. 
I really appreciate our partner’s role. Although, I visited these places during the dry season, the way is extremely difficult and tough. But can you imagine how it is during the rainy season? Even to walk around is difficult for the local community.
For our partner, this project is very challenging, both in terms of access and security. But they do it and they do it well.
Despite the remoteness of the area, I would go back again, and again and again.

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