Mrs Ouedraogo lives in a village about 50 km from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. It is 4 am, and the village is asleep. The sun has not yet risen. However, as usual, Mrs Ouedraogo is already up. She is getting ready for her morning chores and not just any morning chores: the one that consists of walking more than 4 kilometres to find the natural resources that are essential for the survival of her family. This rare commodity is neither gold nor salt but only water. Yes, water.

After an hour’s walk on this slippery road, Mrs Ouedraogo finally arrives at the water pump. Unfortunately, she has to wait another half hour until it is her turn because there are dozens of other women in front of her.  It is 6:30 am, and Mrs Ouedraogo has just returned home with the precious natural resource on her head, the whole family is happy. They will have something to drink and use for the day’s household chores. It is 3:00 pm, and Mrs Ouedraogo needs to wash, but this simple action is not possible due to lack of water and restroom. So she has to wait until nightfall so that she can do it quietly in the bush in the company of snakes and wild animals. Tricky. Pathetic even I would say. This moving scene worthy of a Hollywood script is, however, the sad reality and daily life of rural populations in 90% of West African countries, especially Burkina Faso. The case of Mrs Ouedraogo, which may seem isolated, is not. There are thousands of people who are in the same situation as Mrs Ouedraogo.  Imagine what the life of this lady and that of these thousands of people would be like if they had access to water and sanitation services in their community. Before moving on to develop our action plan that will change the lives of millions of people in Africa, a reminder of the current chaotic situation of access to water in Burkina Faso is necessary.

Water: A Rare and precious commodity in Burkina Faso.

Female members of the Ouedraogo household collecting water from a dam. © Nyani Quarmyne

In the majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, access to water has been one of the main challenges for more than 50 years. Rapid population growth and the difficulty of access to water have transformed this abundant resource into a scarce commodity; this common good attributed to men by God has become a precious good. In Burkina Faso, this is all the more true. Indeed, this Sahelian state does not benefit from the climatic and physical conditions favourable to a nature that is generous in water resources. With its qualification as a developing country and its remit as one of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is also a landlocked country. That is to say, a country that has no access to the sea. It is a country of people with an estimated population of more than 19 million. Despite economic growth in 2016, about 40.1% of the country’s citizens live below the poverty line, and almost half of the population has no access to safe drinking water (Burkina Faso | WaterAid Global, 2020). People living in rural areas drink dirty and contaminated water. This untreated water comes from runoff, lakes and rivers.

However, how can we explain the scarcity of water in Burkina Faso despite the economic boom the country has experienced since 2016?   There are several reasons why drinking water is in short supply. It lies in environmental problems. First of all, we have national droughts in Burkina Faso that make the availability of drinking water scarce. This forces many people living in rural areas to migrate to urban areas despite the low quality of water and sanitation. At this level the figures are distressing. Only 65% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water (Theworldbank, 2018). In addition to the scarcity of this resource, there is the rapid growth of the population, which puts increasing pressure on available resources and existing infrastructure. The population of Burkina Faso is overgrowing. According to statistics from The World Bank (2018), the population of Burkina Faso is growing by 3.1% each year.   However, while this growth puts pressure on water resources, it also puts a strain on the state’s capacity to manage the spatial spread and to meet the social demands of providing access to essential urban services such as drinking water to the most significant number of people. There is a real problem in water management and infrastructure. The water demand exceeds the supply provided. Every year millions of euros are released by large NGOs to help the vulnerable population, but until now the country lacks adequate infrastructure for the management of this resource.


Because there is no access to clean water and hygiene, water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea have emerged (more than 4,500 children under the age of 5 die every year from diarrhoea).

WaterAid Burkina Faso

When we talk about access to drinking water, we must also stress access to sanitation. Like water, sanitation in Burkina Faso is very deplorable. It is estimated that less than one in five people have access to adequate sanitation facilities, even worse because in rural areas, only one in 10 people have access to latrines (Theworldbank, 2018). Because of this deficiency, people living in rural areas are forced to defecate in the wild. They are exposed to all hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera. Approximately 4,500 children under the age of 5 die every year from diarrhoea in Burkina Faso, all due to lack of access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities(Theworldbank, 2018).

A child drinks dirty water © REUTERS

We all dream of living in a world where every person will have access to adequate water and sanitation services—a world where hygiene-related deaths will be a thing of the past.

Water: A life-changing resource

Water is essential for life. Without water, no life is possible on earth. The fact is simple: All living things need water to exist. Indeed, access to drinking water and sanitation changes lives, and even more, it can change the world. When a community has access to water, you can directly notice a radical change in that community. Imagine the life of Mrs Ouedraogo if she had access to this resource at home or in her village. First of all, she would no longer need to spend hours walking to find water. She will have time to find a job, learn new skills, and why not start her own business to support her family. Access to water helps people get out of poverty and change their lives. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation helps vulnerable people avoid diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. Solving this problem will enable us to reduce the mortality rate due to these diseases. 

The joy of children when they see water coming out of a tap  ©Worldvision

Also, in some communities, children are involved in collecting water from rivers and pumps. This has an impact on the children’s schooling as they do not have time to go to school besides. These children will be able to go to school and attend classes usually if only they had access to water in their community. Finally, access to water and sanitation allows the population to remain in dignity. These people will be able to wash themselves and their natural needs in clean places. Water is a natural resource that changes lives, that changes the world. Access to water allows people to have access to health, to have time, to have access to education, to have self-dignity. In a word, water is life. 

© WaterAid

Water is essential for survival, but there are millions of people who are unable to access this resource. Something must be done to help these vulnerable people or communities.

A game changing action

Every time you draw water from your tap for drinking or washing, thinking that there are millions of people who are sick because of lack of water, think of those thousands of people for whom access to water is a luxury. 

Wherever you go shopping in the big shops, think that just with one dollar you can help change the life of an entire community. Give value to every dollar you spend; humanity needs your contribution to save lives. There are many NGOs that are fighting day and night to bring joy to people who suffer from lack of access to clean water. You can donate to NGOs such as WaterAid, Charity water, water4, water for people etc. which saves lives every time you give a dollar.