This year on World Water Day, Dilidil will be celebrating.
With help from Plan International, her village now has access to clean water – a resource one in 10 people worldwide go without.
The 29 year-old and her family live in a remote village in northern Ethiopia. The region has been badly affected by the EI Nino weather phenomenon, which has brought drought to many East African countries.
When the nearby spring stopped producing water, women and girls from the village had to walk for many miles each day in search of water for the household, often setting out at five in the morning and not returning until after midday. The men and boys in the village spent most of the time driving their cattle to a distant river.
“The water we collected was not clean and we used it together with animals,” she said. “Children were affected by diseases in the water. We might take a shower once a month and it was difficult to wash our clothes.
“Often families, children especially, went to school without eating until late in the evening because there was no water to prepare the food with.”
During this time, many children in Dilidil’s village were forced to drop out of school as their daily search for water took up most of the morning.
In the United States, water is often taken for granted. Despite the fact that more than 600 million people worldwide don’t have access to safe, drinkable water, the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water a day.
Plan International, working in partnership with Action Contre La Faim (ACF) & Save the Children International, stepped in to repair Dilidil’s village well. The project refurbished the spring, ensuring that it was able to produce a clean and sustainable water supply for the community.
“We now have clean water for both us and our cattle,” she said. “Not only do we have a water supply, we also have a place to wash our clothes. Our water difficulties are finally over.”
Because she doesn’t need to walk and fetch water, Dilidil also has more time for her family.
“I can do my household chores on time,” she said. “I spend no more than 20 minutes each day getting water, which was a nightmare before.”
Community members helped with construction by digging the canal and transporting sand and stone from the truck to the river.
Plan, along with the district water office, also supported the community in its formation of a water committee.
Dilidil was nominated to be part of the committee, which decided to charge community members on a quarterly basis to pay for maintenance costs and repair the well when required. They have also taken on the responsibility to keep the area around the spring clean so that a regular water flow is maintained.
Twelve-year-old Dibisa is a grade six student from the community.
This time last year she was regularly missing her classes, spending many hours each day finding water. Her academic performance suffered.
“Some children slept under a tree as they waited in a long line to get water,” she said.
Sometimes Dibisa and her siblings went without lunch because they had no water with which to prepare meals.
“Our village had very little water, and when many people come together as well as the cattle, it would dry up quickly,” she said. “I couldn’t tussle with adults as they threatened to beat me if I tried to do so. So I had to leave the jerry cans in a queue at the water point and run back to check on my brothers.
“But today I am very happy. There is no more struggle to get water. Our cattle also have water. I will never have to miss my classes again to search for water.”
On World Water Day, March 22, join the conversation on social media. Use the hashtag #WorldWaterDay and follow @Planusa on Twitter, @PlanInternationalUSA on Facebook and @Plan_USA on Instagram.