Changing the Story in Ethiopia

“Our children often had very serious diarrhea and we had to take them to health stations. That highly damaged our income and took our productive time. Thanks to God and your organization, now the Lord healed us.” – Tayibe, water committee member 

Children in the impoverished region of Oromiya, Ethiopia, begin their lives in a difficult place. In a country where the childhood mortality rate is nearly 10 percent, most parents worry about helping their sons and daughters survive their first five years of life. Many walk for miles to provide them with water — whatever kind of water they can find.

In 2009, only one out of every three people had access to potable water sources in the project area. Little more than half the population, approximately 55%, had access to adequate sanitation. Because of this, at any given time nearly one in three children had life-threatening diarrhea.

The Ethiopian government responded by installing wells in some communities, but their scarce resources simply could not meet the demand for clean water. Government officials began referring requests to DASSC, Lifewater’s church-based partner with longtime roots in the area. Like the general population, most of the officials were Muslim, but they knew that DASSC had the cultural knowledge, water development skills, and outside connections needed to bring water to thirsty communities.

Lifewater, working with the government and DASSC, implemented a 3-year, comprehensive mWASH project in four districts of the Oromiya region. As a result, 125 water systems have been established, including wells with hand pumps, capped springs, and rainwater catchment systems. Nearly 90,000 individuals now collect safe water from sources within 1 mile of their home, which has resulted in dramatically improved health and well-being.

For the individuals who gained safe water, diarrheal rates have been reduced from an average of 78% to 20%.

In addition to reaching tens of thousands with safe water, Lifewater DASSC conducted workshops for a total of 40,000 individuals in which they built demonstration latrines out of local materials and taught how the bathrooms will prevent most of the diarrhea and disease that were reaching such alarming levels. Workshop participants began building latrines on their own. When the project was evaluated in 2013, a total of 3,932 existing latrines had been improved and more than 11,730 household latrines were built — with no outside funding.

This is the impact for which we strive: relieving suffering, improving long-term health, and showing families and communities that with knowledge and accountability, they can help themselves.