© Helvetas / Felana Rajaonarivelo

Clean Drinking Water and Hygiene Make for Good Health

© Helvetas / Felana Rajaonarivelo

In Madagascar, Helvetas encourages local populations to get involved in decisions concerning water, and helps raise awareness of hygiene and sanitation issues. Local water authorities learn how to recruit and guide private managers, to whom they delegate the provision of drinking water services. Helvetas also assists them in planning, prioritizing and implementing all water-related actions, taking into account the effects of climate change.

  • Project Name
    Well-Managed Drinking Water in the Miandrivazo Region
  • Project Phase
    2021 to 2025
  • Funding
    Charity: Water, donations, contributions, SDC programme contribution
  • Thematic focus
    WASH & Water Governance

Water, the source of life

Water is the source of life for all humans and for our planet. Without water, we simply would not exist. Access to water is the most basic human right – but it is under threat. In some parts of the world, water is scarce. Poor governance, environmental degradation, overexploitation and climate change are further diminishing already scarce freshwater resources. Around the world, inequalities in access to water between people living in urban and rural areas have decreased, but remain significant. Eight out of ten people without access to safe drinking water live in rural areas, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The poorest populations continue to use untreated surface water from lakes or rivers. Many of these disadvantaged communities are located in remote areas that are difficult to access. As a result, rural water supply will remain a challenge for many national governments and their development partners over the next decade.

This is particularly the case in Madagascar. Except in some dry areas, the country relies on average rainfall to feed its springs and groundwater. However, only half of the population has access to drinking water, and only 12% of people have latrines or toilets. The government is aware of the health risks that this situation causes and has set the following Millennium Development Goal (MDG): by 2025, 70% of the rural population should have access to safe water and sanitation. 

© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Wells are fenced in to keep animals away. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
With this simple system hand washing is child's play even without running water. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger

Ensuring the availability and safety of water is a growing concern in many parts of Madagascar. Drinking water sources are increasingly threatened by contamination and climate change is reducing their recharge, with consequences for the health of children, for economic and social development, and for the environmental quality of the communities and populations concerned.

Helvetas' RATSANTANANA program supports rural municipalities in preparing for and adapting to climate change, as well as adopting innovative solutions such as: solar-powered water pumps; the management of drinking water systems by private services to ensure the sustainability of operations; and the promotion of the "Blue Schools" approach, which includes water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as environmental protection and gender approach in schools.

Intervention model in the project areas

The project intervenes in the communes of the districts of Miandrivazo and Mahabo (Ménabé Region), as well as the districts of Ambanja and Ambilobe (Diana Region). The intervention is carried out through the reinforcement of access to sustainable drinking water supplies and sanitation services, as well as the adoption of good hygiene practices in schools. In each of these districts, the rural communes benefit from drinking water supply systems mainly served by boreholes equipped with solar pumps, but also by gravitational catchment of springs, which are managed under contract by private companies that have also co-financed the infrastructure. WASH-friendly schools have water, hygiene and sanitation facilities adapted to the hygienic needs of menstruating girls. Since the onset of COVID-19, health centers are systematically connected to drinking water networks.

For a sustainable drinking water service in Madagascar

Helvetas supports local authorities, management companies, schools and health centers in their efforts to provide water, sanitation and hygiene. Municipal authorities, who are responsible for the construction of water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, lack the necessary equipment and technical skills. They also lack the financial means to ensure the control of the management of this infrastructure. Private companies do not yet have the skills to manage water supply or sanitation facilities on a sustainable basis.

Helvetas works primarily with communal authorities. We provide them with the knowledge and capacity to plan water resources and identify needs, to request government support, to collaborate with private sector actors, and to ensure good governance of the WATSAN sector. In small towns, municipal authorities are supported in their collaboration with private managers; the managers co-finance water systems, and also guarantee their maintenance in return for fees paid by the users. Helvetas supports local authorities in organizing and managing these private-public partnerships. Helvetas also strengthens the companies so that they can develop robust business plans and thus maintain the quality of the service offered. This innovative approach aims to meet the challenge of sustainable water services and to attract private sector investment.

Hygiene promotion

Helvetas' strategy for promoting appropriate hygiene and sanitation behaviors is based on an analysis of local socio-cultural realities, in order to adapt messages and means of communication to the local context. This strategy targets both communities and school children. In elementary school, students are taught good hygiene practices related to drinking water and sanitation. Key messages are integrated into the school curriculum, and awareness messages are disseminated and repeated for students to adopt. Parents and teachers are also involved into the activities, which include the enhancement of the school grounds to make them clean and attractive. At the community level, various means of communication, such as street art and radio messages, are used to disseminate the messages.

Water resource management

Helvetas promotes integrated, equitable, efficient and sustainable water resource management that takes into account the necessary adaptations to climate change. All local stakeholders, including local authorities, civil society organizations and the private sector, are involved in the decision-making process, prioritization and implementation of actions. Consultation frameworks at different levels allow for dialogue in the resolution of conflicts related to the sometimes conflicting uses of water. The private sector, particularly agricultural export companies, is mobilized to introduce sustainable production methods at the producer level, especially among those that promote rational water use or "zero deforestation" production.

© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
With songs and verses, the children playfully learn how important clean hands are. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Comics also convey the information about hygiene and cleanliness. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Soon the simple rules are internalized - and are carried into their families by the children. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger

WASH & Water Governance

The most vulnerable communities suffer from dirty and scarce water. Annually we help up to 500,000 people get new access to drinking water and basic sanitation.

How Helvetas Supports People in Madagascar

Improved income for small farmers, better hygiene, clean drinking water and the protection of water resources are some of our priorities.