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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ethiopia: The miraculous is simple

Often, a short conversation with a person who has benefited from gaining access to clean water is enough to bring the purpose of HOPE International Development Agency’s clean water programme into sharp relief.

On a recent visit to Dereshe district, in Ethiopia’s hardscrabble south, a woman named Kitodeh told a HOPE staff member her story...

I am 43 years old. I have 8 children, four boys, four girls.

During the rainy season, I used to get water from the river, but in the dry season, I had to dig in the stream to find any. It took me two hours to walk there, and two hours back. The water was too dirty, but I had no other choice. Animals and people bathe there.

Now, I only have to walk a few meters to collect water from our water point. It’s like a miracle to have water next door. It is also very good quality—I can shower, drink, wash and give my cattle water and none of us get sick.

I used to have one 20 litre jug to fill and we had to use it very sparingly or we would run out. Now we can use five 20 litre jugs.

HOPE staff taught us how to use the system and if we have problems, people in the village know how to repair them.

Asayno, in a neighbouring village, had this to share...

I am 44. I had 14 children, but 6 of them died.

The water we used to collect was so dirty. We tried to put rocks around it to protect it from the mud but it didn’t work. There would always be a long line-up, and never enough to go around. We were always sick and we never knew why.

Now the water is 1 minute away. And Praise the Lord: it is of good quality and we are all healthy again.

Clean water is so simple that it seems almost negligible when you consider all of the glamorously complex solutions to suffering that are proposed. Yet few investments so modest (HOPE’s average cost to provide a person with clean water for life is $60) yield dividends like this:

  • Four to six hours per day of extra time not spent walking or waiting in line.
  • Enough water to bathe as well as escape dehydration.
  • A productive, well-watered vegetable garden.
  • An 80% drop in sicknesses among your family members.
  • Most importantly: children who live to become adults.

Kitodeh is right. It’s a miracle.

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