Fetching water, a burden for women

How women in southern Madagascar have to fight every day for water.

In the struggle of finding clean water, women bear the heaviest load

“In addition to my duties as a single mother, I have to fetch water three hours away every day,” shares Farasoa, a 38-year-old divorcee raising seven children in the Fokontany of Ambory Andraketalahy, Tsihombe district in southern of Madagascar.

While some of her children tend to crops and zebus, Farasoa embarks on a 5km (3 mile) journey every morning, to fetch water from a well by the seaside. She only returns by lunchtime with a bucket on her head, and a 20-litre container in her hands, both filled with water. “I can’t go twice,” she says, “not only because I’m running out of energy, but also because we don’t have enough containers. We use the same containers for collection, transport and storage. Luckily we have a cup to draw the water from”, she sighs.

During our visit to Farasoa, we noticed a bucket full of muddy water. Apparently, she had just collected it from the middle of a nearby road, after a little rain the day before our visit. To her, this was a relief, as it meant one less journey to the well.

Farasoa and her 3 children in their home after collecting water from a pond

“There’s a pond not far from here, but it only comes in handy when it rains, which only happens a handful of times a year. A single bucket of water costs 2000 Ar (USD 0.40) and we don’t have enough money,” she says, adding: “I know that the colour of this water is not pretty, that cars and carts have passed over the puddle where I took it and that it has a strong smell, but we have no choice but to drink it and use it as it is. And even then, the water I collect from the well, although clear, is brackish and has a strange smell. But our bodies are used to it by now”.

Farasoa admits that they rarely have the chance to take a shower due to lack of time and water. Today, she is searching with all her heart for a way to escape this extra chore of fetching the water.

Medair is making a difference In southern Madagascar. Water is worth its weight in gold. For several years now, this region of the island has been experiencing a prolonged drought, and although the arrival of rain creates agitation and confusion, above all it brings immense joy to the inhabitants. Without it, they have to walk through miles of hot sand in the unforgiving heat of the sun in order to collect at most 2 cans of water. Most families collect water from ponds or wells a long way from their homes, while others are forced to buy it at very high prices. And even then, the safety of the water is questionable, as families do not have the means to purify it, resulting in high rates of diarrhoea and illness in children. The only thing the population wants is easy access to abundant drinking water.

Medair has been working in southern Madagascar since 2020. To address the problems associated with the lack of water, Medair has set up a new project contributing to WASH response in 3 districts of the Androy region: Ambovombe, Tsihombe et Beloha. Funded by UNICEF, this project is helping to promote hygiene at community and institutional levels, to improve access to drinking water in these vulnerable areas, and to reduce mortality due to poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene resources.

Every life counts.

Medair volunteer scout in Farasoa’s house during a CAP survey