|© UNICEF Niger/2005/ Dolan|
|Thanks to the improved water system, Rahamou, a mother of two, no longer has to travel for 30 minutes to fetch water.|
By Sabine Dolan and Kun Li
SAFO SOUMARANA, Niger, 17 August 2005 – Niger’s food crisis, with its haunting images of starving children, has caught the attention of the world press. While UNICEF has taken a lead role in providing food aid, the organization has also been quietly working for years to ensure that Niger’s children have another resource which is equally essential for survival – safe water to drink.
The village of Safo Soumarana is located in Niger’s southern Maradi region –the epicentre of the current crisis. At one time, the only source of drinking water for the village was a contaminated well. The unsafe water contributed to outbreaks of Guinea worm disease (a painful parasitic condition), cholera and diarrhoea, especially among children.
To bring clean water to the region and safeguard children and their families from waterborne diseases, UNICEF and its partners helped install water pumps and a reservoir.
For the price of 1 US penny, villagers can buy 20 litres of water – enough for one family to use for drinking and cooking for one day. Proceeds from the sale of water are used for maintaining and extending the water system.
Soumarana’s many water points are connected via hydraulic pumps to a reservoir. Energy to run the pumps is generated by solar panels.
‘There is no development without water’
Residents benefit from the new water system, not only in terms of their improved health, but also in savings of time and labour, which in turn help them cope with the food shortage. Instead of travelling long distances to get limited quantities of water, they can focus on cultivating their land and collecting what food is available while the short-lived rainy season lasts.
Rahamou, a mother of two, is very happy about the water system. “Now, the new well is much closer to my house so I have much less distance to walk. Also, I don’t need to carry the heavy bucket home, which was very strenuous.”
The convenience of the water points is a benefit for school-age girls and boys. For example, seven-year-old Farrida used to spend long hours fetching water. Now she uses the time saved to read and catch up on her homework.
UNICEF Niger has been supporting the installation of improved water systems across the country for the last nine years, helping keep thousands of children healthy and free from waterborne diseases. The organization is planning more work in water provision and sanitation facilities, including an additional 50 water systems in the Maradi region alone.
Arsene Azandoessessi, Chief of the UNICEF Office in Maradi, says that in order to reduce infant mortality, it is necessary to address water and sanitation issues. "There is no development without water."
Thus, while the immediate priority for Niger is food, UNICEF is also continuing its work on other development issues which are critical for the survival and health of children.
16 August 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the organization’s work in bringing clean drinking water to children and families across Maradi, Niger.