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Disaster Response: Rebuilding Communities in Western Honduras After Landslide Wipes Out Municipal Water Source

On September 26, 2020, storms brought heavy rains to San Juan, a municipality in the Intibuca department of western Honduras. These storms caused massive flooding, resulting in a devastating landslide that damaged critical infrastructures such as roads, buildings, and the municipal water system. In the aftermath of the emergency, 7,000 residents across five communities were left without access to clean, safe water.

Heavy rains caused a landslide that damaged roads and water infrastructure.

With a permanent office in San Juan, Water Mission was able to quickly mobilize a disaster response effort to immediately provide safe water. Water Mission identified strategic locations around the community to place emergency water purification systems capable of providing up to 10,000 gallons of safe water per day. In addition to the emergency systems, a permanent Water Mission safe water project was already located in the city, allowing staff to immediately meet the needs of even more people in vital need of safe water.

“Safe water access for the region is critical in order to avoid the spread of waterborne illnesses,” said Hector Chacon, Water Mission’s country director in Honduras. “Water Mission is focused on securing both immediate and long-term access to safe water, allowing surrounding communities to begin rebuilding.”

With more than 19 years of disaster response experience, Water Mission has an extensive background in successfully responding to needs for safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions.

Rebuilding critical safe water infrastructure

Initial assessments of the damage in San Juan revealed that the landslide destroyed the primary water source, which was a large underground spring. This spring provided water for all five surrounding communities. Additionally, portions of the distribution system that delivers safe water to the region requires permanent replacement.

Water Mission engineers are working to identify new water sources, such as mountain springs, as part of a larger plan to reestablish a permanent safe water solution that provides access for all 7,000 residents in the municipality of San Juan.

“Our team has been quickly identifying strategic locations around San Juan where our water systems can serve as many people as possible who are struggling with a lack of safe water. It’s significant to lose your community’s water source. Through some quick work by our team and other collaborators, not only is emergency relief available, but we’re also starting to assess possible long-term solutions.”

– Kevin Herr, Water Mission project manager, Latin America

To date, four Living Water Treatment Systems are operational, however more permanent safe water solutions are needed. Recent progress has been made with one new provisional water source. Community partners are working to build a pipeline from this small mountain spring that will provide partial permanent safe water access for a portion of the affected communities.

Providing safe water and hope with Living Water

Water Mission’s response following the landslide has involved partnering with local water boards and churches to facilitate a safe water distribution effort. This network of partners is distributing P&G’s Purifier of Water to households throughout the affected communities.  One packet purifies 10 liters of water.

In addition, Water Mission staff has provided guidance and best-in-class solutions needed for water analysis and water treatment.  This involves testing temporary water sources that communities can connect to, as well as monitoring water quality at multiple Water Mission safe water sites.

Testing and treating the water ensures it is safe for consumption. Water that is clear can still contain harmful bacteria. The daily water quality and safety testing is conducted by members of the communities’ water boards and church volunteers, all with ongoing technical support by Water Mission.

Community members and staff enjoy access to emergency safe water systems provided by Water Mission.

Local staff members are also mobilizing community outreach and coordinating with local churches to bring the message of the gospel to residents. These teams plan to share encouraging Living Water outreach materials with adults and Christian Broadcasting Network’s Superbook video content with children. The video content for the children includes information about healthy WASH behaviors, like handwashing, and will be distributed at both schools and churches in San Juan.

Thanks to supporters like you, people have immediate access to clean, safe water in San Juan, Honduras. Join us and pray for continued progress, as we build new and permanent safe water solutions in San Juan.

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