The coronavirus has shifted our focus in Mali to hygiene and information |

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The coronavirus has shifted our focus in Mali to hygiene and information

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The people living in rural Mali depend on water pumps for their drinking water. With the support of the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW), the partners in the UDUMA programme were working to restore 1,400 of those pumps. That ended when the country went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many water pumps in Mali, and a lot of them are broken. To solve this problem, a group of Dutch, French and Malian organisations partnered up in a restoration project known as the UDUMA programme. "Our French partner Vergnet Hydro replaces broken pumps with better versions,” explains Arco van der Toorn, programme manager at Aqua for All. “As a result, we can provide some 560,000 people with clean drinking water.”

Repairs within 72 hours

People can get their water via a simple pay-per-use system using tokens. Van der Toorn: “Every pump is managed by women from the local community. If a pump breaks, UDUMA makes sure it is repaired within 72 hours.” Part of the programme focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene.

Curfew in Mali

Vergnet Hydro planned to repair some 600 pumps this summer. But the coronavirus ruined their plans. “There has been a curfew since 20 March. Our people are not allowed to visit the project locations. Travel in and out of the country is impossible right now. Also, the government is making water available for free. This leaves UDUMA without a daily income.”

“Even if all the restrictions are lifted, it will still take a while before the country is back up and running. Luckily, Vergnet Hydro has a 15-year contract for the maintenance and operation of the pumps. That reduces their risk of financial troubles.”

Measures against the coronavirus

There is a chance that it will no longer be possible to meet the original timeline for repairing or replacing the 1,400 pumps. “Together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, we are spending part of our budget on measures related to coronavirus. For example, we are giving pump managers facilities to wash their hands. We are also adjusting the ongoing hygiene programme to give more specific information on the coronavirus. We hope we will be able to fix pumps again soon. After all, clean drinking water is vital for the health of the Malian people.”

Sustainable Water Fund (FDW)

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency uses the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) to stimulate public-private collaboration in the water sector on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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