There is nothing like clean water

There is nothing like clean water
ROSANNA KEAM, PROGRAMMES MANAGER 

Niger is built on sand 

Vegetation is sparse, water is scarce, and sand storms scream down from the Sahara. It is so dry that you can feel the moisture being sucked out of your skin. 
 
Access to water in parts of Niger is extremely limited. Almost half of Niger's population, (that's 8.2 million people) do not have access to clean drinking water. The distance to water is great and often the water is polluted. Some children walk around with coke bottles filled with a milky white turbid water collected from the traditional open wells in their villages. When you see children drinking water like this, it’s not surprising that 12,000 children in Niger die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. To say the needs are high is an understatement.
 

Pictured: Community members celebrate their new water system.

Clean water changes the story  

Children and adults dance with joy when they see cool, clean water come out of a tap for the very first time. It's a sign that young girls and women will no longer have to walk for hours and hours every day in 45 degree heat in search of a water source that will eventually make them sick and threaten the lives of the vulnerable.

Pictured: A community watches on as a water springs from their new well.

Sustainability at the forefront  

Building water systems is important, but Africa is littered with non-functioning water systems. 
 
According to the International Institute for Environment and Development, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.  World Vision partnered with the University of North Carolina (UNC) to conduct research on sustainability of water systems in West Africa. The UNC study found that only 50-70% of wells were still functional after 20 years. These communities are then right back where they started: Drinking dirty water.  

Except for wells dug by World Vision. Nearly 80% of wells drilled by World Vision are still working, even after 20 years. 
 
The study also found water system functionality declined with age. Except for World Vision wells, which are just as likely to be working after 18 year as after 2.   

Pictured: Water Management Committee log book which records fees for maintenance.

Water Management Committees make the difference  

The reason World Vision wells stand the test of time is because of the way we do things. For each water system built, a Water Management Committees is set up to maintain the water systems. The committees are made up of community members and they are responsible for collecting affordable maintenance fees so that when a water system breaks down they can arrange for it to be repaired as quickly as possible. The study validates our approach, showing that water system functionality is 200% higher when there is an identifiable committee in place. 
 
In Chadakori, Niger, all three of their water systems are still functioning and the Water Management Committee are thrilled to show they have approximately NZ$1,800 in the maintenance account. This is more than enough to provide regular maintenance and replace broken parts. When asked whether the system had ever broken down, they said yes, but they were able to repair it using the skills they learned from World Vision and with the money from their account. 
 
In the middle of the Saharan desert World Vision has helped provide long term access to water, and given capacity to a community to look after its people.

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