The Water Crisis in Ethiopia

The need for water and sanitation in Ethiopia is severe. Just under half of the population has access to an improved water supply, and only 21% of the population has access to adequate sanitation services.

Water & Sanitation

In rural Ethiopia, women and children walk up to six hours to collect water. Most people collect water from shallow, unprotected ponds which they share with animals. Other people collect water from shallow wells. Both of these sources are subject to contamination as rain water washes waste from surrounding areas into the source. The jugs women use to carry water back to the village weigh up to 40 pounds! Often, young children are left at home while their mother and older siblings collect water and their fathers work.

In the last 20 years, Ethiopia has experienced recurring droughts followed by food shortages and famines. During times of drought, water-related diseases are rampant. Surface water sources such as springs and ponds dry up. Remaining water sources are heavily contaminated by environmental waste, such as human and animal excreta, which is washed in when it does rain. The stagnant water serves as a breeding place for mosquitoes.

In times of drought, there is often not enough water available for people to bathe regularly. As a result, community members, especially children, suffer from scabies and eye infections. During these times, in an effort to conserve water, hand-washing after defecation or before eating is rarely practiced. Diarrheal and water-related diseases are among the principle causes of death in young children.

More Facts

  • Over half the population have no choice but to collect dirty water from unsafe sources.
  • Ethiopia is in the Horn of Africa, where an extended period of droughts, famines and conflicts has had a serious impact on health and life expectancy. Many children die before the age of five.
  • Most people in Ethiopia make a living through farming. Without water they cannot grow the crops they need to feed and support their families. 
  • Many communities lack such basics as a safe water source and simple toilets. Poor roads make it difficult to reach remote villages and low water tables present additional challenges.
  • 43.4M people in Ethiopia don't have access to safe water. This is over half of the population.
  • Over 67 million people don't have access to adequate sanitation in Ethiopia, almost four-fifths of the population.
  • Around 33,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Ethiopia.

The Water4 Solution in Ethiopia

ROCThis past year was one of learning curves as we moved from planning to production in our first two Regional Operating Centers (ROCs) in Ghana and Ethiopia. These ROCs are in-country manufacturing facilities that will employ dozens of men and women with jobs in well drilling, parts manufacturing, and general operations to further our work throughout Africa.

In addition to this impact, the profits from the Ethiopian facility will benefit 140 orphans in that region.

This groundbreaking initiative with our partner World Vision is the first of its kind, and therefore requires adaptability as we have transitioned from planning mode to discovery mode, learning how the concept works in-country. Throughout the year, the model was regularly modified to develop a standard operating procedure based on the in-country experience we were gaining.

The goal is to introduce a sustainable approach to providing clean water for communities through a service delivery model.  Through this model, communities pay a small, incremental fee for the ROC to monitor and service the wells within the village. Having a local maintenance service ensures the continued functionality of the well, bringing us one step closer to our goal of eradicating the world water crisis by putting the solution in the hands of the local people.

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