Bethan Evans   —   22 March 2021   —   Access News

With over 5,000 miles completed, we’re at the final stage of our 5,777 mile journey from Manchester to Madagascar to fundraise for our client and partner WaterAid. So before we reach the island, we wanted to share why Madagascar has been a focus for us in this challenge. 

WaterAid has been supporting the communities in Madagascar for the last 16 years, from providing clean water pumps, building toilet solutions and giving access to clean water (and much more), through to support and advocacy for improving top-down change within the political system. We have also been very lucky throughout this challenge to have been supported by the WaterAid team, both in the UK and on the ground in Madagascar.

In particular, their Voices from the Field Officer, Ernest Randriarimalala, has given us his personal support from creating a Spotify playlist to keep our spirits high and sharing inspirational quotes, to most recently, hosting a live Q&A with the Access team inspiring us to understand why we’re doing this challenge and what fundraising could mean for the quality of sanitation, hygiene and clean water in the country. 

Ernest out in the field in Madagascar

Throughout this blog, Ernest has shared his thoughts on the current situation in Madagascar and the COVID-19 impact on their work - all the stunning images you can see have been provided by Ernest too. Before we get into that though, here are some facts about Madagascar that Ernest thought you might not know...

  • “Madagascar is 141% larger than the United Kingdom. The UK is approximately 243,610 km², while Madagascar is approximately 587,041 km². It’s the size of France and Belgium combined!”
  • “Considering its vast size, Madagascar has very few railways – just 854 km of track, to be precise. I have never even travelled by train in Madagascar! Only 13% of the country’s roads are paved.”
  • “Malagasy people have closer roots to Southeast Asians than Africans. Our main food is rice - we eat rice three times a day. The average Malagasy person eats 150kg of rice a year!”
  • “When a Malagasy person builds a house, there are many rituals and rules to be respected. One of these is about which direction one’s house faces. The front doors of all houses in Madagascar always face west, partly because houses are arranged according to astrological principles.”

More starkly however, some other facts you might not know about this island, is that when it comes to Madagascar, they suffer greatly with access to clean water and they hugely lack decent toilets. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people across the world don't have access to clean water - unfortunately in Madagascar this is almost 1 in 2.


So what are WaterAid doing to help?

By spreading messages through local organisations and the media, and encouraging prioritisation of water, sanitation and hygiene to improve public health - WaterAid plays a big part in Madagascar solving the crisis. Their work helps the country’s poorest people unlock their potential with clean water, toilets and hygiene. 

Ernest says “Life is really tough for many people here in Madagascar. Most Malagasy people live a hand to mouth existence, and the burden of not having access to clean water is making their lives even harder. Your support will help WaterAid reach more people with clean water, which is more vital than ever at this critical time. 

More than half of the population in Madagascar do not have access to clean water. From what I see all year round when I visit communities, your support will be life-changing and life-saving. When a community gets clean water, children can stay healthy and stay in education. The whole community is empowered and thrives!”

WaterAid’s work in Madagascar providing clean water access

How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

“COVID-19 has had an unexpected impact on my job. During the lockdown, sometimes I was out helping with distributing hygiene materials on the front line, but most of the time I worked from home like so many others around the world. This was weird for someone who is used to connecting with WaterAid communities regularly – in my job as a Voices from the Field officer, I spend about 50% of my time in communities, learning about the lives of the people who WaterAid works with and supporting them to share their stories with supporters like you. When lockdown was finally over, I went back to the field as soon as it was safe.

“WaterAid Madagascar focused on the COVID-19 response and frontline work to ensure that people, in particular the most marginalized groups, received the right information and the basics they need to protect themselves against COVID-19.”

With Madagascar no longer under national lockdown rules, but still restricting travel to the island, life is almost back to normal with people working again and schools either open or opening soon.

Describing what WaterAid supported with on the island in the peak of the pandemic, Ernest said, “We did a lot of work around the importance of handwashing, as many people in rural communities do not have access to information on how important this can be. We did this by distributing posters and flyers and providing soaps. WaterAid Madagascar also designed and installed hundreds of contactless handwashing stations all around the country, particularly at health centres, schools and homeless people’s shelters. 
“On top of this, we’ve reinforced our advocacy and influence work and have supported the Ministry of Water and then Ministry of Health and Population in their action to help communities to face COVID-19.”

What will the money raised be going towards?

At Access we’re aiming to raise £5,777, to match the number of miles between Manchester and Madagascar. With WaterAid offering such a wide-range of support and services across Madagascar, every penny will go towards helping the communities on the ground. 

For example, this could look like:

  • 5 workshops for a community (£5,000)
  • A well (£500)
  • 2 tools sets (£100)
  • Handwashing stations for 15 families (£150)

How you can help

As you can see, Madagascar is still a long way off from providing some very basic human needs to their population as a whole. Many of us might take a glass of tap water in the morning for granted, whereas some people in Madagascar might have to take a 5 hour round trip to collect enough water for their whole family.

Just £15 can buy five plastic taps, or £30 can support three families with handwashing stations. So please do support us in donating towards this cause to help improve Madagascar’s sanitation and water access.

We have set up a Just Giving page so that you can track our progress and donate - so a big thank you in advance for your support.

#MCRtoMDG #WaterAidChallenge #WeAreAccess

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