Somali Region- A large truck is quickly making its way towards Dawa zone, a town in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. It is carrying hundreds of gallons of water for drought-affected communities in this town.
The gasps are audible, and sighs of relief fill the air.
For Dehabo, 45, the water trucking service provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a welcome relief. She will no longer walk for 6 hours, carrying a 40-litre container on her back filled with, quite often, dirty and unsafe water.
“Before IOM started water trucking in our community, I used to walk for hours to fetch water from an open surface water for domestic use and drinking. After my donkeys died due to the drought, I had to carry a heavy water can on my back. Now I am suffering from terrible back pain,” she shared.
For the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians displaced by the drought, access to basic services, especially water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), remain some of the key needs in displacement sites. Overcrowded and in poor state, access to basic services is always a challenge.
Aid agencies say the level of water scarcity is alarming for both livestock and human consumption. Surface water continues to dry up, while groundwater levels continue to decrease, and the population is traveling longer distances to reach water points. More than 13 million people need WASH assistance in drought affected areas.
The risk of gender-based violence (GBV) has also increased as women and girls are forced to travel far distances to fetch water, while in other cases they are often left alone while family members are away looking for food or livelihood.
Daily water trucking – a short-term solution to deliver portable water to areas affected by the drought in Ethiopia– the worst the country has seen in forty years- has since reached more than 4,000 people between January and August 2022, and continues, in Borena and Dawa Zones. To maintain water quality, testing and treatment is ensured at the point of collection and at the point of use. IOM works in collaboration with the local water office and have hired and trained local water quality attendants for this purpose.
“Water trucking has improved the condition of impacted households by providing them easy access to sufficiently clean and safe water. Apart from this, IOM is also rehabilitating existing water supply schemes and sanitation facilities, constructing new ones, and procuring and distributing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)- related essential non-food items and water treatment chemicals,” said Afsar Khan, IOM Ethiopia’s Programme Manager for WASH and Shelter.
IOM WASH support in drought-affected areas focuses on preventing outbreaks leading to a public health emergency, ensuring continuation of lifesaving WASH services and enhancing the resilience of affected communities.
Apart from emergency water trucking, IOM also conducts rehabilitation of existing and new water supply schemes. IOM also distributes WASH and non-food items, as well as water treatment chemicals, institutional WASH support such as construction and rehabilitation of emergency latrines in health and education facilities.
Still, IOM is rehabilitating and constructing sanitation facilities in displacement sites, ensure desludging and decommissioning of existing latrine facilities, and conduct hygiene promotion activities are also being done.
“For now, my family feels relieved. Insha Allah, we may be able to receive continued water supply to enable us to withstand the challenges and difficulties related to living in this harsh environment,” Dehabo said.
Given the emergency nature in Dawa Zone, IOM, with support from relevant stakeholders, seeks to enhance the provision of safe and clean water through emergency water trucking, rehabilitation of non-functional water points, and hygiene promotion activities.
IOM’s WASH response to drought-affected communities in Ethiopia is supported by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.