Delrin Chavarría (Nicaragua) is an international UN Volunteer Expert on water, sanitation and hygiene who serves with UNICEF in Panama.
Delrin Chavarría (Nicaragua) is an international UN Volunteer Expert on water, sanitation and hygiene who serves with UNICEF in Panama.

Engaging Afro-descendant, indigenous and migrant communities in water, sanitation and hygiene

"Leaving no one behind" in sustainable development means including the voices of the more than 200 million people who identify themselves as Afro-descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean (ONU, 2023). Meet Delrin Chavarría, Afro-descendant and indigenous, who found an opportunity to give back his community through UNV.

Delrin joined the UNV team in 2021 with an assignment in the Darién, a difficult-to-reach indigenous jungle area located on the Colombia-Panama border. A daily average of between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants pass through this place, and access to drinking water is a permanent need.

"UNICEF installed water treatment plants in the Darién with which approximately 40,000 liters of drinking water are currently produced per day. My task is to monitor them so that local communities and migrant populations can efficiently use that water," Delrin continues.

I always say in community meetings that I am indigenous and Afro-descendant. I emphasize that I have the same needs and that the solution is in their hands, because if they do not work together to improve their quality of life, no one else is going to do it,” says Delrin Chavarría (Nicaragua), UN Volunteer Expert in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene with UNICEF in Panama.

For development to be truly sustainable, UNICEF encourages collaboration with local implementing partners and with the communities themselves.

“The response from the local population has been very good. Since this project was implemented, the communities already have water, and we see that they have strengthened their local capacities. Together, we have trained the personnel of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT) on sustainability issues, and we collaborate in the organization of community volunteers for the collection and management of solid waste.”

The added value of having professionals like Delrin is in their ability to propose development solutions, drawing from their own experiences.

I always thought about seeing the world and giving those experiences back to my community. I spent six months in South Sudan, on the border with Rwanda, to learn more about my origins as an Afro-descendant. There, I got to know the local experience and saw that there are not many differences in terms of basic needs. Now, in my role as a UN Volunteer, I can contribute to improving people's quality of life. --Delrin Chavarría

Delrin recognizes himself in the people he lives beside on a daily basis. He knows that part of the solution to the region's problems is the inclusion and participation of people like him.

I am a marine biologist, but I became interested in the ​​field of water and sanitation because my indigenous community in Nicaragua is vulnerable to hurricanes due to climate change. I looked for a scholarship opportunity to do postgraduate studies in Spain, and then I applied for a master's degree in Milan. Now, I am a specialist in risk and disaster management, which allows me to propose real solutions to communities that have needs similar to those of my own. --Delrin Chavarría

This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteer Asbel Guzmán and translated to English by Online Volunteer Bryan Parrish.