By Rebecca Beauregard
FEDIS, OROMIA, 31 May 2017 – “Our daily routines have changed. We used to give water to our animals every other day, now they drink daily. I used to bath the children once per week, now I have no idea how many times a day they wash because they always come use the tap on their own,” says Saada Umer, pointing to her 4-year-old, Anissey, who is near the tap.
Saada, 26-years-old, is one resident who benefits from the new water supply system in Fedis woreda (district). She and her husband are farmers and have four children, ranging from 2 to 9 years old. Rather than filling 20 litre jerry cans daily at a water point a few kilometres away, she fetches it from her front yard where the tap flows anytime. The impact is literally life-changing.
Ethiopia has faced devastating drought conditions for the past two years now, affecting different areas of the country in different seasons and creating rippling effects in health, education, the economy and development initiatives.
In times of crises, emergency action is required and often takes priority over development initiatives, understandably, to save lives and curb any potential disease outbreaks. However, one emergency action by UNICEF, with funding from the German Development Bank (KfW) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), supported the Government of Ethiopia to address both the drought-related emergency water shortage affecting 8,600 people while also contributing to a more resilient and long-term supply of water.
In Boko town, the drought had taken its toll at the same time that the town’s water supply system had run its 25-year design course, leaving thousands without access to clean and regular water. In times like these, those who can afford pay for expensive water brought in by vendors and those who cannot afford, take from ponds and rivers.
UNICEF Ethiopia purchased a pump and generator to supplement the drilling of a new borehole the regional and zonal water office initiated, providing further construction support to complete the project. The emergency-funded project enabled the water office to make functioning a 122 metre borehole which, as of February, supplies fresh, clean water by keeping two town reservoirs filled. In addition, it supplies 24-hour water taps in about 800 households in Boko, with water points at the edge of town providing safe water for surrounding rural villages. The borehole also supplies a water-trucking point nearby, where currently four trucks carrying two 5,000 litre water tanks are filled daily and supplied to the nearby Midega Tola woreda, which is lacking a water system while grappling with drought.
The effect of having household water has led to the creation of a town utility office, which records the water meters and collects payment for its use. Setting up this regular system has not only created more demand for household taps, it ensures steady water supply and a regular income to employ plumbers and maintenance crews for water system maintenance.
Hikma Mesfin is a 25-year-old Water Attendant at one of the town’s new water points. Her job is to open the point each morning, collect ETB 25 cents (US$.01) per jerry can from the users throughout the day, manage the site and close up each evening. Her salary is paid by the utility office, another regular income supported by the system.
“I was happy to get this job. It was difficult when it first opened, because people thought it was like the old water pumps, thinking the water could stop flowing at any time and fighting each other to be first in line. Now they understand it flows every day and they can be at ease. Everyone will get their water.”
While emergency times call for emergency measures, UNICEF and the Government of Ethiopia collaborate to ensure the most sustainable solutions possible are implemented where it is most needed. As the effects of protracted drought continue to wreak havoc on lives across the country, UNICEF calls on the support of international donors to fund projects such as deep borehole drilling which build resilience in communities and offer long-term solutions for challenges facing communities across the country.