USAID funds rehab of Thula’s cisterns [Archives:2006/952/Health]

June 5 2006

Special to the Yemen Times
Like many Yemeni mountain villages, Amran governorate's historic town of Thula collects rainwater in cisterns for domestic consumption, which allows the community to make the best use of scarce water resources. However, rainwater can become contaminated as it flows through collection channels into the cistern. Also, water stored in open cisterns can become spoiled from animal waste, trash; and dirt from clothing, shoes, hands, and buckets as women and children collect water.

Drinking contaminated water can cause various diseases, such as diarrhea, giardiasis and typhoid fever. Coming into direct contact with such water while collecting or swimming in it can cause skin rashes and possible skin infections.

To help improve and protect the health of those living in the Thula community, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is sponsoring rehabilitation of Jaadan Cistern, the town's main cistern. The “new” cistern has a traditional filter system and five hand-pumps enabling users to fetch water easily.

The cistern renovation plan carefully considered the town's historical and cultural importance, by using mainly natural stone materials and the traditional “qadad” plastering method. The contractor selected for the project has a long family tradition of using qadad and is an expert in the special techniques required for its proper application.

The cistern renovation is part of a series of community-based environmental health interventions funded through USAID's Partners for Health Reform project. USAID's environmental health program components were designed via consultations and focus groups conducted with community and local council members in Thula district. Additionally, the project surveyed 269 households in 12 villages to determine local knowledge and practices related to water, sanitation and hygiene.

A locally elected project oversight committee composed of five men and five women will work with the local council to raise community members' awareness, including children, about their role in keeping the cistern clean and assuring its maintenance.