By Ayuko Matsuhashi
WOIRU DIKALA, Amhara region, 7 August 2016 – The women of Woiru Dikala kebele (sub-district) used to spend much of their day searching for water, a mission that grew even more difficult as drought ravaged Ethiopia’s Amhara Region over the past year.
Women and children often walked for more than six hours to get the water their community needed, searching for scarce rivers and ponds among the dry, rugged gorges of Raya Kobo woreda (district).
This area, near the borders of Tigray and Afar regions, is full of migrants from these parts of the country also searching for water for their family and herds and fleeing the recurrent droughts.
So it was with great rejoicing that the people of Woiru Dikala welcomed a joint UNICEF and DFID project introducing a multi-village water supply system drawn from a deep well with a total of eight water points around the village – including one for the primary school.
Comments we received from community members included “We can avoid the risks of abuse of women and children as they travel to collect water from the gorges including at night time,” and “Our children and even adults have been frequently affected by diarrheal diseases and intestinal parasites. We feel happy that our life will be changed.”
The new water system will help 5,000 people over the next 20 years, including the 2,100 living in Woiru Dikala kebele.
The El Niño-driven drought has hit much of the country over the past year, but eastern Amhara has been especially hard hit, with over 1.5 million people suffering from a critical shortage of water.
The shortage also has severe health implications. The kebele has seen an outbreak of the itching menace of scabies because the lack of water means poor sanitation and personal hygiene.
The condition breeds in cramped, dirty conditions and can move quickly through a population causing a great deal of distress among children, who make up half the population of the kebele.
Poor water quality also led to an outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhoea, which can be fatal for the young and infirm.
Regular access to clean water is key to combatting these diseases. There is no health facility in the kebele.
The inauguration of the new water supply for the area was attended by several regional officials as well as representatives of UNICEF.
“This water supply system provided from a deep well should support local resilience in times of climatic uncertainty,” said Jane Bevan, UNICEF’s manager for rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.