Health and Nutrition: Madagascar
Water in Africa
- Africa, Madagascar
by Clare Sandy, Andranomena, Madagascar
Everyone in my community drinks the pump water unfiltered, including farming families who have lived here since long before the pump was built and the people from cities working for the park service who would otherwise drink bottled water. I do filter it, but mostly for the convenience of the faucet on the filter, and when people offer me pump water, I drink it.
In Marofandilia, Daniela both filters and boils the water from the sources there, and most of her community boils their drinking water. It's hard to say whether there are more problems with worms and parasites, or whether contamination comes from water, food, hands, or dishes. In any case, when water is hard to come by, it seems to become less important that there's a chance it may be contaminated.
by Rob Roberts, St. Augustin, Madagascar
Where I live, I see young kids drink directly from wells, out of dirty cups and buckets, or straight from the river. The need to boil water to kill germs isn't recognized. On the other hand, the most popular drink is water boiled in the same pot that was used to cook rice. First the leftover rice is slightly burnt on the bottom of the pot, and then water is added and heated until boiling. You end up with a brownish, tea-colored water that is clean and actually tastes pretty good. The traditional drink is a perfect form of water treatment.
by George Ritchotte, Andranomala Nord, Madagascar
The water from the village pumps is fresh and clean; it comes straight from Zahamena National Park.
by Robin Larson Paulin, Andranofasika, Madagascar
Recently there was an outbreak of cholera in our region of Madagascar. Many people do not believe in kabones (outhouses); they think they are fady (taboo). Once the rains come, contaminated feces wash into surface waters, which many people use as a source of drinking water. This makes it very difficult to control the cholera epidemic. Many people die from dehydration due to cholera.
Recently, as a measure to help control the cholera outbreak, the restaurants in our village have provided a bucket of water and soap outside so people can wash their hands before eating.
I add bleach to my drinking water before filtering it to kill the bacteria. Most Malagasy people drink ranopango (rice tea), which has been boiled and is served hot. Although this is a cultural tradition, not a safety measure, it is safer to drink than unboiled water.
by Jina Sagar, Ambalahenko, Madagascar
The drinking water in my community is fresh.
by Mark Danenhauer, Namoly, Madagascar
Whenever I am hiking, camping, or working in the National Park, the water is fresh and clean because it comes straight from the mountains. There are no pasture animals, fields, or people upstream to contaminate the water. Therefore, I drink the water straight from the river, without treating it.
The river continues downward, winding its way past dwellings, fields, and pasture animals until finally arriving at my villages. World Wildlife Fund, which runs the park, has built a water filtration system and a few pumps in the village. The villagers in two of the villages fetch water from the pump in buckets, which they carry home on their heads. The development of the water system provides these privileged villagers with clean water, whereas those in other villages still get their water from the river, which can be polluted.
by Julie Bednarski, Tamboro, Ft. Dauphon, Madagascar
The source of drinking water for half my village is a natural spring bordering a rice field. It is down a slope that tends to become slippery as the day goes on. Everyone who walks to the hole causes mud to slide down and cake up around the drinking source. After heavy rains the runoff makes the conditions of the spring worse, and we are often forced to go to the local river.
The people believe that water is clean if it is clear and is dirty when murky. The other side of the village collect their water from a small stream that borders one side of the village. The stream is also used for bathing, for washing clothes, and as a trail. But, it is clear, so people think that it is unpolluted.
The villagers take no precautions about the cleanliness of water. Often, the only water they drink is the burned rice water they make after the rice is cooked. Unfiltered water may contain parasites, which cause health problems, especially in children. I filter and add chlorine to my water. When people ask me for water I give them the treated water. Sometimes they refuse to drink it because of the taste and ask for untreated water.