Turning on the tap in Madagascar

A new pipeline in the drought-hit southern region brings water to thousands of people.

By Fanjaniaina Saholiarisoa Alida
A girl holds a jerry can under a tap, Madagascar
25 July 2019

BELOHA, Madagascar – “Water, water…this is real water,” says Beamby, a resident of Marovato village in southern Madagascar. He left his home early in the morning and walked an hour to Beloha to witness the opening of a new 180-kilometre-long water pipeline.  

Water has become a rare and precious resource in this part of Madagascar. The southern region has the lowest water coverage in the country, and suffers major impacts of climate change, including more frequent and intense droughts.

The new water pipeline will make water widely available to 40,000 people.


A woman holds her child in front of jerry cans, Madagascar
Ravolabe, a mother living in Marovato, now has access to safe water thanks to the pipeline. She no longer has to walk long distances to fetch water for her family.

Ravolabe, a mother of five children, is thrilled to see the water gushing from the tap at one of the 19 community water points supplied by the pipeline. Like everyone living in the area, she previously had to walk up to 20 kilometres to find water – a chore that falls almost exclusively to women – or she was forced to pay for it at a prohibitive cost. Although a single 20-litre jerrycan of water costs just US$0.50, the average income per person per year in this region is approximately US$50; that's less than $US1 per week.

She previously had to walk up to 20 kilometres to find water – a chore that falls almost exclusively to women.

A woman stands in front of a health centre, Madagascar
“The community needs this drinking water because diarrhoea is one of the most common diseases affecting children in this community," says Andrianarisoa Nambinina, a midwife at the Nikoly Health Centre.

Andrianarisoa Nambinina, who runs a basic health centre in the village of Nikoly, says that because of the pipeline, her patients will now be able to get safe water within the centre. Staff there are also delighted as they will no longer have to go out in search of water elsewhere in the community – and get water that is often unclean.

The pipeline is the result of more than two years of collaboration between the Government of Madagascar and UNICEF to upgrade existing water infrastructure. This included setting up a water treatment plant, boreholes and pumping stations; extending the existing pipeline by an additional 90 kilometres; and establishing a network of water points across the region.


A man walks on a dirt path in Madagascar
Beamby arrives after walking an hour to attend the inauguration ceremony of the pipeline.

Plans are already in place to further expand the project to reach an additional 15,000 people in areas affected by drought.

“This is a relief for the whole population who see this as a dream come true,” says Beamby. “We never thought we’d be drinking clear water one day. So long to the chocolate-coloured water from before.”

This project was made possible with support from the Governments of Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.