Children now attend school instead of fetch water

Rafiullah Mandokhail

ZHOB: A group of children are gathered around a hand pump installed in the center of the village. A little girl is fetching safe drinking water through the manual pump while the other one is filling water pot.

Other children are waiting for their turn to get water. It is a glimpse of Wala Akram Jan Bakhta village, located in the north of Zhob city in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Two years back women and children in the same village used to bring water from far-flung mountainous areas for drinking and household use. Even in rainy, chilly cold or sizzling hot weather, they had no option but to bring and use the muddy and unprotected water. Ponds water was brackish and contaminated used by animals and humans alike. That caused water-born diseases. Since the children were engaged in fetching water, they had no time to go to school, that is why only few children had a chance to attend the school.

Today the situation is different, now water-shortage problem doesn’t exist in the area, villagers are united and children go to school instead of bringing water. Formation of a village committee was behind this change. A committee comprising the villagers soon turned into a local organization to address the long lasting issues they were facing.

Sixty three years old Haji Meewa Khan, resident of sixty-household village said that the community organizations have been formed at house level while village organization has been formed at village level.

The committee approached a non-governmental organization Balochistan Rural Support Program – working in the area. “BRSP with the financial support of European Commission under EC-WATSAN Project installed three hand pumps at different places in the village in 2013”. Haji Meewa Khan explained.

Now the villagers are getting water safe drinking water at their door-step, moreover it also enabled the children to go to school. “We have a hand pump next to our house and we get clean water. Our children can drink and they are healthier than before”. Haji added. The border of Balochistan’s eastern district Zhob touches militancy-hit tribal areas.

Imran is among hundred students in a government-run primary school in mountainous area Killi Naway Oba on Zhob-Waziristan highway – ten kilometers away from Jan Bakhta village. The school that consists of two rooms was deprived of drinking water, electricity, reading, writing material and other facilities. School children had no drinking water and wash facility at their school.

They had to go a kilometer away from school and they had no trend to be cleaned and use toilet that caused illness to them. Dressed in school uniform, Imran told that the village consists of seventy houses. The area people are backward and deprived of all basic facilities. They depend on livestock and agriculture, but famine badly affected livestock and agriculture in recent years that caused to increase poverty and multiplied difficulties of people. There was no planning and coordination among the villagers. However the villagers called a meeting to address the issues and formed a local committee which later became an organization.

“Couple of years back, with the assistance of local organization a wash facility equipped with water and other facilities funded by European Union were built in the school. The facility created a sense of toilet use in the children and saved more than hundred children from various diseases. This development attracted more and more children to come to school.” Imran said. Planning for the solution of village problems was done as well. The local organization also recommended a water-supply scheme. Because lack of water was the biggest problem in the village. With the partnership of community BRSP completed EU funded water supply scheme in the village. The completion of scheme not only did solve a major issue but also created a trend of solving issues through partnership. Imran added.

A school teacher by profession and community member in Naway Oba, Abdul Latif told that most of stress was applied on social mobilization to end the wrong concept about non-governmental organizations in an area that has strong tribal structure. A change in the mind set of the people is visible and people have aspiration to work with cooperation and coordination. Community has been mobilized and provided with information about decision making and resources utilization. He said. “Development in rural areas is impossible until community is made partner in development process. The rural development approach united communities in the shape of organizations in poverty struck tribal areas”. Latif said.

The communities got expertise in managing affairs and how to have access to services. Now they are able to sprit fully solve their problems with limited resources. He added. Community member further said that the schemes are accomplished on need basis recommended by the community that has 20% share in development projects. The way to organize and enable the backward people is strong and transparent. The community points out the project and an easy and simple start is given to the project then. Organization supervises the project to be standardized and timely accomplished. Abdul Latif briefed.

The pace of development in Balochistan is slow in comparison with other provinces in Pakistan. Balochistan is small in case of population but large in area. It has the highest poverty and illiteracy rate. The poverty, lack of basic needs and famine have been destiny of the province. EU has been funding for the last two decades for rural development, poverty elevation, educational development and for the betterment of peoples’ living conditions. General Manager BRSP Nadir Gul Barech told journalist Rafiullah Mandokhail that like in other districts of the province BRSP has been working in rural areas of Zhob district for the last eight years. The organization has so for completed projects on health, education, drinking water, irrigation and sanitation. EC-WATSAN project had been completed. “The aim and objective of the project is to support the government in reducing the negative impact of economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality and create opportunities to build and empower resilient communities that participate actively in development activities and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people.” Mr. Barech said.