Although the situation is improving, many people in remote indigenous communities still lack access to safe drinking water. The limited availability of fresh water and high delivery costs to rural areas are some of the factors that keep communities from progressing.
Bekero is a small village located in Banqokotu, a rural “kebele” of Wonago district. On a typical day, men go out to work while women spend hours walking to fetch water from rivers and springs.
On average, women in Bekero make the trip twice a day, carrying up to 25 litres of water per day. Thus, the water they collect is the absolute minimum required for survival and is usually used only for drinking. Little, if any, is left for personal hygiene and cleaning the home.
Drinking unsafe water
Community water supply systems are rare, and of the few that do exist, most are non-functioning. Hand pumps, hand-dug wells, and boreholes often fail because of poor design and construction.
Tessema Wayu is a 40-year-old resident of Bekero village, where the water pump has been inactive for the last 3 years. Left with no other option, the community collects water from a stream an hour away. “My wife collects water from the stream twice a day, 12 litres each time,” Tessema says. “People take a bath and wash clothes in the same stream, so we don’t expect it to be clean, but we drink from this source anyway as we don’t have many options.”
Nazreth Tesfaye, Tessema’s wife, agrees. “Women are the ones who bear the burden of fetching water for the house and we face many challenges. The queue by the stream is very long. Sometimes it takes me half the day to bring back water to our home and this leaves me with little time to tend to my other chores."
Water committees ensuring well maintenance
In response to this situation, People in Need (PIN), with co-funding from the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid, has rehabilitated 10 shallow wells in the Gedeo and West Guji Zones. Some of these areas host internally-displaced people. Bekero village was one of the sites chosen for well rehabilitation, giving families like Tessemas’s access to the requisite quantities of clean water.
Easier access to safe drinking water reduces the risks of waterborne diseases, improves sanitation and hygiene, and decreases the exposure of women to violence, leading to an improvement in the communities’ overall wellbeing.
© People in Need, 2021
To this end, a local committee has been formed in Bekero village to maintain the newly-rehabilitated well and to create a sense of community ownership. PIN also provided training to increase the community’s understanding of the need for safe water.
Tessema says: “Now the well has been fixed and we are very happy. To ensure it doesn’t fail again, we have formed a strong water committee. The community can take two jerry cans of water for a small fee and we keep this money for regular check-ups and future repairs.”
Her husband, Tesfaye, adds: “Life is much easier now that we have a clean water source right outside our houses. I have more time to take care of our home and children.”