On its way from the well to the home, clean groundwater is all too often contaminated. So Helvetas promotes education about health and hygiene in connection with many new and repaired wells.
Women giving birth are expected to bring the water they need to the maternity clinic themselves? Yes, this is standard practice in northern Benin. Even health centers there lack water for medical care as well as for washing linen and cleaning equipment and rooms. The contaminated water people bring to the health centers is a health risk for mothers and newborn infants alike. The water shortage goes to show how far northern Benin still is from having a reliable supply of clean water.
In the previous 5-year phase, Helvetas supported the construction and rehabilitation of more than 140 wells for nearly 40,000 people at healthcare facilities, schools and villages. The QualiEau (i.e. “Quality Water”) project aims to provide wells for another 20,000 people. But building wells is not enough. Studies have shown that clean well water is usually contaminated with germs during transportation and household storage. So each well project also involves education about the connections between water, hygiene and health.
In order to promote the water supply, hygiene and the building of latrines, Helvetas works directly with municipal authorities and communities (who implement the project themselves) to support them in developing the technical and administrative know-how. Water management committees charge a few cents for every jerry can of water drawn from a public well. The consumers know they are not paying for the water itself, but for the upkeep of the well. Women who live nearby are often trained to take care of a well and can earn a little money on the side in this capacity. So they have an economic interest in keeping “their” well clean and operational.
Nafissatou Bagana, midwife at the Sirarou maternity ward, Benin