UNICEF – Making A Difference in Ethiopia

Multiple benefits from clean water

By Roger Childs

There has been an economic and social revolution in part of Amhara Province in Ethiopia. In the past fetching clean water was a very lengthy task.

One woman said she sometimes spent 17 hours day! lugging 20 litre containers through forests, to and from a fresh water source.

Girls would often help their mothers and consequently miss out on schooling.

The alternative was to use the stream close by which is polluted, full of rubbish, insect-ridden and likely to cause disease.

Now with a piped system the people have clear, healthy water.

The Lega Multi-Village Water Supply Project

A bequest from a Remuera woman of well over $NZ 1,000,000 has helped to pay for the new scheme. Bores up to 300m deep have been drilled in places identified as the best artesian sources by satellite technology. The water is piped to wells and is pumped into drums and small reservoirs.

The pumps have been using diesel fuel and there is now a scheme unfolding to move to solar power to reduce the carbon footprint.

Today the safe, reliable water can be accessed quickly from a tap, and the collection is monitored by village committees largely run by women. Users pay a small fee to fill their containers.

Access to the clean water is staggered by village.

The new system supplies –

  • 5 villages
  • 25,000 people
  • schools used by 6,500 students.

Huge benefits

The new safe, convenient system has far-reaching benefits. There has been a reduction in

  • back problems
  • miscarriages
  • malnutrition
  • diarrhoea
Residents fetch water at a water point in Amari Yewebesh Kebele in Amhara Region of Ethiopia 3 July, 2013. (Photo by Jiro Ose)

Girls are now in school all day and have their own toilets. Generally there is much improved health across the age spectrum.

The development of the new water project has been supported by the national and regional government.

There are however some concerns over foreign use of Ethiopia’s limited water supplies.

The Chinese have been building roads and railways but are also running down aquifers with their cash crop production in some areas.

Also the Dutch have been growing tulips for export and use very little local labour.

(This article is based on noes from a talk given recently at Southwards by Vivien Maidaborn, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ)








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