In Senegal, access to water ‘life-transforming’
Kalla Niang, 12, is highly self-assured and energetic. She is busily preparing herself for high school, an opportunity that, until recently, would not have been available to her.
Kalla lives in the village of Darou Ngaraf in northern Senegal. Like many girls in rural Senegal, Kalla and her sisters are responsible for many daily chores, including drawing water from a communal well that is far away from their village.
“My sisters and I had to rise before dawn to fetch water, and we were very often late for school,” she said. “We always arrived very tired because drawing and carrying water is not easy.”
Lack of energy and time for an education were not the only concerns that Kalla and the other villagers faced by not having access to a reliable source of water. Drawing water from unregulated sources of water put them at risk of diarrhea and malaria.
Fortunately, however, a well programme implemented jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Senegal, has been improving the opportunities and future prospects of people like Kalla throughout the country.
Launched in 2003, the Programme of Drinking Water and Sanitation for the Millennium – was designed to ensure a sustainable supply of drinking water for 2.3 million people in Senegal’s rural areas. It aims to raise households’ rate of access to clean drinking water from 64 percent in 2004 to 82 percent by 2015 – the deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
By 2009, 74 percent of rural residents in Senegal had access to potable drinking water, thanks to programme initiatives such as the drilling of a well near Darou Ngaraf in September of that same year. The new well near Darou Ngaraf enabled over 4,000 people in 31 villages to pipe clean water into their homes.
If this trend continues, Senegal will be able to achieve the MDG target for drinking water by 2015.
“Women and children used to suffer the most,” remembered Aminata Guèye, president of a local association of well users. “We spent so much time drawing water and we often came down with water-related diseases….Now we plan to hook up other villages that do not yet have access to drinking clear, potable water.”
The programme allows villagers to have pipes laid down that connect their homes to the well for just a small fee, which they pay in addition to their regular monthly utilities fees. It also aims to provide three million more people with an independent system for disposing waste water, as well as establish latrines for schools, clinics, bus stops and weekly markets in rural communities.
For Kalla and her village, access to a clean and regular source of water is opening up new horizons. Village residents hope to gain access to micro-financing in order to set up communal agricultural fields for women farmers.
“The village is becoming greener and more beautiful every day,” she said. “We are going to plant vegetables like carrots, cabbages, potatoes and tomatoes, for our own consumption, and also to sell to other villages.”
One day, Kalla would like to become a teacher. For now, though, she is focused on providing bathroom facilities for her school, which is located just over one kilometer away from the village. She wants to make sure the school is equipped with running water, “this precious fluid” as she is fond of calling it.
“Each time I touch it, I touch life itself,” she said