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Hope for sustainability in sight for water and sanitation

A group of people sit in a recording studio with microphones in front of them.

As communities endure seemingly annual water line freeze-ups and other sanitation issues, a new partnership in the region gives cause for optimism.

For two years, Engineering Ministries International (EMI), a Christian nonprofit that works primarily in developing nations, has been involved in a partnership to improve water and sanitation in the Bering Strait region.

During a recent episode of the show “Suwat”, representatives from the tribal nonprofit Kawerak and Norton Sound Health Corporation chatted with a team from EMI.

They fill a two-fold project management role: filling urgent gaps in maintenance and creating a sustainable water and sanitation system in the region. The first step has been creating a tribal community utility assistance program, with a goal of creating a sustainable and strategic plan for water and sanitation in all communities in the region.

“Unalakleet is a great example of one of the oldest systems in the region. They have leaks every winter, and they currently have a big project to replace all their pipes. It’s taken them a long time to get there. But through our partners and people we’ve hired — let’s make [the system] more robust and more reliable until they can get their new pipes in the ground,” said civil engineer Travis Hogans.

And, sure enough, the help is critically needed. The village of Unalakleet has been on a boil water notice since the typhoon damage last fall and has survived on flown-in donations of bottled water.

A few weeks after the interview with EMI aired, the mayor of Unalakleet, Abel Razzo, told listeners the community will break ground on the project this summer.

“The expected completion date of that project of connecting the new wells, which have already been dug, and upgrading our current water system to process the water coming in, should be the end of next summer,” Razzo said.

Image at top: Reba Lean with Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) and Danielle Slingsby with Kawerak (at the back) speak with Jason Chandler, Judith Bruno, and Travis Hogans of Engineering Ministries International.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.