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Walking Six Hours to Collect Water in Rural Ethiopia

In rural Ethiopia, women and children can walk up to six hours to collect clean water.


Water purification location in the Somali district of Ethiopia
Water purification location in the Somali district of Ethiopia

Collecting clean water in Ethiopia is a struggle because walking up to six hours to collect water is normal day-to-day activity.


Ethiopia has one of Africa’s lowest rates of access to water supply, and sanitation despite abundant surface and groundwater resources.

A vast majority of Ethiopia’s population lacks adequate access to safe water and proper sanitation facilities.
West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program 
Ethiopia's main health problem is the spread of disease caused by poor water and sanitation. During the dry-season, more traditional sources of water are placed under pressure as shallow wells or other permanent sources dry-up.

Ethiopia’s 96 million people, 86.5 million people or 83 percent live in rural areas. A vast majority of Ethiopia’s population lacks adequate access to safe water and proper sanitation facilities. That is 49 million people or 51% lack safe water and 76 million or 79% have no sanitation services.

At most, 49 percent of people have access to safe water, while proper sanitation facilities are available to about 21 percent. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services negatively impact health and productivity, especially that of children.

At the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the U.S. commitment to the Goals for Sustainable Development. One goal was to reduce by half, the proportion of people without access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation” by the year 2015.

To help reach this goal, leading US-based non-governmental organizations working in water and sanitation formed the Millennium Water Alliance. The situation is critical, at least 1.8 billion people worldwide are estimated to drink water that is not protected against contamination from feces.

From 2011-2015 the West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program or WASH Millennium Water Alliance goal is to provide water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to approximately 483,000 people; including 83,000 students in 90 schools. Since 2006, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded over $14 million to the Millennium Water Program.


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