Jorge Jordan in Santa Cruz
Bertha works as a volunteer for the Bolivian Red Cross. She is a facilitator in the ‘Andrés Ibáñez’ neighbourhood, in the department of Santa Cruz.
By using pictures, she has taught her students how to correctly wash their hands and brush their teeth. Now she asks for an assistant to explain what the group has learnt: 30 boys and girls aged between six and 10 plead for her attention.
Carmen moves quicker than her classmates and goes to the front of the class. Each of her gestures is followed attentively: she lets the water run, then takes the soap and washes her hands thoroughly.
Then she puts toothpaste on the toothbrush and brushes her shiny white teeth, carefully watched by Bertha. The class gives her excellent presentation a big round of applause.
Like Carmen, the 70,000 inhabitants of the ‘Andrés Ibáñez’ neighbourhood will shortly be able to improve their quality of life and health thanks to a water well and a distribution network which are being built to maximize the population’s access to water.
Until now, a lack of access to safe water has been one of the major health problem in the department of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
The project has been made possible thanks to the community development project implemented by the Bolivian Red Cross, with the support of the Spanish Red Cross and funding from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI) and the government of the Spanish region of Navarra.
“This project will help overcome the scarcity of water in the area, since the two existing wells cannot pump enough water due to the high operational costs. Therefore, they will be closed down,” says Roxana López, the Bolivian Red Cross volunteer responsible for the project in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. “We also expect the rate of disease linked to dirty water to decrease”.
Those worst affected by the scarcity of water and inadequate distribution and sewage systems in the area are children and the elderly, who may suffer from skin infections, acute respiratory diseases and diarrhoea.
“Once this project is finished, a water lab analysis will be developed to ensure the quality of the water,” states Roger Ramírez, an engineer who is technically responsible for the plan.
The project also includes training the population in the rational use of water, prevention of diseases and environmental protection. Volunteers from the Bolivian Red Cross Youth Programme provide the training in different schools to hundreds of children and adults.
Soon these workshops will be given in a training centre to be built in a 600- square metre area donated by the municipality. The auditorium will accommodate 200 seated and 100 standing people. It will also boast reading rooms, a kitchen, an administrative area and toilets, according to Cecilia Mercado, President of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra branch of the Bolivian Red Cross.
This is not the first time that ‘Andrés Ibáñez’, formerly known as Plan 3,000, whose population mainly engage in street vending activities, has benefited from the assistance of the Bolivian Red Cross.
The area was given its former name when 3,000 people were relocated there after being affected by the overflow of the Pirai River in 1983. This Bolivian Red Cross was responsible for helping them relocate and giving them first aid.
Later, it supported the organization of clubs for mothers to provide health care, hair-dressing and bakery courses to generate economic resources.