A UNICEF rural water and sanitation programme ensures a healthy life in Ethiopia

By Araya Mengistu

Misra Redwan unloads a water jerican she just collected from a newly built water point
Misra Redwan unloads a water jerrycan she just collected from a newly built water point by UNICEF with the support of DFATD. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Sewunet

For the community in Lode Lemofo Kebele, Sire Woreda in the Arsi Zone of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, access to water was an ongoing problem. During the annual dry seasons in this hot, low-land area, community members had to walk for hours under a blazing sun just to get water.

In January 2016, the communities of Lode Lemofo and neighbouring Chenge Kebeles have seen a marked improvement in their day-to-day lives, thanks to a water supply project that was commissioned and constructed with UNICEF support. About 6,500 people in two Kebeles, particularly the 3,250 women and girls who are usually charged with collecting water for household use, are reaping the benefits of improved access to clean and safe water, including increased school attendance among children.

Yesunesh lives with her husband Getachew, and 10 year old daughter Genet and 2 year old son Samuel in Lode Lemofo
Yesunesh lives with her husband Getachew, and 10 year old daughter Genet and 2 year old son Samuel in Lode Lemofo. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Sewunet

Lode Lemofo community member Yesunesh, mother of 10-year-old Genet and two-year-old Samuel, says, “Fetching water used to be the most demanding task we had to endure on a daily basis. Sometimes we had to do it twice a day. It is very tiring and takes up to three hours to and from the river. At times it is also dangerous, because sometimes hyenas try to attack us or our donkeys.”

The lack of access to water also affected health centres and schools.  Communities had to support the provision of water in these facilities themselves. Visiting patients and members of neighbouring households carried water to health centres while school girls and boys carried water to school on a daily basis.

All this has changed when the new water supply scheme became operational. The scheme draws its source from a 265-metre deep well and includes 16 kilometres of pipe network, 11 water distribution points and a 100,000-litre reservoir. One primary school and one health centre have also been connected to the water distribution system.

Yesunesh underscores the difference the scheme has made, saying, “All that suffering is now gone. My girl Genet – as you have seen – can get the water we need for cooking and other household use in less than ten minutes.”

Health centres can now provide better care to community members, particularly pregnant women, while boys and girls are better able to learn at school.

In total, 24 other Woredas in Oromia Regional State are benefitting from UNICEF’s water and sanitation programme. This is part of the overall progress in water and sanitation in Ethiopia, where 57 per cent of the population now relies on improved water supply sources such as water taps or hand pumps, rather than unprotected and risky sources such as rivers and streams. This increased access to clean and safe water has benefitted the children of Ethiopia tremendously, contributing to the reduction of under-five child mortality by two-thirds and the significant reduction of child stunting.

Water and Energy Nexus: Workshop discusses the linkages of water and energy on World Water Day (WWD 2014)

By Demissew Bizuwerk

State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba delivering a keynote speech on World Water Day at Desalegn Hotel Addis Ababa.
State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba delivering a keynote speech on World Water Day. The Sate Minister highlighted that the Government of Ethiopia is facilitating the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bring ministries and sectors, leading the way to interlinked energy security and sustainable water use. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

In commemoration of World Water Day (WWD) 2014, a workshop discussed the linkages of water and energy on 21 March 2014 at Desalegn Hotel Addis Ababa. Participants from the Ministry of Water Irrigation and Energy, UNICEF, Hilton Foundation, and other stakeholders also drew attention on addressing inequities, for people who live in slums and impoverished rural areas and survive with little access to sufficient food, safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and energy services.

State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba said, “The Government of Ethiopia aims to facilitate the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bring together ministries and sectors, leading the way to inter-linked energy security and sustainable water use in a green economy”. He also noted that Ethiopia is working hard towards achieving its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) for water and irrigation sector. According to the GTP plan, a household in the rural area, has to have a supply of about 15 liters of safe water per person per day in 1.5 km radius.

Dr Samuel Godfrey’s presentation of the 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR)
Dr Samuel Godfrey’s presentation of the 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR) stressed that those who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation are often the same people who also lack access to energy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

UNICEF Ethiopia Chief of Water and Environmental Sanitation, Dr Samuel Godfrey, presents the highlights of the UN flagship report on water: 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR). The report provides a detailed analysis of the complex inter-linkages between water and energy in the context of sustainable development.  According to the report, more than 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, and nearly 2.6 billion use solid fuels (mainly biomass) for cooking. In addition, those who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation are often the same people who also lack access to energy.

The 2014 WWD celebration has the objective of raising awareness on the relationship between water and energy. Moreover, improving water and sanitation as well as conservation and proper use of water is vital for life.

WWD has been observed globally since 1993 and in Ethiopia since 1994. The UN General Assembly in 1992 declared March 22 as “World Day for Water” following its environmental and development conference held in Rio de Janeiro, also known as the Rio declaration on Environment and Development.