World Water Day: Washing Poverty Away in East Africa

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A boy washes the dust from his face in a cattle trough in Tedecha Guracha, Ethiopia. Photo by Andrew McConnell/CRS

As part of CRS’ celebration of World Water Day on March 22, we’re highlighting our integrated water programs in East Africa. The programs help people lift their communities out of poverty. By providing a full complement of water services, CRS is significantly improving quality of life in rural villages.

“Water is an essential part of life. Without it, people and animals simply can’t survive,” says David Orth-Moore, CRS’ regional director for East Africa. “According to the United Nations, 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Millions of others must trek miles each day to collect sufficient quantities for their needs, with this chore often done by children who should instead be in school. This lack of water can lead to poor health, malnutrition, meager incomes and low agricultural productivity.”

Enabling communities to overcome poverty, however, demands much more than just digging a well or drilling a borehole. After gaining access to a clean source of water, villagers need washing platforms, bathing facilities, and household and community toilets to prevent disease and improve overall community health. Livestock troughs also enable villagers to care for their animals without contaminating their own water source. As important, irrigation schemes bring precious water to fields even in times of drought, increasing food supplies and often incomes.

By providing a holistic set of services—which can also include natural resource management, agro-enterprise initiatives, formation of savings and lending groups, and health, hygiene and sanitation training—CRS is enabling communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to break out of the cycle of poverty. If funding increases, CRS will also begin integrated water initiatives across Sudan.

At one site alone in Harbu, Ethiopia, villagers are reporting that CRS’ integrated services have led to:

• Improved health and less diarrhea, particularly for women and children
• Significantly more time available for women to care for their children and families due to closer water access
• Considerable improvement in livestock health, milk production and animal production from cleaner water and better grazing
• Increased food supplies and better nutrition
• Increased incomes from livestock and farming gains
• Decreases in mosquito populations and malaria cases

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