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African water project is immediate, lasting

June 2009

Villagers fill water containers from a four-year-old well in Kersa Illala, Villagers fill water containers from a four-year-old well in Kersa Illala, Ethiopia under the watchful eye of the water committee manager.

Water-born disease is a major cause of death in Africa, so when a clean water system was installed in Kersa Illala, Ethiopia, it had an immediate impact. Children became healthier and spent more time in school instead of fetching water. But century-old habits change slowly. It’s common for a village to quickly revert to old, unsanitary ways if their new water flow is disrupted.

“In 2005, humanitarian doctors found water-caused health problems in Kersa Illala,” said Brett Bass, Director of Humanitarian Services. “They asked us for help in getting a clean water system. So we provided the materials and expertise to drill a well and provide six watering stations.”

Bass recently returned to Kersa Illala to see one of these first water systems. “It was working great,” said Bass. “In fact, they were getting enough water to provide showers as well as drinking water. It was gratifying to see the water station and showers being used by many people. In fact, more people are using it today than it was originally designed for.”

“When we first started installing water systems, our focus was technical in nature,” said Matthew Heaps, clean water initiative manager for Humanitarian Services. “That’s still important, but now we focus more on training community leaders. The outcome is two-fold: they learn how to maintain their water system, how to organize a committee, hold meetings, keep records, and collect water fees. This results in a greater perception of ownership and accountability for the project including better use and maintenance.”

The water system in Kersa Illala continues to serve 21,600 people.

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