The well in Sirarou is just one of many that HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation has built in the north of Benin, among other places, in maternity wards, health centres and schools. New boreholes and wells have been sunk on sites where there used to be no water at all. Old, defective open wells are being converted into closed wells with hand pumps. In Benin, it is the local council that is responsible for water supply and so HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation works directly with sometimes inexperienced local authorities and supports them with technical and administrative know-how.
Clean water is of the utmost importance, particularly in health centres. The patients’ families used to be obliged to bring water with them and this often led to infections. There was often not enough water to disinfect the instruments and clean the premises.
In the schools that the project has equipped with a well, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation has helped to develop and integrate hygiene education into the curriculum. The vast majority of children grow up without running water. Now they are learning to wash their hands properly before eating and to use water hygienically and sparingly. This prevents avoidable gastro-intestinal diseases, which often keep children away from regular education.
After receiving training, water committees or well-keepers maintain the wells. The latter are generally women who live nearby. They have a financial incentive to keep the well in good condition, as they are allowed to sell the water (cheaply). Health centres and schools receive their water free from the council.