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|Left to right: Joses Togase (Deputy General Secretary), Gracetella Smith
(Diocese of Banks & Torres Literacy Coordinator), Rucinta Vora (WASH &
Two ABM staff members, Pacific Programs Officer Kate Winney and Pacific Programs Coordinator Paul Davenport, recently visited our partner in Vanuatu. Since 2009, the Anglican Church of Melanesia in Vanuatu (ACOMV) has managed a successful Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program, through the DFAT and ABM-funded Vanuatu Church Partnership Program, and our staff were keen to see the progress of the work and meet with the dedicated volunteers behind it.
A trip was arranged to the island of Gaua (sometimes called ‘Santa Maria’), which lies to the north of Espiritu Santo, where the head office of ACOMV is located in Luganville. Gaua boasts an active volcano, lush tropical vegetation, and a beautiful aqua coastline. Many isolated rural communities live scattered throughout the island, far from essential services and mainland conveniences. ACOMV had met with leaders in the village of Qwetion in early 2015, and had agreed to implement a WASH project there together, as there was a pressing need. The nearest sources of water were over 30 mins walk, either up the steep hill to a running stream, or down to the coast, where fresh water can be dug up from the sand during low tide. And the only toilets were open pits, which posed the constant threat of disease or injury, especially to young children.
|Inspecting a VIP toilet on Gaua Island.|
When the ABM team arrived to view the work, they were impressed to see 10 Ventilation Improved Pit (VIP) toilets had been built, 2 reservoir tanks had been established near the water source up hill, and piping had been laid to provide 8 water points within the community. The whole village was there to greet them, around 60 people altogether, and spoke with enthusiasm about the project. It had truly been a collaborative effort: the local community had provided the materials for the toilet walls and the labour to construct buildings, foundations, and pits for the toilets and pipes, while ACOMV key volunteers from Luganville had provided the expertise and training, along with supplies of tanks, piping, fittings and concrete purchased with ABM funding.
A WASH committee had also been established within the village to care for the new infrastructure, raise money for ongoing maintenance, and encourage people to practise safe hygiene. ACOMV have arranged for their key volunteers to be trained by the Government of Vanuatu’s Rural Health department, in order that they may in turn provide training to local WASH committee members. It is essential to have these dedicated local advocates of hygiene, to educate and encourage healthy practice on an ongoing basis, ensuring nothing is forgotten or neglected.
When asked about the progress of the entire WASH program, the ACOMV Coordinator, Mrs Rucinta Vora, happily recounted recent achievements. From July 2015 until June 2016, projects had been completed in six sites in the Torba Province (of which Gaua is a part), despite delays caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam in early 2015. This equated to 42 VIP toilets and 11 water tanks being established, along with repairs to two gravity-fed water systems. As a result, approximately 1800 people are now able to access clean water and safe sanitation facilities, ensuring healthier and more productive communities in this region.
|Qwetion Village, South Gaua|
And there are no signs of slowing down!
In the coming year, 11 new communities have been identified for WASH program support. This includes the installation of 5 tanks, 43 VIP toilets, and repairs to an established gravity-fed water system. ACOMV key volunteers will also focus on delivering hygiene awareness and safe practices training, along with Rural Health department workers, to all the communities who have participated in the program. To assist in this, a WASH Information Kit has been compiled by ACOMV to guide activities, including information on gender equality, disability inclusion, community consultation, child protection, and risk mitigation. Training will also be provided to all local WASH committees in leadership, financial management, fund raising and general business and administration, which will foster local ownership and ensure the long-term sustainability of the projects.
All these activities will involve over 3650 people, with many more family and community members benefiting through the training and infrastructure being delivered.
When asked about her impressions from the visit, Kate Winney quickly answered,
“What amazed me the most were the volunteers, that the whole WASH program is run by volunteers. The key volunteers at ACOMV are basically doing a full-time job, going out to communities all the time to train and coordinate work. And in the villages, everyone is so keen to help and work hard for nothing apart from the community benefit. This being my first trip to Vanuatu, it was really unexpected, and I’m so impressed by that selflessness.”
From July 2016, this program is no longer receiving funding from DFAT. If you would like to donate towards this essential work, please visit our website project page www.abmission.org/vanuatuWASH.