Families are sleeping on empty stomachs because of a lack of water to cook, says Sukmaya Bomjom from Nepal
“Around 8 pm, I returned home from the field. I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner and saw the empty water jar. I didn’t have the courage to go to fetch water,” explained Sukmaya Bomjom. Sukmaya has been living in a displaced persons camp in Sindhupalchok district since the 2015 earthquake made her home village too dangerous to stay in.
Bomjom is not the only one at the camp in Bhedichaur dealing with water insecurity. Many families are sleeping on empty stomachs because of a lack of water to cook food, she said. They have to cross the main road and then through the jungle to reach the nearest water source. The journey exposes them not only to wild animals, but also to men who sometimes harass the women fetching water. So some nights it’s just easier to go to bed hungry, Bomjom explains. Bomjom’s neighbor Shanti Lama adds, “We used to have to bathe in the open since we didn’t have any enclosed bathing place. Men used to watch from the roadside and we were scared that they might take our photos and make videos.”
As part of a project working towards durable solutions to displacement, People in Need (PIN) in consortium with Oxfam worked with earthquake-displaced women and men who formed Safety Committees to address such problems at their displacement camps. Through the UK aid funded project, PIN’s protection team conducted trainings with the Safety Committees on issues like Sexual and Gender based Violence, Reproductive Health, Safe Foreign Employment, Financial Management, and Emotional Wellbeing. As part of the trainings, the Committees mapped out risks in their communities, looking especially at safety risks for women and girls. Once they identified these risks, PIN gave the Committees small cash grants to implement their own solutions.
Water tanks helped 130 households
In Sindhupalchowk, the Bhedichaur Safety Committee identified the risks associated with their difficult access to water. The only source of water was far away and didn’t even supply water all day. To reduce the risks women and girls face traveling long distances to fetch water, the Safety Committee decided to spend their grant installing two water tanks, and constructing a bathing station and five toilets since they didn’t have enough toilets for the whole community earlier.
The installation of water tanks and water pumps helped 130 households access safe drinking water 24 hours a day. The tanks are used both by the camp residents and the host community, as well as children from the school nearby. Now, women feel secure to fetch water and families don’t sleep hungry. The Committee’s work also helps the community stay healthy. Women and girls can now bathe and change clothes in the privacy of the bathing stations. They also use the private room to wash and dry menstrual cloths, something that was sometimes sacrificed before because of the embarrassment of doing it publicly.
Shanti Lama accompanied me to the toilet she and her Committee members built from the grant. The toilet, which was constructed around July, was so clean it looked like it was built just yesterday. “Toilets are the main source of illness. If we don’t keep them clean, germs will enter our house and make everyone ill. So, I’m instructing everyone to keep the toilet clean,” Lama explained.
Lama and her Safety Committee know how precious health and safety can be in the difficult conditions of a displacement camp. Now they’re making sure everyone else in their community knows it too.