Niger: the fatal thirst quencher

In Niger, there is a dramatic water shortage. Women and girls spend half a day filling their canisters. The water is often contaminated with bacteria and the infant mortality rate is high. More and better wells and simple sanitary measures are already making a big difference.

Things are not done by halves in Falwel. In this region in the Sahel state of Niger the water shortage is so critical that there is no sense in token politics. Almost 60,000 inhabitants live in the rural community and the numbers are increasing. Two villages have a water supply, but the open ponds often run dry and the water is contaminated with bacteria. Infectious diseases are a permanent topic and the infant mortality rate is high.

On the other hand, several wells, which are about 60 metres deep, generally provide a regular clean water supply. The women and girls, whose job is to collect water, need strength and stamina. It takes them up to six hours every day to fetch water and the waiting around due to congestion can often take up more time. In the dry season the supply of fresh water rapidly becomes a dramatic situation. Even the farming industry – Niger’s most important employment sector – suffers from the water shortage. Every two years the rural population endures a serious hunger crisis.

Water resources greater than expected

Currently, there is a lot of activity in Falwel. Workers use heavy machinery to drill into the arid ground. They dig deeper and deeper until they find water. SWISSAID is funding the construction of a small water pipeline that supplies eight villages or about 6,900 people in Falwel with water. In the village of Faria Bana, thanks to an underground water source, a proper well facility can also be built to supply the 800 residents. The news is even better: during excavation works the full scale of the water resources became visible. Now, there is even enough of the precious commodity to supply another nearby village. As mentioned, things are not done by halves – rather, efforts are doubled.

Our water, our responsibility

The double safeguard also means that people are not left alone with their new water supply units. All households pay a small user fee towards the costs of operation and maintenance, so ensuring that the infrastructure is well maintained.

Hygiene is also a major topic. Community educational events about family health and hygiene are therefore an important pillar of the project. Follow-up surveys show that the information events are having an effect and that about 80 per cent of households actually practise the recommended hygiene measures.

Water carriers become school girls

The workers have also built toilets at five schools and facilities for washing hands. The washing facilities known as the “tippy tap” are simple wooden constructions with a water canister and foot pedal. Here, the children can wash their hands after going to the toilet or before eating. And more and more schoolgirls are standing at the tippy tap: since the girls no longer have to carry water for hours, they have time to attend school. Water and smart young people – Niger can never have enough of these.

Project code: NI 02/14/11

Project duration: 27 months

Project costs: 418,774 Swiss francs 

Number of beneficiaries: 7,700 inhabitants in nine villages in the community of Falwel