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Safe Water Brings Hygiene and Sanitation to Rural Madagascar

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Clean water on tap for first time for villagers, school, health clinic

April 2015—The local population in Milenaky, a rural commune in the dry and arid southwestern region of Madagascar, used to travel 20 to 25 kilometers each day on foot to fetch unhealthy, salty water. Waterborne diseases were rampant. Access to safe drinking water was indeed a big challenge.

In June 2014, USAID granted $350,000 to UNICEF to implement a project providing access to safe water for the people in the region where USAID is also investing in health care improvement. This USAID water project targets four rural communes: Milenaky, Belalanda, Fotadrevo and Ehara.

“This [health center] is the first of all health centers in Madagascar to have safe drinking water after the crisis,” said Hantanirina Olivia, midwife at the Milenaky health center, referring to the 2009-2013 political crisis during which most donor assistance was suspended. “This water is crucial for our services because whatever we want to do to clean or disinfect our instruments will be of no use without it.”

Water supply infrastructures, such as public water taps and household water connections, were built in the communes, with the overall goal to reduce by half the number of people without access to safe water and to improve sanitation.

Not only did these infrastructures help the Government of Madagascar increase access to water and sanitation for the Malagasy people and promote sustainable development, but they also brought running water to the communities, the local health clinic and the school for the first time. The populations now drink safe water, children can wash their hands, and doctors and nurses can keep medical instruments clean and disinfected.

Today, over 2,700 villagers in Milenaky have access to clean water that comes directly from the tap. The breadth of community-based coordination has also surpassed all expectations: Local and regional authorities, village chiefs, traditional leaders and the communities are now closely working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation to deliver these livesaving services to beneficiaries. The private sector has also played a significant role in building and maintaining these infrastructures.

“I’m so proud to see how we have all worked together—the United States, the United Nations and the Malagasy Government—to bring such change to Milenaky. With this new water supply system, running water is now within reach for the people here,” said U.S. Ambassador Robert Yamate, who recently dedicated the new water supply system alongside Madagascar Minister of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Johanita Ndahimananjara, USAID Mission Director Susan Riley, and UNICEF Country Representative Elke Wisch.

“Milenaky is now a model of hygiene and sanitation in our society,” said Olivia. There are still some unprotected water wells in town, but she points out that “the people won’t even wash their feet with this water.”

USAID's Water Supply project runs from October 2014 to September 2016.