Access to clean water sparks joy for an entire village in Anbar
On World Water Day, read how access to clean water is transforming the lives of residents in this village in Anbar.
For the 25-year-old farmer, Flah Kamel Abedulah, sustaining his farm has been challenging due to the lack-of-water supply to his village, Al Khaseem, in the Al Qaim district of Anbar. The water treatment plant that used to supply water to the entire village, including his farm, was severely damaged during the ISIL liberation. As a result, the village residents had to travel long distances to collect water at the nearest water source every day.
However, today life is different for people of Al Khaseem as the Tawaklna Ala Allah water treatment plant was recently rehabilitated and restored. For Flah, having access to water through the pipes in his home has drastically improved his family's quality of life. On life before access to water was a reality, he says, "It was exhausting. We had to walk long distances to get water from the river and then struggled to carry it back. On certain days, we even paid a premium for water to be delivered in tankers."
Based along the Euphrates River, the village is nearly 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, near the Syrian border. Even though the villagers lived along the river, access to clean water was a dream until the water plant began functioning earlier this month. "Access to clean water is our right, and we are grateful for seeing this a reality. I can see the drastic change in my village, as people now enjoy a more healthy and decent quality of life," adds Flah.
Villagers in Al Khaseem agree that access to clean water had transformed their lives. Apart from ending the effort of collecting water every day, they said it has also brought down the risk of waterborne diseases. "Before this, the water was contaminated, causing stomach ailments and diarrhea to my family members. Today, the water is clean and safe to drink," explains 23-year-old Nama Hamad Jasim, who is currently looking for a job.
On the other hand, 40-year-old Mohammed Jasim Mohammed is excited to go back to his daily ritual of washing his truck every morning. A truck driver by profession, Mohammed says, "We suffered a lot after the war. The water was dirty and polluted. Living on a daily wage can be unpredictable. At times we had to buy water which was hard to afford, and make ends meet. Simultaneously, there was no electricity causing a lot of difficulties for my family."
A stop-gap solution for the villagers in Al Khaseem, the cost of a water tanker would come up to IQD 20,000 (USD 13) for around eight gallons of water. Today, the water supply is continuous, reliable and free of charge.
Restoring the water plant serves multiple purposes, including improving quality of life, increasing agricultural productivity, ensuring safe drinking water and most importantly, creating a stable environment for people to return.
"The service of water is excellent. Clean water reaches every household in the area. Water is the basic element of life. We would not be able to live without it," says 48-year-old Ali Abood, who has worked in the water plant since 2009. Having seen the destruction firsthand, the father of nine says with hope, "I am glad to see services being renewed and restored. This should hopefully assure people that we can go back to the life we enjoyed before the war."
The water treatment plant was rehabilitated by UNDP's flagship programme, the Funding Facility for Stabilization, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). To date, the programme has impacted the lives of over 3.5 million Iraqis with improved access to water.
On speaking to 50-year-old Hamad Jasim Mohammed, who works at the electricity department, he shares, "At the time of ISIL, the situation was terrible, we didn't have water or electricity. The water station had only one water pump which was pulling and pumping water simultaneously. As a result, we did not get filtered water." In addition to his day job, Hamad also cultivates a farm and livestock.
Currently, the water plant serves the entire village of over 2,000 residents. Previously, it used to pump 50 cubic meters of water. Today, it produces over 200 cubic meters of water, which is equivalent to twice the volume of a car garage.
"We are grateful for how far we have come from the liberation, and we hope to receive more support to help us build our village back. The nearest school is 3 kilometres from the village, and the nearest hospital that can handle medical emergencies is over 40 kilometres away," explains Hamad while he waters his date palm trees.
Three years since Al Qaim's liberation, the stabilization of the region is underway, but gaps continue to exist. Over 100,000 people have returned home, basic services, including water and electricity, are being restored, and the local economy is picking up. However, access to essential services like schools and health centres are still a challenge.
"Water is the most basic resource but also the most essential. Our livestock is healthy, and fields are thriving thanks to water. It is nature's precious gifts to us for the continuity of life on earth," says Hamad with a smile as he pours us a glass of water.