Madagascar Update: All-Terrain All the Time
31 August 2016
Kam Lon Chan spent months trekking deep into remote parts of Madagascar on foot. He was one member of a determined Medair team bringing sustainable drinking water to thousands of families who’d never had safe water before.
“Sometimes we felt exhausted!” admitted Chan, and there’s little wonder why. Maroantsetra, where he was working, is one of the island’s most remote regions. Swamps and streams are everywhere, while roads and bridges are not. To reach vulnerable communities, you need to travel through muddy jungles or meandering waterways, often under a canopy of steady rainfall.
For the past two years, Medair Madagascar has made it a top priority to improve safe water access for the often forgotten families living in these remote communities. Far too many people here suffer poor health because of contaminated drinking water. By the spring of 2016, Medair had installed more than 250 manually pumped water points and brought access to safe drinking water to over 32,000 people.
Yet if Chan and the team had a tough job before, their work then got a lot more challenging. They began travelling to the region’s most remote villages, nestled deep in the rainforest’s interior, where even the most powerful all-terrain vehicles couldn’t approach with supplies.
Instead, the team hiked for hours up and down steep hills and paddled canoes through marshy valleys to improve clean water access in small villages. Everything needed to be transported in on foot or by water. Medair built gravity-fed water systems that used the steep slopes to distribute water to tap stands in the villages, but in order to do that, literally miles of pipes needed to be carried in by hand or by small canoes.
“Working on these gravity-fed systems took a lot of energy!” said Nadège Villard, Medair’s Water Infrastructures Manager. “We needed to carry out topographic surveys to determine where the pipes should be installed and where the water sources should be. We had to make our way through the dense jungle to take measurements in the water, or to dig in thick mud, and all of this in the rain!”
When dry land was no longer an option, the team waded up to their waist in water to carry out their mission. Never mind all-terrain vehicles—this was an all-terrain relief team.
Thankfully, they received tremendous assistance from people in the villages who were thrilled to finally have safe drinking water for their families. “When we saw how motivated people were to participate,” said Chan, “we found the will to go on."
By August 2016, Medair had completed three gravity-fed water systems in remote communities, providing safe drinking water to more than 4,800 men, women, and children.
In 2015, Nadège and her team designed and built an innovative water system that solved a major water problem in rural Madagascar. Read that encouraging story here.
Medair’s work in Maroantsetra is supported by EC-Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Solidarity, Agence de l’eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse, and the generous donations of private supporters.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.