Madagascar: What Safe Water Means to a Community

07 February 2018

Madagascar: What Safe Water Means to a Community

In the wet northeast region of Madagascar, there is a small rural community named Ambodiampana. Life has changed so much here since 2001.

Back then, everyone drank the river water. There were no other options. They walked several kilometres a day to fetch and carry this unsafe water back home. As you might expect, the people suffered from waterborne diseases.

When Dr Charline arrived from the capital city of Antananarivo to become the Head Doctor of Ambodiapana’s Primary Health Centre, she was accustomed to drinking safe water from the tap. “The river water had a bizarre taste,” she said. “Above all, as a doctor, I knew it was not at all good for health.” 

Dr Rabesiranana Charline

Dr Charline came up with a plan to harvest rainwater in this wet region. By 2005, she had equipped the Primary Health Centre to collect and store rainwater. When patients were ill, she encouraged them to drink this water instead.

At first, people were hesitant to try it, but she succeeded in convincing them that it was better than river water. And that is how the villagers of Ambodiampana began to set up their own system of harvesting rainwater. As a result, they were able to collect and store enough water to use for up to one month.

In 2013, Medair came to Ambodiampana. We met with community leaders to learn about their safe water needs and to see how we could assist them. From 2013-2017, Medair ran an ambitious humanitarian project called Rano Tsara 2 that sought to bring safe drinking water to rural communities that had never had safe water before.

In Ambodiampana, Medair saw the effort needed to harvest the rainwater, and set out to install a gravity-fed water point and tap stands that would bring safe water right into the village once and for all. “Villagers no longer have to worry about a long journey to get water, nor to wait for rain to harvest and store water,” said Dr Charline with a smile on her face. “They can have water at will.”

We also trained families about hygiene habits that improve health, and we provided community members with training on how to maintain the infrastructure.

"As a doctor, I’ve seen a decrease in diarrhoea in my community and an improvement in people's lives,” said Dr Charline. “Women especially can do more because they spend less time collecting water, and they are more happy to give water to their children.”

During the Rano Tsara 2 project, Medair installed a total of 270 gravity-fed water points and 428 hand pumps, bringing easy access to safe drinking water for more than 75,000 people. Not only is the water safer to drink, children can more easily wash their hands, and doctors and nurses can keep their instruments clean. “We are really really happy!” said Dr Charline.

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Medair’s Rano Tsara 2 project in Madagascar is supported by the European Union, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Solidarity, Agence de l’eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation. 

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