Improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Mauritania

Located in the Aghorat district, villages like Freikika, Maghtaa Sfeira and Dakhlet Dembou are totally isolated and disconnected from any sign of urbanization. Local communities had no access to water for many years in these areas, which is the case for many Mauritanians. The only source of water available was water pits which were dirty and contaminated. The alternative was rain water, although it was infrequent, that was often polluted for lack of retention and sterilization mechanisms. “I am not quite sure we were drinking water here in Maghtaa Sfeira because of its dirtiness and pollution. Our children were always sick but we could not stop drinking the water although we were aware of the risks,” said Khadjetou mint Mohammed Mahmoud, a member of the Maghtaa Sfeira community. “There is a water pit at three kilometers from the village and it is up to women to go bring the water. You have no idea of the difficulties we had to endure to bring it back. During rainy season, we only drank unsterilized rain water.” Women had to cover long distances, sometimes for 10 kilometers when the nearest pits went dry. Once they found it, they had no other means of transportation but donkey carts to bring the water back to the village. It was utterly exhausting for these women and especially for the children who had to go along with them on this dangerous journey in quest for a water drop.

In response to this urgent situation, World Vision Mauritania initiated the WASH Mauritania Program to ensure access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the local communities. The project is financed by World Vision United States and intervenes everywhere in Mauritania in collaboration with the Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation. The activities started in April 2016 for a period of 3 years and include three components: water, sanitation and hygiene. The main objective is to ensure access to water for the locals by either building or rehabilitating boreholes, water towers, water retention points, fountains and water network extension. A borehole was built in the village of Freikika thanks to the project and two others were set up in Maghtaa Sfeira and Dakhlet Dembou by the Aghorat Area Development Program, in partnership with World Vision Germany.

The implementation of the project in these villages meant that women and children were no longer obliged to go far away looking for water. “We drink clean water now and our children do not get sick anymore. The long and tiring days of seeking water are over and that is a huge relief for us” continues Khadjetou with a smile on her face. “We were also educated on the importance of hygiene and hand washing and received medication for our children. We thank World Vision Mauritania for this intervention.” Other than access to water, the project also focuses on hygiene through education activities followed up with the construction of latrines in local health facilities and schools. Local committees were set up and trained to manage the water sources and make sure that the established facilities are well maintained in order to ensure sustainability. This is a way to build ownership and responsibility among the community members.

Our village had no access to water before but thanks to the WASH Mauritania program, we do not talk about that problem in Freikika anymore. We fear nothing concerning our children’s health either. A borehole was built here and it is running perfectly on daily basis, ensuring access to water for the whole community,” said Arafat Demba Ba, the Freikika village chief.

In other villages like Ganki Djeiry in the Brakna region; however, the project is still in its preliminary phase. Local communities benefit from education activities regarding hygiene, since they already had access to water, along with WASH kits distributions. The WASH kit comprises a hand washing basin and a soap. The project built two blocks of two latrines each in the local school and a trained local committee was put in place to ensure maintenance of these structures. “Ganki benefited greatly from this project in terms of sanitation and hygiene. The whole community was sensitized on the necessity of washing hands with soap especially before eating and after the use of latrines. Every family received a WASH kit, latrines were established in the school and a local committee was created to manage these facilities and to convince people to stop open defecation. Our children are so happy with their new latrines at school. They no longer have to wait in long lines to use them like before, when there were only two,” said Aissata Sall, a beneficiary in the village of Ganki Djeiry. The project has also planned to build a new water tower in the village to replace the current one which has a very small capacity and has reached a dangerous level of degradation to ensure that the community continues to have access to potable water. This construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks. 

It is important to mention that 900 persons had benefited from the project in the Maghtaa Sfeira village and over 200 children are sponsored.  The project also plans to build a water tower in this village in 2017 and to extend the water system to the households.

 

Written by Ibrahima Diallo