Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental need of the first importance.
Photo: Helvetas

Helvetas in Madagascar: water as the source of life

In Madagascar, the NGO Helvetas is encouraging the people to participate in decisions about water and is helping raise awareness of hygienic issues. Local water authorities are learning how to involve and control private suppliers in the water sector.

Many village residents in Madagascar get their water from rivers or other natural sources, which are often contaminated as virtually all the inhabitants defecate in the open air. Hardly any households have toilets or washrooms, with a resulting high child mortality rate. The health situation is also reflected in the population’s productivity, with a consequent negative impact on family incomes.

To improve this wretched situation, Helvetas Deutschland, a development organisation with Swiss roots, is working with its local partner organisation SANTARA to improve the living conditions of disadvantaged population groups in rural communities. In the northern Madagascan villages of Ambohitrandriana, Maevatanana and Anjiabory Helvetas and SANTARA staff are working with village inhabitants to repair the defective infrastructure of two health centres and three elementary schools. 

All the installed water taps will in future have drinking water from proper chlorination filters. In addition, the health centre at Ambohitrandriana is being electrified so that it can be lit at night and medication can be properly refrigerated.

Construction of latrines in communal autonomy

To supplement the hygienic infrastructure outside the health centres and elementary schools, community volunteers are being trained to work with village families on building so-called mourabas latrines from natural materials. This ensures that the village inhabitants can integrate latrine use into their daily routine, which significantly increases the sustainability of the project. 

Basic hygienic principles are also being incorporated into the school curriculum for the pupils to pass on at home.

The project’s primary target group is women, as they are chiefly responsible for the organisation of the households, looking after and bathing the children, and cooking meals for the families. The schoolteachers and medical staff of the health centres are also being actively encouraged to serve as models for the so-called WASH slogans and to disseminate these. These groups act as role models, and are important multipliers, who are essential for the success of the project. 

PPP for maintenance of the sanitary installations

As part of the project, there are public-private partnerships with investors to ensure technical maintenance of the installations. These will continue to be responsible for maintenance after the end of the project.

Water is the source of life. Access to clean drinking water and the opportunity for adequate personal hygiene will improve the state of health of the people in the target communities, which in turn will have a positive effect on their economic situation and help reduce child mortality. 

The project is being funded by the W. P. Schmitz foundation on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 


Further information:
Helvetas Madagascar’s website:

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