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.
23 March 2015, ADDIS ABABA: Today, the Government of Ethiopia announced a remarkable achievement in the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector as it met Target 10 of the MDG 7c for access to drinking water supply. The announcement was made in the presence of H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E Engineer Wondimu Tekle, State Minister on behalf of His Excellency the Minister Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Senior Government Officials, Ambassadors, UN representatives, WASH partners and members of the media.
Dr. Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the occasion said. “I would like to congratulate you of this great achievement of meeting the Water Supply MDG target and ensure you of the commitment of Ethiopian Government to make realistic its responsibility of providing access to safe water supply and sanitation services at appropriate service level to all its citizens. I call upon all of you to continue joining hands with the Government on reaching to the unreached”.
The 2015 assessment report by the UNICEF/WHO Global Joint Monitoring Programme for Water and Sanitation (JMP) indicates that Ethiopia has met the target of 57 per cent of the population using safe drinking water and has attained the target by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990.
H.E Engineer Wondimu Tekle, State Minister on behalf of His Excellency Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy said, “Thanks to the great leadership of the government, the diligent effort of WASH actors in particular and Ethiopian communities at large for reaching the have-nots in water supply; the country has achieved MDG 7c target”.
“Today’s event represents a great milestone to us, development partners, civil society, NGO, bilateral, multilateral, public and private sector professionals as we have joined hands to make this achievement a reality. It is also a historic moment, where Ethiopia demonstrates its political commitment to resolving challenges in the Water and Sanitation Sector,” he added.
Ethiopia has embarked on an ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) which placed water supply at the core of all future development agenda. The Government’s heavy investment in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) fund combined with increased donor contribution enabled the rapid acceleration of water supply coverage in many parts of the country. In addition, Ethiopia has developed a ONEWASH programme designed to ensure universal access to WASH services by 2015. The plan has a budget of US$ 2.4 billion and involves the collective contribution of public, private, NGO and donor investments.
Ms Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, speaking on behalf of the Joint Monitoring Programme said, “In 1990 only 6 million people had access safe water. Today, over 55 million people access clean and safe water. The progress that has been made has been impressive, to say the least. But we know that the progress we are celebrating today comes as a result of many years of consistent investment, time and resources at all levels. It has not been an easy achievement”.
The JMP estimates for Ethiopia were updated following a joint mission to Addis Ababa from 26-27 November 2014 and include data from the most recent nationally representative surveys. The current JMP estimates show that in the 1990 baseline year access to drinking water was 14 per cent and access to sanitation was 3 per cent. This means that Ethiopia’s MDG target for drinking water was 57 per cent and for sanitation was 52 per cent. The current JMP estimates show that by 2015 access to improved drinking water has increased to 57 per cent and access to improved sanitation has increased to 28 per cent.
Accordingly to the JMP, the total population reached with safe water between 1990 and 2015 is 48 million. There are still 42 million Ethiopians without access to safe water. Of the 42 million Ethiopians who are not using improved water supplies, an estimated 33 million people are residing in rural areas and peri urban communities and 9 million are living within towns and cities.
Ebo, Raya Azebo woreda, Tigray 11 February 2015: A multiple clean water supply scheme in Ebo, Raya Azebo woreda of the Tigray National Regional State goes operational today. The project will benefit 27,000 people in seven villages including 15,000 school children with clean water in their school and households.
The Ebo clean water project, with a total cost of 20 million Ethiopian Birr, is a unique project as it not only demonstrates how investments in long term sustainable water supplies can reduce the carbon emissions from water trucks, but also contributes to making Ethiopian towns and villages greener and healthier for women and children. The project shows how resilient water supply solutions can be implemented in areas where there is low average rainfall and difficult hydrological conditions. In addition, it is 70 per cent cheaper than water trucking which has been the practice previously in the villages.
The Regional Government of Tigray and the woreda Administration of Raya Azebo actively partnered with UNICEF Ethiopia to undertake a detailed technical groundwater assessment to locate deep groundwater which could be exploited for this water supply scheme. UNICEF also called on its large national and international expertise to provide high technical support and mobilised funds from UNICEF Germany to finance the construction of the entire water supply scheme.
Inaugurating the project, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, H.E Ato Alemayehu Tegenu said, “We went to every corner of the possible system to make the voice of water and sanitation heard. And to promote synergies between all those whose mandate mattered to water. Now, our country has made tremendous progress over the past decade in the water and sanitation sectors and lowered the incidence of water-borne diseases significantly. We now have the opportunity to witness such a breakthrough, made possible through the committed effort of the government, development partners, NGOs, the private sector and the community. Raya Azebo Multiple Village Clean Water Supply Project in Tigray region is one of the exemplary project, providing the community with reliable access to safe water.”
UNICEF Ethiopia Representative a.i. Ms. Anupma Rao Singh said, “UNICEF will increase its technical and financial support to the water supply and sanitation sector in the Tigray Region. We also reaffirm our commitment to finance another 3 multiple village water supply schemes similar to the Ebo scheme with the aim of alleviating the burden of water collection for tens of thousands of women and children in the Tigray region.”
Ethiopia has made substantial progress in improving access to water supply and sanitation coverage since 1990. The recent National WASH Inventory data helps to confirm that, with the 2015 prediction of 57 per cent water supply coverage, Ethiopia is well on track to meet the water target of halving the 86 per cent of the population without water. The completion of such cost effective schemes is an indication that the country is now heading into innovative approaches to address people especially the hard to reach areas who are without access to safe water services.
GAMBELA, ETHIOPIA, 27 JUNE 2014 – The swollen Baro river marks the border between Ethiopia and it western neighbour, South Sudan. It’s fast-flowing waters are all that stand between those fleeing the brutal civil war in their home country and safety in Gambella. Dotted along the banks on the South Sudanese side are men, women and children, clutching their meagre possessions, waiting to be transported across the muddy-brown waterway in white plastic canoes. With battered suitcases and woven baskets on their head, those refugees – dusty, exhausted and in need of food and water – who have successfully made the river-crossing trudge towards Burebiey and the UNHCR registration tent, half a kilometre away.
Deng Gatek spent three days waiting to cross the Baro as he tried to scrape together the 30 birr (USD$1.5) fee he needed to secure passage for himself, his wife and his four children. He silently fills his yellow plastic jerry can with crystal clear water from UNICEF’s EM-Wat (emergency water) facility.
“We walked through the bush with hyenas and snakes. Many bad things happened,” Mr Gatek recalls, weariness and relief etched on his face. He can’t remember how many days the journey took from his home in Walang, in Jonglei State, to the border. “It was difficult to find water on the way. When we arrived at the border we were able to drink the river water. The water from the tap is much better than the river water – there is no dirt in it. I can take clean water to my wife and children now. They are at the registration centre,” he adds, pointing to a clutch of tents in the distance.
David Luk Both, himself a refugee from South Sudan, is in charge of the EM-Wat treatment plant. Before the fighting broke out he had worked as a technician for MSF Holland for seven years. “The water is pumped from the river Baro into two 12,000 litre sedimentation tanks,” Mr Both explains. “The water sits in the tank until all the debris and mud has sunk to the bottom; aluminium sulphate is added to help the process. The pH of the water is tested to check the levels of acidity before it is pumped into a chlorination tank that kills all the bugs and germs in the water. It is then ready to drink.”
If needed, Mr Both and his team can provide up to 36,000 litres of clear water a day. “The refugees come all day to the taps. If I don’t treat the water they can’t drink it. I’m very happy because I’m helping my people,” he says.
More than 147,000 South Sudanese asylum seekers have arrived in Gambella since fighting erupted in Juba in December last year. This has placed a tremendous burden on local authorities which were already stretched – Gambella is one of the poorest regions in one of the most food insecure countries in the world, and was host to around 76,000 refugees from South Sudan before the current influx began.
Pel Puoch is head of the Water, Energy and Resources Office in Mokoey woreda (district). Nyien Nyang town, close to Leitchor refugee camp, is under his responsibility. “Before the provision of shallow wells in Leitchor camp, the refugees had started to use the water pumps in Nyien Nyang. This created a burden for the community,” Mr Puoch says. “UNICEF immediately understood the problem and increased its support to the wordea and the burden has been greatly reduced.”
This year UNICEF has installed 9 pumps in Nyien Nyang. There are 35 in total, serving a population of around 18,000, nearly half of which were constructed by UNICEF, including two at the local the hospital.
“The focus of all the NGOs and UN agencies has been on the refugees. At UNICEF, our focus is always on both the host community and the asylum seekers,” says Basazin Minda, WASH officer. “We identified the burden on the local services at an early stage and decided to increase the number of shallow wells in the area in order to create a balance between the host community and refugees.” He believes that the creation of the additional shallow wells and pumps has prevented potential conflicts over this precious resource between the indigenous community and the refugees they have provided sanctuary too.
A new lease of life
Mr Puoch has seen many benefits from the construction of water pumps in the heart of the community. “Having the pumps close to their homes means that the women will save time collecting water. Previously, when they had to go to a faraway pump they would not use the water for hygiene. But because they can access water in the local area at any time, sanitation has improved,” he insists.
“When the pumps were some distance away they would break often. Now they are close to the homes the community takes better care of them.
At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day. It’s just 300m away from her home and fetching water now takes less than 20 minutes a day. Before the tap was installed she had to walk over a kilometre each way to the nearest water source, which took at least an hour. “I use the extra time to grind flour and take care of my children,” she says. “I have also returned to education. I’m a grade 5 student.”
So why did she decide to go back to school? “I need to do my own job,” she says. “I will be able to earn my own income and I will become more confident. I want to be either a doctor or an engineer.”