Making Waves in Ethiopia

The average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water each day. That is equal to almost two full bathtubs, or 54,750 litres per person each year.

I suspect the figure will be similar across Europe and much of the Western world. We can easily just turn on the tap any time we get thirsty. We put the dishwasher on, hop in the shower or do our laundry whenever the mood strikes. It’s a convenience most of us rarely stop to consider, myself included.

But as you’ve no doubt gathered from all we’ve seen throughout the #Faces2Hearts journey, this isn’t the case for everyone. Many people around the world struggle to access clean drinking water. In sub-Saharan Africa 319 million people still do not have access to clean water, the most of any region (source). This sad trend is evident in Ethiopia, where more than half of the population lives under the absolute poverty line.

This problem is particularly pressing in rural areas, just like the one I got to visit during my first month on the continent. The wareda (district) of Arsi Negelle in the Oromia region has struggled with poor sanitation and access to drinking water for a long time.

But thanks to the European Union’s (EU) funding, the country has been able to develop its Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) movement, reaching far away communities like this one. Through the help of Welt Hunger Hilfe and locally the Bole Bible Baptist Church the strides they have made are truly inspiring.

The population of these lowlands used to be nomadic, forced to resettle every few months in desperate search of water. Now, thanks to easy access to clean drinking water, they have been able to settle down and become more stable.

In the pictures above you can see their homes and even the local mosque, painted in lovely vivid colours that stand out beautifully against the backdrop of sand and dry vegetation. This new lifestyle has made a world of a difference to their children’s lives, enabling them to go to school and pursue an education.

The good news doesn’t stop there though. Because what happens when educated children – particularly girls – grow up? They shape their communities for generations to come. Educated parents ensure their offspring follow in their footsteps, or better yet exceed whatever achievements they themselves were able to attain.

The benefits of the WASH project do not stop there. The incidence of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD)/cholera has gone away since the implementation of the project. This disease has claimed numerous lives – last year’s cholera outbreak in the Horn of Africa resulted in more than a thousand deaths.

There’s a reason why all religions in the world seem to elevate water to a near-holy status. It has the power to give life, and in its absence nothing can thrive. Programmes like this one do not provide short term benefits – they transform communities and give them the power to change their story for generations to come.

All it takes is one reservoir, a functioning well, and the ripples it causes in the fabric of society will make waves for centuries.

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