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At a glance: Niger

‘WASH’ strategy improves access to safe water and sanitation in Niger

© UNICEF video
A boy drinks from a UNICEF-installed well in Zabon Moussou, Niger, which supplies water for 1,750 people.

By Nina Martinek

As part of the launch of ‘Progress for Children No. 5: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation’, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories focused on achieving the 2015 targets set by Millennium Development Goal 7 – to halve  the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

GUIDAN GAZOBI, Niger, 8 September 2006 – Access to safe drinking water is a daily struggle for the people of Niger, especially women and girls, who are responsible for collecting water for their families.

As a result, girls frequently miss school and women’s health is adversely affected, often resulting in low birth weight in their young children.

Infant and child deaths

“We have to go beyond the food availability issue and tackle the lack of access to basic services like health, safe water, hygiene and environmental sanitation, which is contributing on a large scale to malnutrition,” says UNICEF Representative in Niger Aboudou K. Adjibade.

© UNICEF video
Women carry water home for their families from the cemented well in the village of Zabon Moussou.

In rural Niger, 64 per cent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Many people drink pond water that is shared with livestock, is contaminated by guinea worms and registers high levels of chemicals such as fluoride and nitrates.

Indeed, a majority of infant and child deaths in rural Niger are linked to contaminated water, lack of hygiene and inadequate sanitation. Unsanitary environments and unsafe water threaten not only the survival of young children but also their and physical and mental development. Illnesses such as diarrhoea cause and exacerbate malnutrition, and can result in long-term stunting.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

UNICEF’s objective in Niger and worldwide – in line with Millennium Development Goal 7 – is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Through its ‘WASH’ (for water, sanitation and hygiene) strategy, UNICEF works with governments, non-governmental organizations and local communities to support the installation and maintenance of improved water systems.

Over the past two years, for example, UNICEF has supported the construction and rehabilitation of 116 boreholes and 41 cemented wells in Niger, benefiting 235,000 people. Over $2 million has been allocated in 2006 to provide 120,000 people (including 60,000 women and 24,000 children under the age of five) with better access to drinking water and adequate sanitation.

© UNICEF video
The installation of a water pump with seven fountains throughout Guidan Gazobi village provides easier access to safe drinking water.

‘Our children are healthier’

UNICEF also has installed a solar-powered water pump in the village of Guidan Gazobi, supplying safe water to a population of more than 3,000 people via seven easily accessible pumps throughout the village. 

Ayu Yaou is the head of the village water committee that oversees the management and maintenance of the water system.

“Our burden is a lot less because we don’t have to walk for hours to fetch the water that is now available in the village,” says Ms. Yaou. “The water quality is improved significantly and it is now drinkable. Our children are healthier”

Reduction in waterborne diseases

The WASH strategy supports the concept that bringing better services to women and girls will benefit entire communities and promote sustainable development.

Before the water system in Guidan Gazobi was set up, says UNICEF Programme Assistant Anne Ouedraogo, “we had many water related problems in this village such as diarrhoea, and the women had to travel to outside the village to collect water.” With the system in place, she notes, women’s water chores have become far less time-consuming, and the community has seen a significant reduction in waterborne diseases.

As the Guidan Gazobi experience clearly shows, improving access to safe water, basic sanitation and improved hygiene plays a critical role in saving children’s lives.




7 September 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on the water, hygiene and sanitation activities of UNICEF in Niger.
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