Millions of people in Ethiopia do not have access to clean water, which causes serious health and economic problems. The severity of the water crisis inspired international organizations to engage with local communities and provide technology and resources to improve Ethiopia’s access to clean water. One of those organizations is charity: water, which has served more than three million Ethiopians during the past four years.
Water Crisis in Ethiopia
Millions of Ethiopians, like many in the region, suffer from a lack of access to clean water. A global database of water, sanitation and hygiene data, the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) published a report on the matter. According to the report, 31% of the Ethiopian population consumes unprotected water for daily use. Furthermore, another 28% of the population has limited access to clean water. Together, these figures account for 62 million people. The situation is particularly severe in rural parts of the country, where water shortages create serious health problems for villagers and their livestock.
Health Consequences of Inaccessible Clean Water
The lack of access to clean water has significant consequences on people’s health. During times of drought, when springs, ponds and other surface waters dry up, people are forced to look for alternative water sources. As a result, they often end up consuming water that is heavily contaminated with human and animal excrement and other environmental waste.
The consequence of consuming the contaminated water is widespread water-borne illnesses, particularly cholera and diarrhea. According to UNICEF, between 60-80% of communicable diseases in Ethiopia are caused by lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation. Moreover, approximately 50% of undernutrition cases are related to environmental factors, including inadequate hygiene. Open defecation and other sanitation-related issues cause fecal-oral diseases like diarrhea, which kills more than 70,000 children under the age of five every year.
Progress on Clean Water and Sanitation
Limited access to clean water and the consequences of inaccessibility have claimed countless Ethiopian lives. Due to the urgency of the crisis, the Ethiopian government and international organizations have been working tirelessly to improve the situation. As a result of their work, significant progress has been made. For example, in 2000, 75% of Ethiopians consumed unsafe drinking water. By 2015, that percentage had been reduced by 50% and continues to fall.
There has been notable progress in the sanitation facilities as well. In 2000, approximately 80% of the population was using the restroom outside and in the open. By 2017, the number was reduced to 22.35%. This was mainly achieved by developing constructions called “pit latrines.” “Pit latrines” are toilets usually built outside a house. They have four walls, a roof and a door to keep insects and flies out and reduce the spread of diseases.
Charity: Water and Gasi Spring Project
One organization’s work has had a massive impact on Ethiopia’s access to clean water — charity: water. The organization started working in Ethiopia in 2017. Since then, it has invested $99,120,769 and funded 10,425 projects that have served more than three million people.
One of the projects implemented by charity: water dealt with installing a protection system for Gasi spring. Gasi spring was a mud pit contaminated by excrement and was used by locals to gather water. Now, an installed concrete box protects Gasi’s pure water and sends it to water points where villagers can collect it. After installing the protection system, Gasi spring produced so much water that it was possible to establish a community shower, a washing station for clothes and a cattle trough for animals.
Founder and CEO of charity: water Scott Harrison recalled one instance of the organization’s impact. At the opening ceremony of Gasi’s new spring protection tank, a local health extension worker named Gedey told him that for the first time, villagers started building dish racks because they had a reason to keep dishes off the floor.
– Aleksandre Jgarkava