In 2008, Norwegian Red Cross started to supplement its ongoing orphans and vulnerable children programme with additional focus on water and sanitation project in two districts of Lesotho; Maseru –Thaba Bosiu and Mafeteng-Thabana Morena. The project assists the communities with clean water, latrines for children and hygiene education.
Lack of access to clean water has been in major issue in Lesotho. According to the Lesotho Red Cross Society water and sanitation Officer Mr. Thabang Toloane, many orphans and vulnerable children find themselves having to collect water from up to two kilometres away. This affects their attendance at school and also put them in danger due to the distances they have to travel.
The minimum walking distance to a water collection point set by Department of Rural Water Supply (DRWS) in Lesotho should not be more than 150m. DRWS also requires that each person be provided with a minimum of 30 litres per person per day.Collecting water far means this is compromised.
But water supply isn’t just an issue for children. Thabang says whole communities are in dire need.
“Some community members are forced to use donkeys or cattle to carry their water due to the long distance,” Toloane explained.
The project so far has helped five villages in Thaba Bosiu(Maseru district) and ten villages in Thabana –Morena (Mafeteng district) with the gravity system or water points which protects springs in villages to supply water to the reservoir tanks near the community.. Bore holes were also drilled which supply water to the hand pumps with the help from the rural water supply.
Now, all members of the community have full access to the water, but only the OVCs were especially helped with the latrines in all 15 villages. “The children really needed the latrines nearby due to ill-health of some of them”, Thabang said. “Both the water points and the latrines will help improve the health of the community. When water is accessible, the community can improve their livelihood by irrigating their small gardens to improve their nutrition and also can establish fisheries in their villages.
Red Cross volunteers were also trained in the importance of hygiene, which they disseminate in their respective communities through drama to make them aware that the latrines and water pumps are under their protection and ownership, and prevention methods for cholera and other water-borne diseases.
In 2011, heavy rains meant many schools were affected. Lesotho Red Cross together with UNICEF re-built toilets in some schools in Maseru, Berea, Mokhotlong, Butha-Buthe, and Quthing which benefited both students and teachers.
Thabang said the community responded positively to the assistance provided to them by digging of pits for latrines and taking part during the water supply construction. Moreover, communities pledged to take care of the latrines and protected springs. “The communities with their committees work together to keep the water supply clean and safe,” Said Thabang.
He further stated that more people need assistance of latrines since only the OVCs are assisted within the project which is a challenge because the project lack funds but emphasised that their plan is to reach more areas to help more communities. He said he hopes it will be possible to help more villages since the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent has a strategy to revive water and sanitation in Africa.