Dear Friends of the Azawak,
I am truly excited to be sending this Amman Imman update to you, my dear friends of the people of the Azawak region of Niger. For around a year you have followed the developments that led to my founding Program Amman Imman (Water is Life) as part of my father's organization, The Friendship Caravan, following the year I spent as a Fulbright scholar conducting public health research in rural Niger. Many of you have volunteered hours and hours of your time to help, and many others have made wonderful financial donations to the cause. Today I have a few things to tell you. And over the next months I plan on sending you these updates on a very regular basis.
Before anything else, then, I want to THANK YOU! Thank you for your personal support and thank you for helping me offer a future to the children of the Azawak! Without your steadfast love and support, this program would not have become the bright star of hope that it is today.
There are so many things I would like to tell you about. And I will, over time. Especially about the partners that have joined with us, from Montessori schools to Rotary clubs to Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan national carrier. And about the people that individually have given so much to our cause. And much much more!
I promise to share this wonderful news in upcoming updates. Today, however, I would like to focus on two pieces of exciting news.
Before I start, though, for those of you who may not be familiar with Amman Imman, I refer you to our main web site, www.waterforniger.org. In a nutshell, we are engaged in a campaign to bring sustainable sources of water to more than 500,000 people who have none, thereby helping them to preserve some semblance of their traditional lifestyle.
These people, mainly Tuareg and Fulani nomads, live in the Azawak, a vast plain the size of Florida that for the most part has been abandoned by the rest of the world. In this land of extreme hardship and surprising hospitality, there are no roads, no schools, no health centers, and most of all, no permanent sources of water. Even international aid groups venture into the Azawak with great trepidation, out of fear that their workers suffer from the lack of water.
The first news I would like to share with you is the publication of my first cover story, late last week in Yale Medicine, the magazine of Yale Medical School. Here you will find out how I discovered the plight of the Azawak, and how I came to the conclusion that someone had to do something to help these gentle and hardworking people. Here is an excerpt from my article:
"...When I threw a pebble into Mohammed and Gonda's well, I heard a faint thump, not the splashing of water. "How deep is it?" I asked. Two hundred feet, I was told, and no sign of water.
For six years Mohammed and Gonda's families from neighboring villages and camps in the Azawak plains of the Republic of Niger pooled their resources to dig an adobe well. Then they abandoned their efforts. There was no more money to dig deeper or to line the well with cement—the adobe well threatened to cave in. Even if the families had had the resources, it would take six more years to reach water. In the Azawak the first water table typically lies 430 feet underground, and renewable aquifers are at 700 to 1,400 feet. Because the people of the Azawak cannot afford pumps and pipes, there are few sources of water, and none are permanent or reliable because they dry up from overuse..."
To read the entire story, please go to www.yalemedicine.yale.edu, and click on "Water is Life".
The second news is much more important that any magazine article could ever be: working together with a sister organization in Niger that I helped found with my research assistant, Moutapha Alkassoum, named "Water For Life," Amman Imman is proud to announce that our first borehole was drilled late last year, in a locale called Tangarwachane. This is the same area I describe in my article, where I lived with my host parents Sadouan and Alhassan.
I had hesitated to tell you about this borehole until we could arrange for a permanent pumping system. We are working on this as you read these lines. In the meantime, however, we felt it would be criminal to drill for water and then not bring the water to the surface, when people are literally dying for lack of water. So we have settled on a temporary solution: we have place a diesel-powered pump on top of the borehole, allowing for water to be distributed to families who otherwise would walk hours and hours to find some.
Many of you know how much I dislike the "diesel-powered" solution. The pumps break down, and fuel is difficult to come by, and costly for the populations to maintain. For the next few months, however, it will do, a band-aid for an open wound. We are now studying ideas for the best permanent solution for the Tangarwachane borehole. We are looking into solar power and other solutions. We will also be bringing a gigantic rubber cistern to this borehole, so that the nomads will have a rudimentary kind of water tower.
Right now I am in France, working with my team here to procur the equipment we will send to Niger. I have also been delayed by a lingering illness brought on by my last trip to the Azawak. In mid-February I plan on returning to Niger and finish the job by the end of March.
Of course this is only the beginning. With your help and the help of many new friends yet to be discovered, my dream is to bring at least fifty water sources to the people of the Azawak.
I plan on sending you very regular updates of our progress and work. I hope that through these updates we can all live this beautiful experience together. However, if you would like to be taken off this list, please let me know. Or, if on the contrary, you would like to add people to this list, please feel free to tell me. Regardless, you can find out more information on the work of Amman imman at www.waterforniger.org and http://www.courier-journal.com/blogs/water/blog.html. You can also find out more about the amazing Amman Imman/Montessori partnership by visiting http://montessori-amman-imman-project.blogspot.com/.
I am so excited to share and live this adventure with you.
Water is life, milk is hope,
PS: As soon as I receive photos of the borehole in Tangarwachane, I will of course share them with you.