ACCES TO FRESH WATER
The Water & Sanitation Crisis
Ethiopia is a nation full of beauty and culture. However it is being severely affected by water shortages. Fields are drying up and farmers are fighting over irrigation resources. Children in villages are losing out on education and instead are spending their days collecting water for their families
Ethiopia boasts a population of about 83 million people and which only 38 percent have access to safe drinking water sources and only 12 percent of the population use improved sanitation facilities. Ethiopia has found itself in an extreme water crisis situation, brought on mainly by severe drought, little governmental funding and assistance, and lack of water management and sanitation resources.
In the past twenty years, droughts have affected several areas of the country, leading to ponds, wells, streams and lakes drying up or becoming very shallow. Many people living in Ethiopia collect water from these shallow water sources, which are often contaminated with human and animal waste, worms, or disease. There is not enough water for people to bathe, leading to infections and sickness in children.
In addition to illness, many Ethiopian children, especially girls, face problems with school. Statistically 65% of kids are put to work collecting water each morning and help their families earn money.
However, not all children face these circumstances. There is no social justice and equity in Ethiopia because the very few people in the country with money have access to fresh water, with the rest having to suffer and live in poverty.
In an interview with an Ethiopian Israeli named Liat, she described her experiences as a child and young teenager growing up in one of Ethiopia's small villages as comfortable and joyful. Her and her family lived in Ethiopia until she was 15 and then they immigrated to Israel; now she is 23 years old and has yet to go back. While in Ethiopia, Liat would go every morning with her mother to collect water from the nearby stream. Unlike some Ethiopian families, no one in her family ever got sick from the water they were drinking. "We lived in a natural environment," said Liat, "we never thought about diseases in the water, we just lived off the land." Unlike eight years ago when Liat last lived in Ethiopia, many more families are now affected by the looming water shortages. Additionally, Liat lived without running water, electricity, a toilet or shower. The first time she saw these things and experienced an indoor bathroom was when she immigrated to Israel. Although Liat would never move back to Ethiopia, she wants to visit and experience her roots and see where her family came from.
Egyptian Water Minister Dr Mahmoud Abu-Zeid accused rich nations of “turning their backs on the poor” by failing to provide massive financial support.
He said without enormous financial backing and political commitment from African leaders and impoverished nations "We will never escape the vicious cycle of poverty”.
Dr Abu-Zeid also called upon African countries to ensure peace and security by working together to avoid the threat of disputes sparked by water shortages.
He also challenged African governments to “put their money where their mouth is” and commit five percent of their national budgets to funding water projects.
Luckily, there does seem to be hope along the way for the people of Ethiopia, with many organizations around the world focusing their efforts for a better and cleaner tomorrow.
World Vision and Water.org are dedicated to finding solutions for Ethiopia, by raising money and establishing water and sanitation resources in parts of the country that will help to slowly get rid of the water problems once and for all. However, these organizations are not an end all solution to Ethiopia’s problems and more needs to be done in every aspect to end the crisis once and for all.
What about the Ethipoian government?
Due to their struggles with famine, poverty, and drought, the country of Ethiopia received help and assistance from outside groups and non-profit organizations for many years. However, after a significant drought in 2008 plastered Ethiopia’s problems all over the world the Ethiopian government decided that the negative attention towards their country could be avoided if they took matters into their own hands. In 2009, Ethiopia’s parliament decided to pass a new law that would regulate charities and foreign humanitarian groups coming into the country and offering assistance.
This law categorized a foreign group as an organization, local or not, that received more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad.
This new law restricted many organizations like World Vision and Water.Org from being able to enter the country and officially provide the Ethiopian population with water resources and sanitation. These groups specifically bring water resources such as wells and irrigation systems, along with sanitation practices and buildings to allow the changes to be maintained and improved for years to come.