The Gift of Water
As of 2019, Malaysia’s total population is at 32.5 million. The indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia are collectively known as Orang Asli. And within that collective, there are 18 subgroups that represent around 210,000 people making up 0.7% of the total population. However, the rate of poverty amongst Orang Asli remains at a high 34%. This means the poverty rate of Orang Asli is much higher than the national poverty rate.
The World Health Organisation reports that roughly 90% of the world’s population now have access to improved drinking water, 2.6 billion of which gained access since 1990. However, despite these breakthroughs, this effort failed to reach everybody. In Malaysia, the reality is even bleaker in indigenous communities, which are displaced and where clean water is elusive.
Although some villages like Kampong Orang Asli Batu 12, Gombak have piped water which is usually low in pressure,the only other source of water comes from the hills which flows to the river which is often murky. Unfortunately, traditional filtering methods to remove rocks, sand and cloth are of little help. The community could not use conventional water filters either because they lacked the right water pressure and electricity supply.
Without access to clean water, health disparities remain harsh which causes low life expectancies, malnutrition and chronic illness.
Thankfully, one of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2018 winner, Efinity Social Enterprise showed us that the problem can and will be addressed one step at a time.
The Gift of Water
Husband and wife duo, Teng Yu-Mein and Robest Yong started Efinity Social Enterprise officially in 2017 after an eye-opening trip.
“I was on a reach out mission when I first visited an Orang Asli village in Negeri Sembilan and I remember noticing that their tap water was dirty. I asked them why they weren’t using filters. And they responded saying that they couldn’t use what was available in the market because their water pressure is low.”
Yu-Mein headed home with the problem in her mind and decided she needed help solving this. But, how?
“One day when I was ironing clothes, suddenly I discovered that I can actually produce the water pressure by using the water spray bottle to wet my clothes. So, I quickly told my husband and asked him how we could use this idea to come up with a product. Hence, the creation of this simple and practical device which produces water pressure for the filters”
Within six months, she found a possible solution, what would be the EZ Water Cap – pressure cap that would easily fit onto a 1.5 litre plastic bottle, which can be hooked up to a simple pump and filter.
“I identified the low water pressure as the root problem that we have to address. The simple pumping motion could create enough pressure to run murky water through a filter.”
Fast forward to present day, 20th July 2019 marked the official handover of the water filtration systems by Yayasan Gamuda to the Kampong Orang Asli Batu 12, Gombak community to about 250 residents. This programme is in tandem with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in ensuring everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.
“We are very happy that we have this water filtration system. Prior to this, we had to go into the jungle and the river to find water. We would then filter the water ourselves using a cloth filter, which would have to be changed daily. It was very difficult to get clean water, especially when it rained. We also have no idea what is contaminating our water,” said Bah Sami, Kampong Orang Asli Batu 12 representative.
“Our children dealt with skin problems as they drank unfiltered water,” he added.
“There are so many kampungs in this area alone. Batu 12 is just one of it. Before we move on to the next village, we will follow up with the residents here to see if they are making progress with what they have at the moment. I think that’s very important. It’s not about distributing thousands of water filtrations but making sure that there are actually positive changes no matter how small before moving on to the next community,” shared Yayasan Gamuda Head, Ts. Sharifah Alauyah.
If there is one element we take for granted, it is our convenience of gaining access to clean water that it becomes an afterthought. We know that water is an essential need for nearly all aspects of human existence from sustenance, sanitation, and health to basic human security. And clearly, every human being, including our Orang Asli is entitled to this basic right.