World Water Day 2013

News and Press Release
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There are 783 million people worldwide who don't have accessible clean water to drink and Aeylech Tomas is one of them.

When we met her in the Ethiopian village of Kisho, she was sitting under a tree, out of the punishing sun, looking tired and bothered.

When she explained what it involves to get decent drinking water, it was easy to see why she was so fed-up.

‘It takes me a long time to get clean water,’ said the mother-of-two. ‘I walk slowly for over an hour. I get so tired as there are so many hills.’

Sometimes the prospect of walking and carrying jerry cans full of water for more than two miles is just too much for 30-year-old Aeylech and she succumbs to getting supplies from somewhere closer but with its own risks.


‘I know drinking from the pond is bad because the water is muddy and gives us diseases. Me and my children don’t have a healthy life; drinking from the pond makes us vomit and gives us diarrhoea; but the pond is much closer than the water pipe.’

The trouble is the pond isn’t just used by humans; livestock runs freely around the area, which is at least 12 miles from the nearest main road and 180 miles south of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Her sentiments are shared by Worqe Meride who lives in neighbouring Jermana village. She also reveals another issue about walking miles to get water: ‘Because clean water is so far away, I have to walk through the bush and there are snakes there. I am very frightened of getting bitten.’

Worqe too can vouch for the health-sapping dangers of drinking from a pond, as her son Israel, aged ten, gets stomach bugs as a result.

She has to take him to the clinic for medicines which are expensive in family budget terms. Treatment costs the equivalent of 50p but for Worqe that’s a day’s earnings as a farm labourer in the fields nearby.

Big killer

Preventable though it is, diarrhoea is still one of the biggest cause of death for children under five in Ethiopia, beating malaria and HIV.

And it could well remain that way for a long time as access to improved water points varies widely depending on where you live in Ethiopia. There’s 97 per cent coverage in urban areas but just 34 per cent in rural areas.

Many miles away from Kisho and Jermana, 70-year-old Guta Wajra remembers similar nightmare water experiences to those of Aeylech and Worqe.

But a project by a Tearfund partner, the Kale Heywet Church, has released him and other villagers in Roge Atebela from a perpetual cycle of illness.

Our partner has also trained villagers about hygiene and sanitation and many families have built latrines.

Pointing to a nearby well, he said, ‘When we got this safe water point, about four years ago, we were so happy; I can’t find the words to tell you how happy we were.’

More than a thousand people now use it, no longer spending hours trekking for supplies elsewhere, and the church has helped locals form a water management committee, of which Guta is a member, to look after its upkeep.

Guta feels the church's help has made a huge difference to the community's life: ‘They told us to wash our hands with soap or wash before eating and trained us for five days before this water point was opened. We now know that if we don't do this, diseases spread.'