Bringing sustainable water and sanitation to communities in Ethiopia

Almost 400 million people currently have no access to clean drinking water and around 700 million people have no access to basic sanitary facilities such as toilets, sinks and showers in Africa.

One of our priorities is ensuring that whole communities can access clean water and sanitation facilities. What makes Amref Health Africa stand out from the other organizations building wells in Africa, we have a three-pronged approach that ensures that our impact lasts for generations to come.

Did you know it only costs $25 to build a protected spring that can provide up to eight families with clean water?

Our approach to ensuring communities access clean water and sanitation:

  • Building water and sanitation facilities – We hire and train local artisans to build WASH (water and sanitation) infrastructure using local, readily available materials to bring access to clean water and sanitation directly to communities eliminating the need to walk far distances

  • Training the community to manage each WASH facility – The community pays a small, affordable fee to use the facilities. In addition to training local artisans to repair them, we also train WASH committees – members of the community who manage the use of the facilities, maintain cleanliness, and manage the finances of the facilities to ensure that they are sustainable.

  • Providing education on health and hygiene – We train volunteers in the community to visit their neighbors or hold group discussions where they educate them on preventing diseases and illness through clean and hygienic habits

Another positive result of this approach is that it is creating jobs and empowering women as contributors and leaders in their community. Women and girls are disproportionately affected when it comes to water. They are the ones responsible for walking long distances to fetch enough water for the rest of the family which often takes several hours, eating up the time they could use on education and income-generating activities.

We brought access to clean water and sanitation to the people of Metehara, Ethiopia, a town in central Ethiopia. At Metehara, we built a WASH facility that has toilets, sinks, showers and water taps in November 2018. The facility is also powered by solar panels so that it can be used at night.

Genet is one of seven women we trained to be in the WASH committee to maintain, sustain and facilitate the infrastructure we built. Genet is the mother of three boys and lives near the facility. Her role in the WASH committee is as secretary. She looks after the financial administration and buys and sells soap and other hygiene products. Genet reports to the chairwoman of the committee – a woman named Tirngo – who manages the money generated by the community’s use of the facility. This way, there is no financial strain if something needs repair or needs to be replaced. The facility has become a real business and has made a huge impact on the life of Genet and her community.

Genet tells us, “The area is clean. There is no open defecation and odor anymore. The people are healthy and have no diseases.” Before, Genet used to fetch water from a water tap that was 4 miles away. She would go three times a week with her oldest son to get water which was very difficult. Not only did she have to walk 8 miles back and forth, but the jerrycans filled with water were very heavy and they couldn’t afford transportation to help carry them back. Genet tells us, “I wanted my boys to go to university, so I knew I needed change. The opportunity to work at the facility changed my life completely.”

I’m very happy with this work and have a better day to day routine. This job has made a huge impact on my life and on the community,” she continues. As a member of the WASH committee, she feels very proud because she used to sit at home as a housewife and didn’t feel important enough to participate in any community meetings. She and the other women in the WASH committee now meet once a week to discuss the business and anything that needs improvements. They also discuss personal issues, creating a network of support for Genet that she previously did not have.

Genet’s goal now is to grow in her position and as a person in her community. She would like to engage in more town hall meetings and would like to educate more children about clean water, how to prevent diseases, and to live a healthy life.

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