Social workers groups blame authorities for ignoring water shortage

Social workers groups blame authorities for ignoring water shortage

(Mizzima) – Dysentery has joined the list of ills stemming from the water crisis in the lower and central regions of Burma, with social work groups in the affected states and divisions blaming authorities for failing to assist people facing severe water shortages in at least 180 villages.

Diarrhoeic outbreaks totalling 82 cases in one town in Pegu Division alone were reported as more than 70,000 people from an extra 40 villages in the division faced water shortages in their area, social workers groups said.

Reports early this week said more than 60 villages in the same division were suffering severe water shortages after record high temperatures across Burma had accelerated evaporation of ponds and reservoirs. Villagers in the townships of Pegu, Waw, Thanatpin, Kawa and Daik Oo, lack drinking water and water for hygiene needs as small dams have lain dry since the end of April.

“The number of villages reporting water shortages has now reached more than 100. If the government departments concerned had co-operated with social work groups, the number of such villages would not have reached such number,” a social worker told Mizzima. “Now Waw Township is facing the further problem of rampant diarrhoea.”

Though reports of the crisis have circulated since the end of last month, the news of “water distributed by local authorities and government departments to the people” under the “direction and administration of the government”, only just appeared in daily papers today, citing action claimed to have been taken on Monday.

Reports of health affects are also starting to emerge.

Eight-two cases of people suffering symptoms of dysentery were reported at Waw Township People’s Hospital between May 5 and 11, of which 27 were being treated as inpatients and 55 patients had been discharged, state-run news outlets reported.

National League for Democracy (NLD) Youth members from Pegu Division started a campaign to distribute drinking water on May 2 in affected villages and they were soon joined by local businessmen and social workers. Municipal, police and army officials followed with a separate water-distribution programme yesterday.

The water crisis is also being felt in lower Burma as wells and ponds in Rangoon and Irrawaddy divisions, and in Mon State, are empty or drying up.

More than 50,000 people from 60 villages in the Ahpaung and Balukyun townships of Mon State were facing similar drinking water shortages, a member of a social work group distributing water in Ahpaung reported.

“All villages in the plains area are facing water shortages. Unless Zinkyaik and Kywechan [townships] supply them with water regularly, this problem will be uncontrollable,” a social worker told Mizzima. “Local authorities said they could not yet provide assistance as they were waiting for directives from higher authorities.”

Dams for agricultural use in Mon State also dried up more than a month ago, leading farmers to suffer water shortages since the beginning of this month, reports said.

“The people living in Dala Township have to use Rangoon River water for bathing. Until today we have not yet received any assistance from those who rule our country”, a social worker from Dala in Rangoon Division told Mizzima.

About two thirds of Dala’s population and more than 30,000 people living in more than 20 villages have been in need of water for almost a month.

Social workers groups in Twante Township, and businessmen and villagers with excess water resources, were providing drinking water to the people of Dala through truck-borne deliveries.

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