Clean Water: Key in the battle against malnutrition in Southern Madagascar

More than 3,500 families in the district of Amboasary, Anosy Region, benefit from this drinking water supply

Fanja Saholiarisoa
Vahonome and his motherVaonome and his mother (2017, Andranobory Anosy)
03 August 2017

The village of Malaza, situated in Andranobory Commune of southern Anosy Region near the southeastern tip of Madagascar, is not exceptional. At first sight, the environment is very dry and the soil arid, with little greenery. The roads (if they can be called that, as any vestige of pavement has disintegrated) leading to it are almost impassable. Malaza is typical of so many places across the southern swathe of the world’s fourth-largest island, where most families struggle to survive day-by-day. The parents of Vaonome, 13 months old, eke out a precarious living here, in spite of the multitude of difficulties they face – difficulties that by the tender age of just six months, left Vaonome suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

Our daily meal depended on the sale of firewood in the surrounding area


"I had trouble breastfeeding him during his first six months because I was not producing enough milk,” says Vaonome’s mother, Miharena. “I did not have a good diet because of poverty. Our daily meal depended on the sale of firewood in the surrounding area.”

Miharena, one of a myriad of young mothers across Madagascar, struggles daily to feed her five children.

A major challenge faced by those living in poverty is access to clean water, a scarce resource here in the arid south of Madagascar, which is trying to recover from years of drought, most recently exacerbated by El Niño. Consumption of dirty water – together with the effects of poor hygiene, sanitation, and diet – result in an often deadly combination for the people of southern Madagascar, most notably infants and children.

A mobile nutrition team based in nearby Amboasary, covering more than twenty townships (or “fokontany”, as they are known here), diagnosed Vaonome’s SAM-with-complications condition, and referred him urgently to the intensive nutritional recovery center (“CRENI”) at Amboasary Hospital.

"His condition was so weak. He was in dire shape," says Dr Haingo Ranaivoarivony, a young physician who is part of the mobile team that diagnoses and monitors hundreds of other children weekly in the surrounding region.

Today, during a UNICEF visit to his village, the team was delighted to find Vaonome back home after his hospitalization, making great progress.

Like other households with children affected by malnutrition, Vaonome’s parents benefit from the provision of a ceramic water filter, water distributions at the local health center, and soap, thanks to the support of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). What’s more, more than 3,500 families with malnourished children, pregnant women, and mothers of newborns in the district of Amboasary, Anosy Region, benefit from this ECHO-financed drinking water supply – a vital resource for the majority of the population who previously had to travel tens of kilometers to find a few drops of water of dubious quality.