Colombia
Capital:
Bogota
Population:
48 million
Area:
1,141,748
km2

APRIL 2020 UPDATE—In Colombia, where more than four million people live in poverty and lack access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, WaterAid’s work has taken on renewed urgency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“The lack of soap and clean water for handwashing increases the vulnerability of indigenous populations like the Wayuu. They need focused messages in their mother tongue to raise awareness about proper hygiene. These communities already face severe threats to their livelihoods, health and wellbeing due to poverty, malnutrition and the effects of climate change.”
—Manuela Pinilla, WaterAid Colombia

Preventing needless deaths because of the exponential spread of COVID-19 is impossible without clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. That’s why we have scaled up our efforts in more than 30 countries.

Our team is responding by:

  • Installing public handwashing stations, prioritizing already vulnerable indigenous Wayuu populations and reaching as many as 7,000 people daily and more than 1,000 rural households.
  • Developing effective communications campaigns to reach rural populations in their mother tongue with hygiene messages.
  • Reaching thousands more people with our “Ponte Pilas” handwashing campaign.

You can help. Please make an immediate donation to support our work.

Colombia Dispatch from the Field

Colombia went into lockdown on Tuesday, March 24th and this is scheduled to continue through April 26th as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 2,800 causing more than 100 deaths to date. WaterAid is preparing a rapid response which will start as soon as the nationwide lockdown is lifted.

“The Wayuu people do not have access to water, sanitation and hygiene and therefore they do not have the luxury to stay home.  We have to respond to their reality.”
—Daut Arguelles, WaterAid Colombia

The solution is simple. When communities, schools and hospitals have access to soap and clean water we can dramatically reduce the spread of infections. This saves lives. Washing with soap cuts sick days in half and teaches lifelong healthy habits.

We’ve been working to provide and advocate for clean water, sanitation and hygiene around the world for four decades. Last year, with your support, we reached nearly one million people worldwide at least three times with hygiene training. This is lasting behavior change, at scale.

Please make an immediate donation to support our work. Your gift will help us reach people in Colombia and around the world affected by Coronavirus.

A group of Wayuuma'ana School students wash their hands on a tippy tap in Wayuuma'ana School, Wayuuma'ana, Maicao, La Guajira, Colombia, March 2017.
WaterAid/ Jordi Ruiz Cirera
A group of Wayuuma'ana School students wash their hands on a tippy tap in Wayuuma'ana School, Wayuuma'ana, Maicao, La Guajira, Colombia, March 2017.

From Andean peaks and Caribbean coastlines to hidden ruins in Amazonian jungle, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. But sourcing water for everyone is still a problem.

Decades of armed conflict, drug trafficking, weak government and corruption have made Colombia a difficult place to live for many people. In recent years, the country’s economy has grown and its tourism industry has boomed, but certain regions still lack essential services.

In rural areas almost one in three people do not have a decent toilet, and one in four do not have clean water to drink.

We are working to change this, focusing first on indigenous groups in the northeast Department of La Guajira. Using our experience of working with local communities and service providers, we are helping make clean water a normal part of daily life for the poorest, most marginalised people in this region.

With their help, we test technologies and approaches that have worked in similar environments elsewhere. We train local people to install and maintain windmill, hand and solar-driven pumps and storage tanks. And we set up water committees to help keep these solutions working, whatever changes the climate brings.

Most importantly, we bring local, national and regional organisations together to collaborate on improvements to services. Together, we are making a lasting difference in rural communities across Colombia with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.

people in rural areas don't have a decent toilet.

There is a large gap between people living in the city and the country.

don't have clean drinking water.

That's 4.2 million people without this basic right.

people in La Guajira live in extreme poverty.

That means living on less than £1 a day.

Clean water comes to Kasichi

Water helps us take care of our animals. With the clean water the children and I don’t get sick.
Graciela Ipuana, 60

Kasichi is situated in Middle Guajira, a remote location in the Colombian desert. The climate is hot, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 38 degrees Celsius. People here rely on animals like donkeys for their livelihoods.

A member of the Native American Wayuu group, Graciela has lived in Kasichi for seven years. For clean water, she would travel to a jaguey, a man-made pool that collects rainwater, around a kilometre away.

Unfortunately, the jaguey was easily contaminated by animals, making the water risky to drink. Graciela's family suffered because of it. "When the children would get sick with vomiting and diarrhoea I would not be able to do things at home," she explains.

We worked with the people of Kasichi to install a new well, water tank and toilets. Once built, the community set up an association to collect funds that help maintain the tank, which Graciela encourages her neighbours to contribute to. "The water source is important," she says. "And I would do anything I needed to do to protect it."

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