Where to help when there people have nothing? Access to water is the most important thing, says SWISSAID employee Ibrahim Hamadou. In Niger, children in the “Blue Schools” learn why hygiene and healthy nutrition are also essential for survival.
If the health of the population of Niger is to improve, access to clean drinking water is essential. This project aims to meet the drinking water needs of the beneficiary population in the N’Gonga region. In the “Blue Schools”, for example, the children are made aware of how to apply the rules of hygiene and basic sanitation. They also learn how to plant a school garden and grow vegetables according to agroecological principles. A new multi-village mini drinking water supply is being created and an existing mini drinking water supply extended and improved. Two boreholes equipped with a hand pump are being converted into two automatic water pumps. Six latrine blocks are being built at schools and hand-washing stations are being set up.
Washing your hands. Always being near a toilet. Clean drinking water everywhere. Not everyone can take these for granted. In Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, people taking nothing for granted. At the age of sixty, when we are starting to think about retirement, most Nigerians are already dead. The average life expectancy in the West African country is 59 years. Only just under half the population has access to clean water. Everyone else has to use cesspools, puddles or the polluted Niger River. There is hardly any modern sanitation.
Help begins with clean water
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of these problems: how can I help? Where shall I start? SWISSAID employee Ibrahim Hamadou knows this feeling. He has experienced the poverty in Niger himself. “It is a degrading situation. If you are affected by extreme poverty, one thought dominates your life: survival. That’s the challenge, every day.” Many children end up on the street because their parents cannot feed them. That could have happened to Ibrahim Hamadou as well if he had not been adopted by his uncle, who is a little better off financially. Ibrahim was lucky. Today he is convinced that “aid for Niger must start with access to clean water.” Because nutrition and health – because simply everything depends on water.
When the wonderful liquid suddenly flows: this girl no longer has to walk miles every day to get clean water for her family. Now she finally has time to go to school.
There are several villages and communities in Sahel zone – including Soucoucoutane, Thanksassari, Falwel and N’Gonga – that SWISSAID is supporting in the construction of a drinking water infrastructure and sanitary facilities. Latrines and hand washing facilities have also been installed at eleven schools. The children no longer have to travel long distances to go to the toilet. They are no longer forced to relieve themselves outdoors – which means that there are fewer dangerous germs around. In the “Blue Schools” pupils also learn how important hygiene is for their health.
Vegetables and hope
“Without young people, there is no future,” says Ibrahim Hamadou. “If we change something in the way 6 to 10-year-olds think and get them to understand the connection between hygiene and health, they will grow up with this knowledge and teach their families about it.” But besides hygiene, nutrition is also an important “lesson for survival”. That is why the pupils of the “Blue Schools” are laying out school gardens. They are learning about different types of vegetables and finding out how to grow them using agroecological techniques. Which all allows the seeds of change and hope to sprout and flourish.
Where does healthy food come from? From the school garden, where children are learning how to grow vegetables according to agroecological principles and how to prepare and cook them.