Access to water transforms conflict zones in Colombia, Fundación PLAN says

Puerto Morelos, Mexico, Nov 30 (EFE).- Access to drinking water has been key to transforming areas affected by guerrilla warfare and armed conflicts in Colombia, according to the non-profit civil society organization Fundación PLAN.

The Colombian municipality of Tumaco, affected by armed movements and forced displacement, is one of the success stories of the organization’s program that helps provide drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to disadvantaged populations in Latin America.

Martha Espinosa, director of infrastructure for Fundación PLAN in Colombia – part of the international organization Plan Foundation – explained that the organization has been working in the country for more than 60 years and has focused a large part of its efforts in Tumaco and Quibdó with the Lazos de Agua initiative since 2017.

“Tumaco, in an urban area, is a very vulnerable area, it is one of the municipalities that has had the most victims of the armed conflict in Colombia and since it is such a large municipality, it receives victims of the armed conflict. We began to work there on a strategy and we now have 22,500 people connected to water or sanitation,” she explained.

It is a peri-urban area with special conditions, close to the coast and with mangrove swamps where they had to extract water from very deep areas “with very traditional methods,” Espinosa explained.

“There is no sewage system, the water is contaminated by feces, by solid waste, by domestic waste, it is a mangrove swamp area because it is a sea area, so they have brackish water flooding in some sectors,” she explained.


The expert indicated that Tumaco does not have an aqueduct, so the water coverage was only 16% of what was necessary at the beginning of the project.

So they designed a system of “express pipes” that allowed them to permanently bring clean water to a greater number of neighborhoods.

“For the first time in 15 or 20 years after these families were settled there, they were able to have water in their homes, this is fundamental because whether it is an urban or peri-urban area, there is also a presence of armed groups there and that meant many challenges,” she said.


Espinosa also warned of gender disparities, noting that “women are the ones who have to maintain the availability of water at home, but men are the ones who have the best quality water and there are some issues related to women’s personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene,” she noted.

“Throughout the world women are used as weapons of war, there is a lot of gender-based violence and sexual violence, especially against girls and women. Having water available at home is a protective element for women and generates empowerment,” she said.

Although all Fundación Plan programs were born with a gender perspective, focused on women, they work on the inclusion of men with a “transformative masculinity or positive masculinity approach.”

Finally, she said that one of the systems ready to be implemented in other populations with government help is an “unconventional system, cooperative type,” which performs sanitation and collects domestic water from the community.

“From this, we helped to generate a type of community organization that is very important because the sanitation systems were individual,” she said. EFE



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