Braving the Agusan Marshland to ensure community access to clean water

Prior COVID-19, Frank has already been working in a complex context. As the lone staff for World Vision’s Clean Water Project, an initiative funded by Procter and Gamble, he is used to braving the Agusan Marshland to bring water purifier packets to families that do not have access to clean water. The P&G water purification technology is able to eliminate turbidity, chlorine-resistant parasites and bacteria that causes waterborne diseases, witheach sachet able to treat up to 10 liters of water.

His work base,Agusan  del  Sur,  is  one  of  the  five  provinces  of  Caraga  Administrative  Region in Mindanao.  Accordingto  the Field Health  Service Information  System  (FHSIS)  of  the Department  of  Health,  the  ratio  of  households  with access to safe water in the region is 56:100. Of the total households in 2006, only 46.57% have access to community water system while 53.43% have deep and shallow wells as their source of water.

“This is the third phase of the project. Before, I used to just spend2-3 hours on a boat to get to the floating communities. When we expanded our reach, however, I would have a land travel for four hours and another three hours via Agusan river to get to those new areas ,” he shares.

Things are already hard for the communities. With COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is more complicated.

“We talk about the importance of frequent handwashing and yet, in these communities, even clean drinking water is scarce. Majority of the families rely on the lake, or on rainwater or deep wells,” Frank adds.

Through the Clean Water Project, he continues to facilitate distribution of the water purifier packets to families in 14 marshland communities and health centers. It’s not easy though. With the imposed community quarantine, Frank has challenges with transportation, both in land and in water.

Asked about how he feels about his work amid COVID-19, he honestly shared, “I’m tired. I was in the earthquake emergency response when COVID-19 happened. I was deployed there for five months and when we finished our work in Cotabato, I had to go back to my work in Agusan.”

“But the work must not stop when things get hard, especially if our work is a lifeline to many children. Aside from the possibility of getting the virus, suffering from water-borne diseases is highly possible in the areas we’re serving. We need to respond to that.”

Aside from ensuring enough supply of water purifier packets at the household level, Frank also facilitated the distirbution of protective equipment for frontliners and disinfectant kits for health facilities in Agusan del Sur.

“I hail from Agusan and that is probably one of the reaosns why I am very passionate with the work that I do. It has its dangers, yes, especially with COVID-19, but it is my desire to continue the work that I’m doing,” he ends.