Print     Close

An Ethiopian Odyssey

March 2004

Chapter 12 - Water for life

Out on the road with WaterAid, in chapter 12 ‘Water for life’, I describe the field trip to some of their rural projects in south eastern Ethiopia. We visited communities with and without water.

….. “Parking by the cactus fence, we waited for someone to appear. A teenage boy put his head outside the gate. He ushered us in after Endris Adulmegid, the project manager of WaterAid’s community scheme, explained why we were there. By this time, several people had ventured outside their tukuls (mud huts), and the sound of bleating goats greeted us. Young kids stood crying for their mothers in a small enclosure by a tukul. All around us, everything was bare except for some scrub. On top of the tukuls’ roofs stood small crescents, the sign of a Muslim community.

The villagers brought out seats and a small table so we could sit in the shade of the largest tukul and talk. A tall, ebony-skinned man stepped forward and shook my hand. He was Mamali and told me that he had a wife and two teenage children. He described their daily routine without water to me.

“Our whole life is concentrated on finding water; the women and children collecting water have to leave the kebele at 7am with the donkeys. They take two 25 litre cans with them; usually they arrive about tenam and each family takes it in turns to fill up the cans, load the donkeys and perhaps wash some clothes or wash themselves. They return about 2pm, which leaves very little time to prepare the fresh food for injera and watt. It also means that even if we could afford to send all the children to school, we have to keep at least one at home to help with fetching water.

“The water isn’t good; animals drink from it and sometimes there are dead dogs or goats upstream which we can’t see. There are little worms in the water and even after boiling, they can get into our stomachs and make us ill, particularly the young children. Also, we have to give the donkeys a rest every other day; the jerry cans cut into their flesh and we must allow it time to heal between trips.”

Print     Close