Clean Drinking Water and Hygiene Make for Good Health

Helvetas advocates for the population to have a say in water management issues and raises hygiene awareness in Madagascar. Local authorities are learning to include and oversee private service providers in the water sector.

  • 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

Safe water makes for good health

Clean water is conspicuously scarce in certain regions of the world. In the Sahel or Ethiopia, for instance, women often have to walk for hours to fetch water for their families. And then there are countries that do have enough water, but the people do not know how to keep natural spring water clean or that latrines are essential to the health of a village community. Across 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, almost half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The most deprived 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 the case in Madagascar. Except for a few arid zones, the country has sufficient precipitation to replenish springs and groundwater. And yet only half the population have access to clean water, and a mere 12% to latrines or toilets. So it is not surprising that every year some 4,000 children die of diarrhea or other gastrointestinal diseases in Madagascar. That is more than 10 children a day.

© 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 safe water is a growing concern in many parts of Madagascar. Drinking water sources are increasingly threatened by contamination, with consequences for children's health, for economic and social development and for the quality of the environment of the communities and populations concerned.

Helvetas program supports authorities in preparing for and adapting to climate change, as well as in adopting innovative solutions such as solar-powered hydraulic pumps, the management of drinking water systems by private services to ensure the sustainability of operations, or the promotion of the "Blue Schools" approach. The project operates in the municipalities of the districts of Miandrivazo, Ambanja and Antananarivo Avaradrano. The program focuses on strengthening the access to sustainable drinking water supply and sanitation services, as well as the adoption of good hygiene practices in schools.

For a sustainable drinking water service in Madagascar

Helvetas supports the authorities, but also schools and medical centers in their efforts to ensure water supply, the construction of sanitation facilities and good hygiene. Municipal authorities, who are responsible for the water, hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, are neither trained nor equipped. Nor do they have the financial means to ensure the sustainability of these infrastructures, and only a few private companies have the rare skills to sustainably manage water supply or sanitation infrastructures. Helvetas works with these municipal authorities. It provides them with knowledge and capacities they need to plan water supply, apply for state support, collaborate with private sector players and ensure good governance in the WASH sector. In small towns, authorities are encouraged to work with private investors who are willing to co-finance water systems but also to guarantee their maintenance in return for water charges. We help the authorities organize and oversee the new partnership between the private companies and government. This innovative approach aims to meet the challenge of ensuring the sustainability of water services and attracting private sector investment.

Hygiene promotion in schools

Additionally, Helvetas is committed to developing new training courses in order to disseminate knowledge about hygiene in schools more widely. In elementary school, pupils are taught good hygiene practices related to drinking water and sanitation. Parents and teachers are also involved in actions that even combine the enhancement of the school grounds to make it clean and attractive.

Helvetas integrates participatory planning for water resource management and integration of climate change adaptation for equitable, efficient and sustainable water management. Local authorities and communities act together, exchange knowledge, and acquire and take ownership of the water management plan. All stakeholders are involved in planning, negotiation and decision-making regarding water use.

© 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.