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Ethiopia: bringing clean water closer to the people

03-02-2009 Feature

Water shortage is a familiar problem in Gemahallo Province in northern Ethiopia. However for the residents of one district in the province, this will now be a thing of the past. The ICRC’s Zewdu Ayalew explains.

  © ICRC/Z. Ayalew    
  Tahtay Adi Abo, northern Ethiopia. A resident collecting water from a water point built recently by the ICRC.    
  © ICRC/Z. Ayalew    
  Tahtay Adi Abo, northern Ethiopia. A boy drinks water at a newly constructed water point.    
  © ICRC/Z. Ayalew    
  Tahtay Adi Abo, northern Ethiopia. A Camel quenches its thirst at a newly constructed water point.    

The residents of Gemahallo Province in the Tigray region are all smiles. The delight on their faces during a ceremony to hand over to them new water points says it all: having clean water close by is of enormous value to them.

Nor is the vital role the ICRC is playing in improving the life and well-being of the district’s rural community in this remote, mountainous part of northern Ethiopia lost on the residents.

Abeba Mashiu, a 50-year-old woman, spells out the difference the water points have made in the community: “In the past, fetching water took four to six hours. It was not uncommon to return home empty-handed. But now, with the construction of our new water point, the same task takes only 10 to 15 minutes”.

The new facilities are doing more than just saving residents the time spent fetching water. “They are also helping them save the money they would otherwise spend on medical treatment for family members who contract water-borne diseases”, Shewit Fisseha, a mother of three, explains.

 Pooling efforts for the good of the community  

Like many communities in other regions of Ethiopia, the people of Tahtay Adi Abo district have long suffered as a result of lack of access to safe drinking water. Indeed, ICRC assessments have confirmed the need for improved access to safe water in several provinces. The organization is committed to helping find a lasting solution to this problem.

To this purpose the ICRC set about building eight water points for various communities living in Tahtay Adi Abo district. Operating from its sub-delegation in Mekele, the organization first carried out exhaustive geological surveys of each site selected for the water projects.

The work on the projects was carried out in close cooperation with the authorities and the communities who stood to benefit. All concerned – the ICRC, the authorities and communities – were committed to the timely completion of the water projects. The communities chipped in by improving roads to the construction sites.

The handover ceremony was the culmination of these concerted efforts.

Constructed within six months, six boreholes and two hand-dug wells provide safe drinking water to nearly 11,000 residents of Tahtay Adi Abo district. The people no longer have to rely on seasonal rivers and unsafe open wells for their drinking water.

The ICRC also assisted in repairing 88 hand pumps in various regions of the Tigray Regional State. It supported the Tahtay Adi Abo district’s Rural Water Office by training community members in operating and maintaining the new water points.

But the people are not the only ones benefiting from the organization’s initiatives. The water points were constructed in a manner to prevent water wastage by ensuring that spillages are drained off and stored for use by livestock. 

Because of the importance of access to clean water, the ICRC is set to extend its programme to help make the commodity available to other communities in the region.