JIS News

If Jamaica is to achieve the goal of providing every household with access to potable water by 2010, greater attention will have to be paid to the rural areas, said State Minister in the Ministry of Water and Housing, Harry Douglas.
Mr. Douglas, who was addressing a workshop on Gender, Water and Sanitation Research held at the Courtleigh Hotel earlier today, noted that while approximately 71 per cent of households had access to piped water, there was great disparity in access on an urban/rural basis.
“In 2002 for instance, 96 per cent of the Kingston Metropolitan Area had access to private piped water while access in the rural areas stood at 40 per cent,” he said.
He noted that the government had put measures in place to address the disparity, with Cabinet’s approval of the formation of the Rural Water Supply Limited. The agency has a mandate to expand rural water supply in a concentrated and structured manner over the next few years.
Sating that some 3.1 per cent of the population still accessed integrated water from rivers, springs, gullies and or ponds, Mr. Douglas said, “these conditions bring great pressure on citizens and especially on women and children. As a country, we have to commit to a basic level of service for domestic water systems in rural areas of at least 35 to 40 gallons of water per person, per day for each household,” he stated.
Mr. Douglas further pointed to the Gender and Water Research, which shows that in rural areas, women walk long distances to fetch water, often spending long hours per day carrying heavy containers, which sometimes cause acute physical pains. The report further indicates that men seldom carry water (except for those who live alone) and when they do, it is mainly for agricultural and livestock rearing purposes.
“It is a fact that improved water supplies increase opportunities for women to improve their economic productivity. Less time dedicated to fetching water frees up time for income generation and enterprise development,” he stated.
Turning to the issue of sanitation, the State Minister pointed to the 2002 Survey of Living Conditions, which indicated that only some 59.2 per cent of the population has access to flush toilets, with another 40 percent using pit latrine. Others rely on various other options such as sharing with a neighbour, or using communal facilities.
“The fact that many persons do not have access to proper sanitation is a concern not just because of the health and environmental impact .sanitation is a matter of common human dignity and especially so for our women,” he stated.
A Sanitation Policy is being developed in collaboration with several ministries and agencies, to address these and other water management issues. Mr. Douglas pointed out that the Ministry was mindful of the fact that no sanitation policy could be developed without examining the matter of squatting which, he said was currently being addressed.
He noted further, that policies and programme in all agencies must be designed to encourage and facilitate the active involvement of Jamaicans, both rural and urban and especially women, who are sidelined from decision-making.
Mr. Douglas said his Ministry would continue to be initiator, facilitator and coordinator to enable communities to fully take charge of their own governance. “We will continue to more actively promote the participation of the community and the private sector in the development of rural water supply and sanitation systems,” he said.