Working for Water in Timor Leste
A Plan International program is helping to address the needs of children like 10-year-old Miranda in Timor Leste.
Miranda, who is one of many Timorese children who do not have access to clean water, consumes river water that is also used as a drinking spot for horses. The river becomes particularly dirty during the rainy season.
“We only have access to water in the river,” she said. “It is close to my village and it is the only water source that we have.”
Clean water helps to keep children healthy and happy and increases the amount of time they can spend at school. For many Timorese children, having access to clean drinking water sometimes involves giving up their learning and playing time so they can help their families carry water to and from their homes.
To tackle this issue, Plan has supported communities to build their own water supply systems.
Adapting to the Seasons
Miranda knows the challenges that come with the rainy season.
To transport the water to her house, Miranda would walk 30 minutes each way, sometimes longer if she needed to stop and take a rest.
She would collect water about three times per day, which equals three hours of walking per day – a huge amount of time for a 10-year-old. Typically, she collected water in the early morning (before going to school), in the afternoon (once school had finished), and again in the late afternoon. She used two bottles that could both hold about five liters of water. Clothes were washed in the river, so she also carried the clothes to the river and back.
Between collecting water, helping her mother wash clothes, doing housework, and looking after her younger brothers, Miranda, a fourth grader, was not left with much time to do her homework and study.
Water Systems Change Everything
Now, life for Miranda has changed after a new water system was built in her village and taps were installed close to her home.
Water pumps were installed in Miranda’s village, where five to six houses have access to one pump, which means about 59 houses now have access to clean water every day.
“I’m happy now because we have clean water,” she said.
“At least with the new water system, it reduces my burden, and I don’t need to walk for long distances,” she added. “Also, I do not need to be late for school, and I will have more time to study.”
This new gravity-fed water system was installed in May 2013 by the community with support from Plan and its local partner NGO Hafoun Timor-Leste (Renew Timor-Leste).
The water system has not only been established in the Aileu district, but also in the Lautem district and now serves almost 3,000 people in 601 households.