Giving access to clean water
Almost a third of the diseases reported in the district come from dirty drinking water, poor sanitation or poor hygiene.
In 2009 nearly half of families get their water from open pools shared with farm animals.
Water for the house is collected by women and girls, often walking several miles carrying a 20 litre plastic water can on their backs. It is often dirty water.
For the women the hours spent carrying water, or tending to children who are ill from the dirty water, is time taken from working on the farm. For the girls it is time when they could be at school.
The annual rainfall in Jidda is greater than that of the Welsh Borders but 75% of this rain falls in July, August and September.
Most houses have thatched roofs. Schools and clinics with tin roofs could catch water but because the rain falls mainly in one season it is not practical to store it and keep it clean in the quantities required for the rest of the year.
However, some water soaks into the ground and is stored there - and kept clean. The community can dig by hand through rock for up to 15m but outside technical help is needed to construct reliable wells with hand-pumps.
In 2009 were told that there was no clean water near to most schools and outlying health facilities.
SUNARMA (www.sunarma.org) were about to embark on a major project centered on access to water for small-scale irrigation and farm animals as well as for drinking.
We offered to fund six extra wells and asked them to identify locations where water was needed close to schools and health posts.
Focusing on these places gets clean water to families and to the trained people who are teaching the community about its importance for health.
SUNARMA manages the work, hiring specialist contractors, helping the community to organise its contribution and training people to maintain the pump.
The community's contribution includes unskilled labour - digging and carrying away the spoil - and any locally sourced materials such as building stone and wood for the fence.
Digging starts in October after the rains. The wells are taken to their deepest point when the groundwater level is at its lowest near the end of the dry season. The lining and capping then needs to be completed before the rains start. This limits the number of wells that the team can complete each year.
Long term-management, including collecting small payments to cover maintenance, is the responsibility a committee which SUNARMA help set up. Local government staff provide technical assistance such as periodic disinfecting of the well.
The whole 'package' includes extra training in the safe use of water, hygiene and in the construction of improved sanitation facilities.
This water is additional to that from the existing open pools which is still available for farm animals, small-scale irrigation and other non-domestic uses.
The yield of these wells is small (6 - 8 litres/minute) but because people live in isolated hamlets it is enough to cover the basic needs of the 250 or so people who live within about 2km of a well.
Two one-hour round trips per day will provide a typical family with 8 litres per person - half of what people carrying water shorter distances usually manage with and a temptation to use some dirty water from nearer to home.
On average a home in United Kingdom uses 150 litres/person/day - although if carrying it from a tap on a campsite it is much less.
In January 2012 we visited two of the wells to see them in action and take part in small ceremonies organized by the community. Speeches were made by village elders and chairmen of the 'pump committees' .
At one well the local Health Extension Worker (young women responsible for health education) spoke passionately, in English, of the importance of clean water for health.
The elders said that there had been a marked improvement in health and that now people understood the different between clean and dirty water they needed more (SUNARMA field staff said that they were also asking for it for their animals).
Following the success of the first phase of wells and the enthusiastic co-operation of the community SUNARMA were hoping to add extra wells nearby to increase capacity and reduce the walking times for some women.
We agreed to fund three of these and when passing by one of them in 2013 we were 'intercepted' by a group of men and invited in for coffee and bread. See video at left.
We did not fund clean water between 2013 and 2017.
In late 2017 we decided that although education and health facilities still had many needs things were improving and larger charities were taking an interest. We judged that improving access to clean water was the most direct way of improving health (and getting girls to school). In 2018-19 we funded 6 more wells via SUNARMA. We saw two in construction and dropped in on one of the first wells that we funded, finding it still in good condition and full use.
The number of beneficiaries per well has dropped slightly (to 200 - 250) because people are getting a little more water a little closer to home.
SHEPEthiopia is a working name for the "Support for Health and Education Projects in Ethiopia", UK charity No. 1161261
Page updated 13/06/2019