|© UNICEF Niger|
|Women draw water from a well shared with livestock in rural Niger, where a UNICEF-WHO report says less than 40 per cent of people have access to piped or other improved sources of drinking water.|
By Guy Degen
The latest UNICEF-World Health Programme Joint Monitoring Programme report focuses on sanitation improvements. The report finds that while more people are drinking water from safe sources, far too few are using improved sanitation. Niger has one of the lowest rates of improved sanitation, and problems remain with water supply there.
NIAMEY, Niger, 17 July 2008 – Water is essential for drinking, cooking and hygiene, but collecting it is an arduous and time-consuming daily chore for women such as Kouloua in rural Niger.
Each morning, she rises early to draw water from the well in her village in the southern Maradi region. It's hard work that cuts into the time Kouloua needs to look after her five children. Moreover, it takes a harsh toll on her body. Her palms have grown hard with layers of calluses from using a rope to pull up water.
Kouloua's family needs around 100 litres of water every day. But while she and her family have access to a shallow traditional well, the water is not clean and is often shared with livestock.
“My daughter has been ill with diarrhoea four days,” says Kouloua. “I took her to the health clinic for treatment but it has not stopped and she keeps losing weight.”
|© UNICEF Niger|
|Kouloua breastfeeds her infant daughter. She draws about 100 litres of well water daily for her family’s needs, and her children frequently suffer bouts of diarrhoea due to contaminated water.|
The danger of unsafe water
Unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene are among the underlying causes of Niger's high child mortality rate. Water-borne diseases account for nearly 20 per cent of deaths in children under the age of five here. Less than 45 per cent of the population has access to clean water, and less than 10 per cent to adequate sanitation.
These statistics are well below Niger's targets for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
UNICEF is supporting the Government of Niger by working with communities to improve access to safe water and household water treatment and sanitation. By raising awareness of good hygiene practices such as hand washing and using family latrines, the country can prevent diarrhoea and reduce child deaths.
‘A major challenge’
In the village of Moule Safoua in southern Niger, UNICEF has helped to develop a modern community water system. Safe water is not only easily accessible in the village but is also available in the local school and health centre. The community has been involved in the project from its inception and is responsible for storage and maintenance.
But as the latest UNICEF-WHO report on water and sanitation coverage shows, progress is still too slow, particularly in rural areas.
“We have outbreaks of cholera every year and also problems with trachoma, dysentery and Guinea worm,” explains UNICEF Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Specialist Moustapha Niang. “All of these diseases are linked to water. Access to clean water and appropriate sanitation is a major challenge in Niger.”
12 July 2008: UNICEF Chief of Water and Environmental Sanitation Clarissa Brocklehurst discusses the latest UNICEF-WHO Joint Monitoring Programme report on water supply and sanitation.
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UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme website
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