Making clean water more accessible in EthiopiaPublished: Feb 14, 2020 Reading time: 3 minutes
The Loka Abaya district in southwest Ethiopia is a rock-strewn and rutted place. With little greenery and scorching heat, clean water is hard to come by. To help those who live here, People in Need (PIN) has drilled boreholes, installed pipes, and built water pumps to improve the region’s water and sanitation facilities.
What did the district’s water supply look like prior to PIN’s intervention? Mussie Hosholla, a beneficiary from the village of Dansha Gambela, describes it this way:
“For as long as I could remember, water scarcity has always been a problem here. Before the new water scheme was constructed, the spring – a three-hour walk from our homes – was our only source of clean water. My wife gets up as early as 4 am to beat the long queue by the spring. She brings back a 20-liter jerrycan and my family and I consume this for five or six days, drinking only a glass each day.”
‘We never sent our children out there alone’
With steep hills and slippery slopes surrounding the spring, traveling to the water source was also dangerous. As a result, most community members only went there to fetch drinking water and used river water for bathing, washing clothes, and washing dishes. “The area around the spring gave us an eerie feeling every time we went,” says Hosholla. “It is surrounded by trees that [sheltered] animals like hyenas, wild pigs, and wild monkeys. That’s why we never sent our children out there alone.”
Hosholla continues: “I remember one fatal incident, where a community member fell from the cliff trying to push his donkey up the slope. It was horrible and only reminded us of the terrible risks we were taking by being up there.”
Aberash Ayele, a 20-year-old mother of two, has similar memories. “The spring is where I collected water for my family; I went every other day and collected 15 liters of water,” she says. “I often spent the entire day by the spring because of the long queue and, to make matters worse, people pushed and tried to get ahead of you. Boulder-sized rocks, shallow holes, and uneven roads made it difficult to travel to the spring, but we had no choice [as] it was our only source of clean water.”
Things were even worse for the elderly, who couldn’t make the arduous journey. Instead, they fetched water from dirtier rivers nearby, which “often caused them to fall ill to waterborne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, and giardia,” says Aberash.
Universal access to clean drinking water
Together with IRCON and Aquatest, and with financial support from the Czech Development Agency, PIN has helped to alleviate many of these water-collection challenges. So far, we’ve built ten water points in four kebeles – small administrative units – in the country’s Loka Abaya district. To ensure the sustainability of the water schemes, a community-based water committee was established through the Water User Association. This committee serves the four kebeles and is composed of a chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and maintenance crew.
The villagers pay 1 birr for every 20 liters of water they collect, and this money is used for maintenance. Frequent trainings are also provided from other WUAs to help the community care for the water stations.
“I am very happy; how can I not be?” says Mussie, laughing. “The new waterpoint is in front of my house!”
He adds: “I really appreciate PIN’s work. For three years they worked hard to construct these water schemes for us without any complaints about the weather, the road, or the distance. With this new waterpoint, there are no limits to how much water we can use.”