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Public health alumna’s water project reaches its first milestone in Nigerk

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2008 - Spring


Just over a year ago Ariane Kirtley, M.P.H. ’04, described in words and photographs her work in the Azawak, a remote region in the western African country of Niger [See “Water is Life,” Winter 2007]. Prolonged drought, she found, was threatening the existence of the region’s inhabitants, many of whom are nomadic pastoralists. “These people are literally dying of thirst because they do not have access to water,” Kirtley said. “This is one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in the world. There are no roads, few schools, little health care and almost no humanitarian assistance.”

In this remote area of 80,000 square miles, where it can take two days on the back of a donkey to reach a clinic or school, reliable sources of potable water are essential to survival, Kirtley said. During a visit to New Haven in October, she reported the first success of the organization she founded, Amman Imman, which is dedicated to building boreholes that will draw water from between 600 and 3,000 feet below the surface.

“We have built the first borehole,” she said, adding that it is located in the village of Tangarwashane, with a population that fluctuates between 300 and 500. “It serves not only the village but all the communities surrounding the village and all the nomads that come through.” The borehole provides water for 5,000 people who live in seven communities within a 10-mile radius. During the dry season as many as 25,000 people and animals will take water from the borehole.

Construction began in January 2007 and was completed in July of that year. The borehole has four animal troughs, a tower that holds up to 5,300 gallons of water, a water fountain with six faucets near the water tower and another fountain with two faucets in the village.

Kirtley’s nonprofit organization also created a local committee that will ensure maintenance and financial, environmental and social management of the borehole. And, she added, providing clean water has brought other changes. “They have built a school,” she said. “They have started growing subsistence crops. A lot of positive changes are taking place.”

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