Giving a village in the Amhara region its own water supply transforms lives

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).

Local women at Raya Kobo woreda, Woiru Dikala Kebele -Amhara National Regional State enjoys the newly inaugurated water supply.
Women in Woiru Dikala kebele spend much of their time looking for water.   Now they can easily access clean water thanks to the multi-village water supply system built with UNICEF’s support.  ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

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.

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Boys and girls in Woiru Dikala kebele can grow healthily as they have unrestrained access to clean water. They can also attend school more regularly without worrying about fetching water. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

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.

Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia visits and inaugurates the UNICEF/DIFID supported community emergency water supply scheme at Woiru Dikala Kebele, Raya Kobo woreda, Amhara region.
Attending the inauguration of the new water system were Ato Woldetnsae Mekonnen, head of the Water, Irrigation and Energy Department for North Wollo Zone, Jane Bevan, UNICEF’s Rural WASH Manager, Ato Ayenew Belay, head of Amhara’s Bureau of Finance, Ato Kedir Mustefa, administrator of Raya Kobo woreda, Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Ato Yimer Habie, deputy head of Amhara’s Bureau of Water, Irrigation, and the Bureau of Energy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

 

EU’s Satellite images provide life saving water to drought affected communities in Ethiopia

By Samuel Godfrey

An ongoing UNICEF supported borehole drill in Musle Kebele of Kore Woreda.
An ongoing UNICEF supported borehole drill in Musle Kebele of Kore Woreda. The borehole drilling site was identified through combined remote sensing technology with conventional methodologies (hydrogeology and geophysics). © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Ethiopia is in the middle of an El Nino induced drought which has left 5.8 million people across the country without access to adequate water. More than 220 districts of Ethiopia are facing water related emergencies that arise due to either a lack of availability or quality of water.

As the WASH cluster lead, UNICEF supports the Government of Ethiopia and other partners in the rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of new water supply systems, provision of water purification and treatment chemicals, scaling up of water trucking activities, and provision of sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools. In addition, UNICEF is exploring innovative ways to use satellites to detect deep groundwater for large scale, multiple-village water supply systems. As part of the overall drought emergency response, UNICEF supports programmes in child protection, education, health and nutrition.

Groundwater, compared to rivers/lakes or other surface water, supplies 80 percent of all drinking water in Ethiopia. Water from the groundwater aquifers supports emergency water supply, urban water supply and livestock watering. With limited rains, many of these shallow groundwater wells have run dry and these communities rely on expensive commercial trucks to haul in water.

The more sustainable groundwater is located at extremely deep depths. In some cases, more than 300 metres below the ground which is the equivalent in height of the Empire State Building. To locate water that deep and then to drill and extract it is a major challenge.

Satellite image of Afar Elidar woreda Potential drilling sites
Satellite image of Afar Elidar woreda potential drilling sites

To tackle this problem, the European Union and UNICEF have selected 9 of the worst affected districts across Ethiopia to use ‘satellite’ technology to locate groundwater. The EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) are providing their expertise by availing ‘no cost’ satellite images which depict the physical and topographical characteristics of the districts from satellites 100s of KM in the sky. These are then combined by UNICEF hydrogeology experts to locate appropriate sites for the drilling of essential deepwells for drought affected communities.

Results to date are extremely encouraging that it should be expanded to a larger scale of the country. On a recent visit to a well sited using this technique in Afar, the UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake said “This approach is very cost-effective, compared to delivering water by truck. Indeed, every permanent well costs the equivalent of only three deliveries of water by truck.”

Mr. Lake added “This is only the beginning. With our partners in the European Union and the Government of Ethiopia we are expanding this effort through out the country, distributing water to villages, schools, health centres and cattle troughs.”

UNICEF would like to express its thanks to the European Union Delegation and the EU-JRC, for their establishment of a remote sensing partnership with UNICEF and providing the un-reserved support so far, which we believe to be strengthen and extended further in the future.

Innovative approaches like these are already showing results for boys and girls in the hard to reach areas of Ethiopia.

Dr. Samuel Godfrey is Chief of WASH for UNICEF Ethiopia, and has a PhD and MSc in Civil Engineering and Water and Waste Engineering.