Walking to Water in EthiopiaJennifer James
Have you ever thought about walking to get water? I’m not talking about walking for convenience to buy water, but walking for necessity to gather water for you and your family’s livelihoods.
All week while I visited Ethiopia with Save the Children to learn about frontline health workers, I noticed many wells that dotted the countryside where women and children gathered to get water for their families. Worn yellow watering cans piled on the backs of donkeys was a perpetual sight. Women and young girls walked and carried heavy plastic cans of water for who knows how far.
This little girl above with the blue water can caught my eye in one of the villages in Ethiopia’s southern region. She was on her way to gather water, but stopped to see who the strangers in the big, white SUVs were. She was all smiles for stretches at a time and then more reserved knowing she had impending, important work to do. When we piled into the SUVs to leave she ran alongside us barefooted on the dirt road until she could no longer keep up.
In sub-Saharan Africa women and girls spend 40 billion hours collecting water according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The sheer amount of hours collecting water causes girls to miss school and women to miss valuable employment opportunities.
While the need is still great, especially in the rural areas, access to clean water is improving on the continent. In fact, in March the World Health Organization and UNICEF announced that two billion people gained access to water from 1990 – 2010 and the drinking water Millennium Development Goal (MDG) was met. However, according to the report “over 40% of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa.” There is still much work to be done, but substantial work has already been done and should be lauded.
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