Ensuring women and children have access to clean water during floods


Photo: @Save the Children/2011

When her house became completely inundated because of a severe and longlasting flood in the Viet Nam Mekong Delta in October-November 2011, Ngoc, 29 years old, was forced to move and live in an improvised house without proper access to clean water. Tran Thi Ngoc, her husband Nguyen Van Xuan, 31, and their two children, 7 and 1 years old, were among the 391 families from Binh Hoa Trung village, Thuong Thoi Hau A commune in the Hong Ngu district of Dong Thap province, that were affected by a flooding that caused widespread devastation.

Houses and schools but also rice fields, fruit orchards and fish ponds became entirely submerged with water levels stagnating for more than two months. Access to water, food and basic social services was cut off, especially for female headed households, landless people and other vulnerable families.

Highlights

  • More than 645,000 people were affected by the 2011 Mekong flooding with 156,000 houses damaged or destroyed
  • Eightyfive percent of all casualties were children
  • The economic damage was estimated by the Government of Viet Nam at US$193 million

People had to live in temporary houses or with their relatives for four to six weeks. "During the flood, my house was totally under water and we had to build a temporary house,” Ngoc said. "We became reliant on my parents. Our neighbours also gave us rice and old pans to cook.”

A joint United Nations-NGO assessment mission carried out in October 2011 in Dong Thap and An Giang provinces identified the urgent need for clean water and sanitation facilities, particularly for vulnerable groups.

When the floods occurred, people started to drink surface water without treatment or relied on recycled petrol and oil containers to store their water. Ngoc confirms: "The cans I used are made from oil bottles and were the only ones for sale. I don’t know if they are safe or not but I bought them because they were cheap and I had no money to buy better ones.”

To ensure safe water storage, Save the Children with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and in close cooperation with the Dong Thap Red Cross, provided Ngoc and her family with two water containers, including water filters. The water containers of twenty and fifty litres both come with a lid to avoid pollution and are distributed together with water treatment tablets. People, especially women as the main users, are also provided with clear and easy instructions on how the water has to be disinfected.

Ngoc immediately started using the two containers: "I am so happy with the new water containers. They are very useful. They are big and have caps keeping water clean. I use the big one to store water for daily use and the small one for carrying water.”

Dr. Ian Wilderspin, UNDP Viet Nam Technical Specialist for disaster risk management stated that: "UNDP is working closely with NGO partners to help ensure that the needs of all members of disaster affected communities are met; through dialogue with women especially we understand better the needs of their households and therefore tailor our humanitarian response, so that it is more effective. Such dialogue will guide more effective and professional disaster response and recovery operations and ensure that affected people can recover quickly, easily and with more dignity.”

Overall, more than 645,000 people were affected by the 2011 Mekong flooding with 156,000 houses damaged or destroyed. Eightyfive percent of all casualties were children. The economic damage was estimated by the Government of Viet Nam at US$193 million.

Every year, UNDP actively seeks for funding support for disaster response and recovery operations if needed. Due to their comparative advantage and experience in the country, NGO partners are utilized to provide the specific.