The rainy season has ended in southern Ethiopia and the long period of thirst has begun. People in the remote villages of Borena region, and in particular, women make day-long journeys for water.
“I used to travel all the way to the top of the mountain and then all the way down to fetch water. I left at 6 AM and came back around 6 PM. I walked all this time just to fetch one jerrycan of water,” remembers Loko, a single mother of five children. “[And the] water was contaminated. The water was not enough for my children, not enough for our drinking, not enough for our daily living. We suffered a lot in the past.”
All on her own, even months pregnant, she walked 12 hours daily carrying heavy containers of water that barely lasted through the day.
“I didn’t have a donkey to carry the water, so for that long distance, I carried the container on my back. When I arrived home, I was tired and had no energy to prepare food. I was very tired and needed to rest for a few hours, but all that time my children were hungry. Sometimes I didn’t even have anything to cook for them, so I asked around to my neighbors.”
All day long, Loko’s children were home alone. Most people in her village made the same trek for water that she did, and those who did not, left early in search of grass for their cattle, so Loko had no one to turn to for help with childcare.
“I suffered a lot because I’m alone and I have five children,” says Loko. She left food for them to eat while she was away, but they would finish it hours before she returned. She constantly worried for their wellbeing.
When Loko finally returned home, she had to ration her one jerrycan of water. The limited supply of water was only used for activities strictly necessary for survival – bathing and washing clothes were often out of the question.
“I only used that water for cooking and drinking. In fact, in the past, we only washed our clothes when it rained,” recalls Loko.
Action Against Hunger stepped in to help Loko’s village by installing a new water point and large reservoir. Now, the community has continuous access to clean, safe water. “Our suffering has been completely reduced,” says Loko.
The first day the community could use the water point was a cause for celebration, but the benefits of having easy access to water go far beyond drinking and cooking.
“The place where we fetched water [before] was unprotected. Animals drank from it and contaminated it. Now that Action Against Hunger has built this water point, we have time to do extra jobs because we don’t have to travel for hours to fetch water,” explains Loko.
“We can cut wood to sell in the market and to buy food for our children. I have time to wash my children’s clothes. I have time for preparing food for my children. I have time to keep them clean, I even have time to play with my children and take care of them. This is due to the water point being so close to us,” says Loko.
News spread fast, even in these remote areas of Ethiopia. On market days, Loko travels to the nearest town and sees friends from other villages. Ever since Action Against Hunger built the water point, friends from neighboring towns having been asking Loko why she looks so healthy.
“People from other places ask me, ‘How did you get this water point? We would love to have such an opportunity to have water in our community.’ This is because they look at me and see that my face is shining, my children’s clothes are clean, we are not thirsty, and we have enough water to cook for ourselves. We have everything since Action Against Hunger constructed this water point.”
Loko’s hopes to see such prosperity and opportunities expand to neighboring villages.
“The water point we have now is easily accessible, but there are other people living a little far from here who don’t have anything. When we meet and talk, I tell them about how we are not suffering anymore, but they tell us that they are still fetching water for long distances which reminds me of my former hardship,” says Loko.
“Action Against Hunger solved our problem and we would be happy if they can also help other communities that are living far away from here and are also suffering due to the lack of clean drinking water,” she continues. “If they could help other communities like they helped us, we would be very happy.”
Our teams in Ethiopia are working to bring Loko’s wish for water and prosperity for everyone to fruition. We are expanding water access in remote villages and small settlements throughout the country.
“This water is like milk for us, we drink it and we feel happy,” says Loko. “We use it for drinking tea with the family, we mix it with a little bit of milk and my children love it.”