Natural hazards such as drought and the effects of climate change have caused challenges related to water and food insecurity in many rural communities in the province.
Internally Displaced Persons’ community in Ward 13 of Markham District now have access to safe and clean drinking water following the rehabilitation of boreholes in their community.
This was made possible through financial and technical assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Morobe Provincial Administration and Markham District Development Authority (DDA).
Morobe's Ward 13 consists of the villages of Marafau, Mitsing and Zumara, where the host communities and IDPs that were displaced because of a landslide over two decades ago, live together.
It is prone to drought, and community members highlighted that the prolonged dry periods usually worsened water insecurity in this community.
The water scheme stopped functioning about 20 years ago, forcing the community members – primarily women and children – to walk for an hour under the scorching sun to fetch water along the banks of Markham River.
Lakere Yatap, a female water committee member, said it had become a daily routine for many women and children to walk to Markham River and dig into the muddy deposits along the riverbanks to collect water before hauling home the heavy water containers on their backs or heads.
She further highlighted the struggles that women and girls faced in collecting water, saying: “The water table usually drops during the dry season, and so we resorted to digging an additional half a metre or even more in search of drinking water.
“This is really hard work, especially for mothers and children.
“Some days, we wait for at least an hour to allow the sediments to settle before we start fetching the water. During the dry season, it would take me at least half a day to fetch enough water for my family's daily use.”
Yatap acknowledged it was her responsibility to ensure that these water facilities are well managed, equally accessed by all, and properly sustained.
Mara Filibob, a community member in Zumara, echoed her concern regarding the safety of women and girls, saying: “I did not feel safe to walk to the river by myself. It is not safe for the mothers and girls because they are sometimes harassed by intoxicated men when they go and fetch water from the river.
“I usually sought the company of other women and would go and return in a group before you [IOM] supported us with these water points,”
It was during a Community-Based Disaster Risk Management planning session, facilitated by IOM and Morobe Provincial Disaster Centre (PDC), when Ward 13’s women highlighted the need for improved access to safe drinking water.
“After 20 years of living here, we have finally removed collecting water from Markham River from our to-do list. We now go to bed without worrying about fetching water the next day,” said Nidy Iriap, a woman from Ward 13.
“We now have enough time during the day to do other activities such as gardening and can now provide enough food for our families.
“We no longer complain about body aches from carrying heavy water containers. The widows, persons with disability, and the old now have easy access to water.
“Our school children no longer walk long distances to fetch water in the morning and now get to school in time.”