A star approach to grant access to water and sanitation for drought hit communities

A star approach to grant access to water and sanitation for drought hit communities

Zosoa Mandakomana
EPP Antsihenamasy
UNICEF Madagascar/2021/Etienne Ramandimbisoa
28 January 2021

The life of Mara Herino, 13 years old and in the 7th  grade in his local primary school is typical of many children living in southern Madagascar. As well as attending classes, each day he would have to walk for nearly an hour to reach a river where he collected water for his family.

Water is a scarce resource in this drought-stricken region with families often forced to use unsafe water for their daily needs. This has a serious impact on their lives. “Before I didn’t have time to wash because it took too long to reach the river and I was often ill with diarrhea,” recounts Mara. “When I was sick, I stayed home and couldn’t attend any courses.”

In this region, students frequently miss school. It is one of the poorest areas of Madagascar and parents often rely on their children to fetch water or help them with farming and livestock. Many children frequently miss a class or drop out of school altogether.

But in the village of Antsihenamasy, where Mara lives, life has become much easier and healthier thanks to a water and sanitation system called the Star Approach. The star represents an international grade that is given to communities once they have in place an adequate hygiene and sanitation infrastructure. Safe drinking water is now available in the village as the result of a water system that was installed in late 2020. The school is also equipped with hand-washing devices and drinking stations are in place at the school where ceramic filters further treat the water.

The star approach programme is being led by UNICEF with the support of the Norwegian national committee for UNICEF (Kiwi) so that students can adopt a daily routine of handwashing with soap, the effective use of latrines, and accessing safe drinking water.

“Since the use of this system, the handwashing device and ceramic filters at school, I have seen a reduction in diarrhea rates among students,” says Farasoa Manampiazy, director of the primary school. “Besides, they no longer arrive at school late for class. Students always wash their hands during key moments.” Levels of absenteeism have also dropped as students no longer have to travel miles to look for water, especially during this period of drought.

UNICEF has helped the school install separate latrines for the 208 girls and boys who attend the school.  

Teachers were also provided with training on the new approach and a module on hygiene and sanitation was also include in the school curriculum, with support from UNICEF and in partnership with the Regional Directorate of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the Ministry of Education.

“These advances have had a very positive impact on school life,” adds the school’s director. “The students are more motivated to come to school because they can drink safe water and wash their hands after sports, or before eating.”

The work is also spreading in the community. The village has been chosen as a model to implement what is known as the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach which aims to combat the practice of open defecation. 


Bénéficiaire de la borne fontaine

The new standpipe in Antsihenamasy

MARA Herino en train de laver les mains au niveau du DLM Antsihenamasy

MARA Herino washing his hands at the Antsihenamasy handwashing station

Chateau d'eau à Antsihenamasy

Water tower in Antsihenamasy