A REASON TO SMILE

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“In the training sessions, I felt embarrassed by my black teeth and often hid them with the end of my Sari while talking. I could hardly communicate or laugh openly. Those black teeth made me upset when I looked at myself in the mirror, but never again. The Bio-sand filter fitted in my house has solved my problem,” says 45 year old Amrita Mahato with a big bright smile.

In the F.Y. 2010/11 under Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH)’s technical and financial assistance, a Water Quality, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project was conducted at Simara Ratani, in Chitwan, which benefitted 136 households. 

As part of this project, Amrita received an opportunity to become a trainee and facilitator to promote WASH and improved water quality in the village. In addition to being able to support the community, Amrita has experienced some powerful life changes of her own.

Amrita lives in the remote area under Madi in Chitwan district at Baghauda VDC ward no. 5 with her husband Pashupati Mahato, four sons, two daughters, two daughter-in-laws and three grand-children in a joint family of 12 members. 

Like Amrita, most of the villagers shared similar dental problems due to an excess of iron in the water. Before they realised the water was the problem, Amrita once argued with the mill owner for providing low quality rice, when in fact it was the water used to cook the food. 

The girls in the village even had a fear of not being selected by a boy as a partner because of their dental disorder. Amrita’s daughter said that she had been using filtered water borrowed from her neighbours for brushing her teeth and gargling. 

Before the project was implemented it was found that there were high doses of Iron and E.Coliform in the well-water tests. The villagers were suffering from a low quality water supply. Now, after project implementation, everyone has seen the changes. 

Amrita is delighted to have a Bio-sand filter at her place, and the filtered water is used for cooking, drinking, and personal and household cleanliness purpose. She says, “My teeth have become whiter these days and I no longer feel embarrassed to flaunt them publicly.”

She has also constructed a permanent toilet at her house after learning of its benefits in the training programme. Being a sanitation leader in the community, Amrita says it is her responsibility to have a proper toilet. It became easier for her to make a toilet after the school supported her with a toilet pan.

“Having a permanent toilet nearby my house has relieved me from the problems I used to have especially during rainy days when the temporary toilets filled up with water, had faeces spattered everywhere and a horrible smell.”

In the WASH project to install Bio-sand filters, some incentives were given to the ultra-poor, poor and medium level people with the idea of providing equal facilities and opportunities to everyone in the village. A total of 41 Bio-sand filters were installed for the ultra-poor, 40 for the poor and 9 for medium level people.

Amrita claims that there is now a reduction in the proportion of illness from water-borne diseases due to the usage of toilets, access to clean drinking water, emphasis on personal and household cleanliness, awareness of the faecal-oral transmission route and its control measures, washing hands in critical times and other awareness programmes conducted by the project.

The Simara Ratani community, which is dominant with Tharu groups, have 39 temporary and 15 permanent toilets. They are enforcing temporary toilet holders to switch onto permanent ones and also are promoting the use of combined toilet. 

Written by: Saraswati Thapaliya
Senior Health and Sanitation facilitator, NEWAH, Chitwan
Project: Simara Ratani Water Quality Improvement, Health and Sanitation
District: Chitwan
Donor Agency: charity: water
Date: August 2011