Clean water running out for Sumatra earthquake survivors

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 15:27 GMT

BANGKOK (AlertNet) - About 500,000 survivors of an earthquake that hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra may be forced to live without clean water because of a lack of funds, aid agencies said, conditions that could spread disease more quickly.

In Padang, a city of about 900,000, only 20 percent of the people have access to clean water and it would take at least six months for the network to become functional again, according to local authorities.

Aid agencies have been using water trucks in both Padang and Pariaman cities to give people clean water, but funds are running low, said UNICEF's Andrea Oess, leader for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) group.

"If the money doesn't come in, we will face a very difficult period and we will put the population at risk," said Oess.

An appeal for funds for the clean water project has only raised about $2 million, a third of the required amount, he said.

The public water body in Pariaman has also said it does not have sufficient funds to pay for fuel for the water trucks, and Oess expects water shortage in the coming two months to be acute.

"We're looking at about half a million people who may be impacted," Oess said. "And that's for the city. Then we have the rural areas that are also very affected."

The main appeal by the U.N. and aid agencies for $38.1 for the Sumatra earthquake has also fallen short of expectations. So far, only $7 million has been allocated from the U.N's emergency fund.

Oess also said that it was not good enough for the survivors just to boil the water.

"The earthquake has shaken everything, and with the landslides the quality of the water has changed with the sediments and all that," s he said.

"So if you just boil it, it will not be enough. It will be very dark water. You need to treat the water, filtrate it and get the pure one."

The aid group Care International is one of the agencies that will have to abandon its clean water programme if more funding is not found.

It has been working in Padang Pariaman, the worst affected district, with plans to build school and community latrines, fix wells and provisions for hand washing for around 30,000 villagers.

"It's really a question of addressing the issue before it creates problems," said Caroline Saint-Mieux, the agencyÂ?s emergency response programme manager. "The living conditions have worsened and it has an impact on the people's lives and it

can exacerbate if the situation is not addressed."

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