Madagascar Update: All-Terrain All the Time

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.