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

 

UNIVERSAL or UNIVERSALITY – it’s all part of the ONEWASH

By H.E. Ato Motuma Mekassa (Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity and Chair of the ONEWASH Steering Committee)

Mekdes Zewdu drinks water from a newly built water point by UNICEF with the support of DFATD.
Mekdes Zewdu drinks water from a newly built water. Since the UNICEF-supported pump was installed two weeks ago, life has changed dramatically. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Sewunet

The World has endorsed the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 which is the master world document till 2030. The SDGs are “pushing” us all as water and sanitation professionals to look beyond the “low hanging fruits” of the MDGs and start working for water supply, sanitation and hygiene provision in urban areas, remote rural settlements and in rapidly expanding small and medium size towns. The SDGs are also demanding us to think “universally” and to bring technological and social engineering solutions for everyone, everywhere…always.

So comes to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Ministerial Meeting in Addis Ababa in March 2016. My Government (the Government of Ethiopia) are hosting this event as it presents an opportunity for us as Ethiopians to show how we have tried to practice a universal access plan for all, everywhere…always. Our ONEWASH national programme was launched during the Millennium Development Goal era in 2013 and we set out to rapidly scale up WASH services to our population by aligning ourselves and our partners around a ONEWASH programme with ONE plan, ONE budget and ONE report. So far, progress has been good and Ethiopia was able to declare that it had reached the MDG Goal 7c target 10 for water supply last year in 2015. We as Ethiopians are proud to share this experience during the SWA meeting in March.

However, looking forward, the SWA platform also provides us an excellent opportunity to take the Ministerial participants to visit our beautiful country and to see some of our work in the field. One area we are working hard to address is water supply and sanitation services in emerging small and medium size towns.  We call it URBAN WASH and it is very new for us. Until 2013, most of our people resided in rural areas. However now, our government is promoting a Growth and Transformation Plan-II (GTP)-II in which we are promoting small and medium towns as HUBS for industrial and manufacturing development….so naturally, more people (particularly our YOUTH) are migrating to our towns to work in enterprises. These all need water supply and sanitation that is appropriate and affordable. I therefore proud to say that we have partnered with the Government of Brazil and UNICEF to bring in new financial regulation and urban sanitation models to address this need.

I am personally looking forward to the SWA meeting in March and I hope to see you there.