“In the past, horses were used to transport water. Families only had 4 liters a day, and children went to school without showering”, says Eureo Sánchez, a teacher in the village of Unión Manabita, north of Ecuador.
Until recently, the coverage and quality of water and sanitation services was below the national average in poor rural areas. Many people did not have access to water in their homes, and the lack of drinking water and proper sanitation had a negative impact on health.
Additionally, the management of water resources in Ecuador was characterized by complex coordination between government institutions and stakeholders involved, with little participation by citizens themselves.
A four year initiative, financed by the Spanish Government’s MDG Fund with a budget of US $5.8 million and supported by UNDP in conjunction with other UN agencies and various government entities, changed this reality by increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for the poorest populations of four provinces.
More than 28 000 people in 61 rural communities benefited from better governance in the water and sanitation sector, focused on integrating water resources management and social, land and gender equality.
Residents, particularly women, were encouraged to participate in providing water and sanitation services and in monitoring water quality.
With UNDP’s support, 50 drinking water management committees in three communities were trained to improve their technical, administrative and financial capacities. Youth environmental clubs were established and launched public awareness campaigns regarding water usage and sanitation. Infrastructure, such as baths and environmental sanitary units were built or restored, benefiting around 7 000 students in public schools.
In addition, UNDP facilitated the design and implementation of consensual public policies for effective services management.
“The Joint Program has been developed in order to provide a forum for inter-institutional work and dialogue at the national and local level, … with a special focus on human rights”, says Diego Zorrilla, UNDP Representative in Ecuador.
Communities can now enjoy quality water on a permanent basis both at home and at school. This has enabled persons to exercise their right to drinking water, to improve their personal hygiene and to devote the time they spent to fetching water and carrying it back home to other productive activities.
“Now when we open the tap, we have water at home. The children used to come to school all rumpled, sleepy, and unwilling to work - now even their physical appearance has changed”, says Sánchez.