WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Volunteer efforts in West Plains have come together to bring fresh water to rural villages in the Sindh, Pakistan region.
The Nehemiah Trust Pakistan Water Hand Pump Project began in the Ozarks after native Pakistani and founder of Nehemiah Trust Pakistan (NTP) Muazzam John visited West Plains First Freewill Baptist Church to speak about his mission. Volunteer coordinator Anthony Priest says he and the pastor of his church traveled to Pakistan a year after meeting John to install hand pumps themselves, and to see how donation money was being used.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Priest told The Heartlander. “These are remote, impoverished villages. The people live in clay and straw huts in the middle of the desert. They have no water source. So what happens is, to get water they have to walk several miles a day. When they find water in canals, it’s contaminated. Animals bathe in the canals, people bathe in the canals. There is runoff from sewage, and it’s just terrible.”
According to NTP, impure drinking water is the most basic cause of death and disease in both adults and children in Pakistan. Surface water and groundwater are often contaminated with forms of coli, toxic metals and pesticides throughout the region.
Some 62% of Pakistan’s urban population and 84% of its rural population do not treat their drinking sources, many times resulting in diarrheal disease. According to UNICEF, more than 50,000 children below the age of 10, along with 50,000 adults, die every year from waterborne diseases in Pakistan.
Many of the villagers are former slaves who worked in brick factories by hand, but were never paid for their work, Priest explained. If slaves injure themselves, they automatically owe the company for the work they could not perform.
NTP also has taken it upon itself to buy those slaves out of slavery.
Farmers in Pakistan will often make exchanges with former slaves: In order to build a hut on their land, the former slaves must work the farm. While men are staying back to work the land and keep their home, women and children are sent in search of water and are sometimes assaulted along the way.
To curb the need to search for water, the pumps are being installed in or near the villages. Installation for a pump costs $600, Priest says, and five Rotary Clubs in the West Plains area have each donated a pump, while church members have given what they can to supply as many pumps as possible.
“For most of these folks, it’s the first clean water they’ve had in their lives,” Priest said.
The group has installed 80 pumps to date, but is in need of 150 more. The pumps are dug 50 to 60 feet into the ground, and normally serve 60 to 100 people in each rural village.
Along with its efforts to install clean water pumps, NTP provides medical camps for those who are sick or injured, often due to the scarcity of drinkable water. Priest says anyone can donate to NTP at any West Plains Bank location scattered throughout the Ozarks, and says any amount will help the cause.
To donate to the Nehemiah Trust Pakistan Water Hand Pump Project, visit its website here.