From Belgium to Guinea on foot: Activist travels to fight for drinking water access
Hamadou Sadiou Bah, a young Belgian-Guinean national, took the long journey from Brussels to Conakry, travelling mainly on foot and by bicycle. His goal: to raise awareness about water shortages in Guinea. He hopes to help drill a water well to ease the struggle for Guineans, a third of whom don't have access to clean drinking water.
Hamadou Sadiou Bah was only 130 kilometres from the Guinean capital Conakry on August 22. The young activist left Brussels to return to his country of origin more than 100 days ago.
He left on May 8, travelling through France, Spain and Morocco on foot and by bike. He then flew to Senegal, where he cycled back to Guinea, via Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. In total, he travelled more than 6,500 kilometres.
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Hamadou Sadiou Bah told the FRANCE 24 Observers team why he decided to leave his job as a manager in a sporting goods store in Brussels and set out on this journey.
Guinea has the beautiful nickname of "the water tower of Africa". A paradoxical nickname, because many Guineans do not have access to drinking water, or at least they have to walk several kilometres to find it.
When you grow up in Europe, it seems obvious: drinking water comes out of the tap. But our parents [who grew up in Guinea] often reminded us not to waste water; they told us that they sometimes had to travel to find it.
Nearly a third of Guineans don't have access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF, a number which rises to more than half in rural areas. Yet the country has abundant water reserves due to heavy rainfall during the rainy season and the many rivers that have earned it its nickname. Unfortunately, these resources are not being fully utilised.
Hamadou Sadiou Bah was quickly confronted with this reality on his arrival in Guinea:
With the families who welcomed me to stay with them in Guinea, there was a lot of concern about water. Everything is accounted for: to wash, for example, everyone has one basin, no more.
When I was in Koundara, I saw one-litre bottles of water that cost up to 4,000 Guinean francs, or about 4 euros. Whereas in France, it costs 50 cents. Of course, Guineans have much lower incomes.
In the streets of this city, I also saw children picking up empty water sachets [Editor's note: sachets of about 25 centilitres sold at 5 cents] and squeezing them to collect the little water that was left.
Hamadou Sadiou Bah aims to achieve a concrete goal with this trek: to drill a water well in Guinea, or even several if he can raise enough money. "The borehole is a guarantee of permanent water," he explains. Since his arrival in Guinea, the activist has met several local officials who have encouraged him, including the mayor of Labé. He hopes to be able to start drilling the first borehole in September.