A Chronic Shortage of Safe Water: The Goro Abu Community, East Hararghe, Ethiopia

Goro Abu, situated in East Hararghe Zone of Oromiya State in Ethiopia, is one of the target areas where International Medical Corps is currently implementing a nutrition and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) project with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Situated about nine miles from the district capital, Burka, Goro Abu has just one motorized borehole for clean water which has been non-functional for over two years. The borehole is supposed to serve a total of three kebeles (villages) with an estimated population of 3,150 households (average family size of the district is estimated to be 4.8).  Of these, approximately 17,529 people and a large number of livestock (cattle: 15,838; goats: 4,372; sheep: 977; and camels: 4,500) had been receiving water rationing periodically since the borehole broke down.

People living in these underserved kebeles had to travel an average of 12 miles every day to get water from Burka Spring.  The added number of people seeking water from this spring created a significant burden on the host population. Mothers had very little time to care for their children, because they spent much of their time looking for water. The population was exposed to waterborne diseases from drinking unsafe water from the unprotected Burka Spring, the only available water source both for human and livestock populations. Since medical and transport costs are unaffordable for many people that require medical care, this created a potential health emergency. Due to the long distance to the water source, livestock weights dropped significantly which in turn affected the livelihood of this pastoral community. The rate of high school dropouts also rose particularly among female students as they had to travel far to fetch water for their families and could not attend school.

As part of the integrated Nutrition and WASH project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Medical Corps in close collaboration with the East Hararghe Zone Water and Energy Office, rehabilitated five boreholes in three districts in the area, including the one in Goro Abu. Boreholes planned for rehabilitation were prioritized based on the critical shortage of water in the area; the number of beneficiaries served by the borehole and their radius of coverage.

The local government provided service rigs and deployed technicians and International Medical Corps provided logistical support to rehabilitate the boreholes. Based on a report obtained from the Bureau of Water and Energy on the Goro Abu borehole, International Medical Corps undertook replacement of the submersible pump; maintenance work on the generator house, generator, switch board, riser pipes, and distribution pipes to make it functional.

Due to this project, the chronic water shortage in Goro Abu and adjacent areas has now successfully abated. Community members expressed their delight and continue to send messages of thanks to International Medical Corps, the government and the Gates Foundation.

In addition to rehabilitating the boreholes, International Medical Corps is also promoting safe hygiene and sanitation by targeting households, health facilities and schools. The project aims to improve the current sanitation coverage of the district from 47% to 80% and reduce the incidence of hygiene- and sanitation-related morbidity and mortality.

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