Increased access to safe water bridges gaps and reduces vulnerabilities

Published: 18 March 2015 15:27 CET

By Zakari Issa, Water and Sanitation Coordinator, West and Central Africa

More than 8 million people, i.e. 43 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s population lack access to adequate sanitation and approximately 4 million people continue to rely on unsafe water sources for their supply of drinking water. As a result, children are dying every day from diarrhoeal and other water-borne related diseases. This is especially true in rural areas.

Adjoua, a 55-year-old widow from Ndri Koffikro village located in the prefecture of Guitri recalls that ever since she was young, her community’s main priority has been to gain access to safe drinking water. Traditionally, the 2,344 inhabitants of Ndri Koffikro have relied on ponds and a river nestled in a forest 2kms away from the village for their daily supply of drinking water. This meant that women and young girls often had to walk long distances to collect water – in Côte d’Ivoire 86 per cent of the women are responsible for fetching water – which left them little or no time to engage in other activities.

Ndri Koffikro is a collection of six diverse settlements. To ensure ownership and establish a viable management system, the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire initiated consultations with the community members prior to setting up the water point. This helped analyse and better understand the community dynamics, level of commitment and define an inclusive and clear management model. The village management committee, which consists of six women and two men, oversees the operation and maintenance of the water point and handles the accounts related to the income generated from selling water. The committee is based on a rotation system whereby each settlement takes on the responsibility of managing the water point on monthly basis.

For accountability purposes, the management committee reports to the notable members (leaders, elders, etc.) of the village on its performance at the end of each month. The funds generated are divided into two – a part is placed into a bank account (three signatories are required to operate the account) and a minimum amount is kept in the village safe managed by a democratically selected treasurer for maintenance and repairs.

“I am happy to experience this reality [access to safe drinking water] during my lifetime. Now I and my community members will have more time and energy to take care of our family as well as our farming activities. Our grandchildren will not suffer all the pains we went through,” says Adjoua.

Over the past five years, the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire has reached approximately 200,000 people of which 58,057 are children with hygiene promotion and behaviour change sessions across 132 villages and 81 schools. More than 92,000 people have access to safe water and approximately 70,060 people have been reached with improved sanitation services.  

Under the umbrella of the Global Water and Sanitation Initiative 2005 to 2025, the Red Cross Red Crescent addresses both acute water and sanitation needs in emergencies (such as cholera), as well as in the long-term developmental context. To date the initiative has served over 15 million people with safe water and improved sanitation facilities in more than 80 countries. The plan is to reach an additional 15 million by 2025. Further to this, 6.5 million people have been reached by hygiene promotion activities and campaigns.

The Global Water and Sanitation Initiative has been made possible through the support of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their partners, AusAID, Cartier Foundation, Coca Cola, European Commission, Land Rover, Nestle, P&G and UK aid.