|Carmelita de Jesus carries 15-20 litres of water up a hill 4 times a day – backbreaking work.|
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Dmonemnasi
I immediately asked her if I could join to see where she collected the water. She nodded in agreement but then came a gentle warning. “You can, but be careful, the trail is steep and difficult,” she said with a slightly mischievous smile.
It took 10 minutes to reach the spring at the end of a steep and rocky path that had been beaten by the steps of many others over the years. Once we arrived, we met other women – and only women – collecting water and washing clothes.
Carmelita lives with her husband and six children in one of the most remote mountain villages in Timor Leste, Mapeop aldeias in Bobonaro district. For most people, the village is only accessible by foot or on horseback. In dry season, four-wheel drive vehicles can reach with some difficulty, and it takes about two hours from the nearest town on a good day.
Once she filled three jerry cans with water, I followed her back home. It was a difficult 20 minutes climbing back up the steep hill in the dry heat. On arrival, whilst gasping for air, I asked Carmelita how she felt: “I feel really tired,” she replied. But for her this was normal she told me.
Carmelita makes three to four trips to fetch water every day, sometimes carrying 15-20 litres of water at a time. Tough work indeed I thought, as I wiped the sweat from by brow after the arduous walk back.
When asked if anyone else from the family helps with fetching water, Carmelita shook her head. “Only sometimes,” she said. “All my children go to school and my husband is busy with his work. The children help sometimes after returning from school.”
“What happens to me and my husband when I get older? Who will fetch water for us?” she asks, reflecting on how difficult it is to fetch water every day. While we were talking, Afonso Moniz da Costa, Carmelita’s husband, arrived.
|Villagers discuss the possibility of self-financing and maintaining a water supply. |
With a small initial investment and training, remote villages like this could have a regular water supply.
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Rbhusal
It’s a simple dream, and a possible dream. There are many Carmelitas and Mapeop villages in the remote mountains of Timor-Leste that are unable to easily access water, and therefore miss out on a basic human right. With a little support, the village can take control of their own destiny and bring water to their doorsteps.
By Ramesh Bhusal, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF Timor-Leste