Elsie Assogba /PNUD Benin and Latifou Dakin /VNU
We have only one well that provides water to the whole village. During the dry season, each household can carry only a 30-litre basin of water for three days. Sometimes, we have to go right to Savalou, kilometres away to do our laundry and bring back a can of water.”
Angèle Zodjilou, a mother of five, recounts the ordeals of women in Tatonougo village, in the central hills region of Benin.
As of 2014, about 68.1 percent of people in Benin had access to potable water. But this figure conceals major disparities between the various regions of the country.
Lack of drinking water in the rural area presents numerous challenges, especially during the dry season. Children suffer from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and cholera. Girls drop out of school to trek kilometres every day to fetch water.
Even in urban areas, drinking water is rare in the dry season. This is the case in Glazoué, where the taps sometimes dry up for months. Residents have to resort to the water supplies of neighbouring villages. But for Véronique, a farmer and mother of six children, this is not a panacea:
"The few wells dry up quickly. We have to wake up at dawn to get in line, and come back with a 25-litre can for the whole family. "
SUSTAINABLE AND EQUITABLE ACCESS
In response, the Government of Benin has launched the National Rural Drinking Water Supply Programme. The objective of the project, which started in January 2016 with the support of UNDP, is to increase the rural water supply rate to 70 percent in 2017 and help to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6.
More than 300 villages in 54 of the country’s 77 communes will be equipped with manually-operated pumps that provide water to close to 80,000 people. Border zones with neighbouring countries have been given priority, particularly schools and health centres.
The villagers play an important role in maintaining the pumps. Residents pay 5000 Fcfa (about US$50) to the town hall each month. The money is used to buy spare parts and to make repairs.
In Tatonougo, where villagers alternated visits to the well every two days to prevent water from becoming a source of conflict, relief is noticeable now that water is within reach.
Water supply is a component of human dignity that we must support it,” says Siaka Coulibaly, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Benin.