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Water relief for those who need it most

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Water is essential to life. Without it, people cannot flourish. But in many parts of the world, a lack of access to safe water is pushing people deeper into poverty, putting lives, health and development at risk.

The situation is especially acute in East Africa, where for as many as one in three people, access to safe water is under threat from repeated climate shocks, ongoing conflict and other factors.

With your support, Tearfund’s local Christian partners are working with communities to bring safe, clean water to thousands of people – and with it, renewed hope and health. Read on to learn more about the work of our partners in Ethiopia, Zambia and Sudan.

Women and families who were literally using a polluted water source one day, now have access to clean water.

Marshall Currie Tearfund’s team leader for Africa

Ethiopia

In recent years Ethiopia has experienced both drought and flood emergencies, which, coupled with conflict, have made it harder and harder for communities to cope. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns that Ethiopia faces a major humanitarian crisis caused by climate shocks, disease and insecurity.

Tearfund’s local Christian partner Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission (EKHCDC) is working with communities to establish water supply infrastructure and promote simple measures that improve hygiene and sanitation.

Water relief for those who need it most ethiopia

Jenberu is a member of the committee that manages the water point that has been installed in his village, providing water for cooking, drinking and washing clothes.

“One of the primary benefits is health,” Jenberu says. “Our children were suffering from waterborne diseases … we have not had any news of diseases since this water came.”

Marshall Currie, Tearfund’s team leader for Africa, visited Ethiopia last year and saw the impact of the work EKHCDC is doing with communities to improve access to water.

“This is really impressive work, and it was so encouraging to see the huge impact that access to clean and safe drinking water is having,” he said. “It’s simple, but women and families who were literally using a polluted water source one day, now have access to clean water, which means avoiding trips to the clinic with their children for the treatment of illnesses like diarrhoea or typhoid. It is just so powerful and is improving life so much for these families.”

Zambia school flag 2

Zambia

Zambia is currently experiencing multiple and overlapping crises. There has been a cholera epidemic since October 2023, and parts of the country have recently experienced severe floods. Simultaneously, swathes of the country are in drought, a situation that the Zambian government has declared a national emergency, with “devastating consequences on many critical sectors such as agriculture, water availability, and energy supply, risking our national food security and livelihoods of millions of our people”, according to the Zambian President, Hakainde Hichilema.

It’s estimated that almost half of the country’s 2.2 million hectares of maize crops has been lost, and that one million farming households will be affected.

“The drought compounds the challenges the country was already facing, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the cholera outbreak,” said President Hichilema, “diverting resources initially intended for accelerating economic and social development”.

Tearfund’s local partner Reformed Open Community Schools (ROCS) – part of the Reformed Church in Zambia – has been working in Zambia for decades. Among other projects, ROCS’ teams are supporting communities to access clean, safe water and better health.

One of its school-based initiatives is WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) Clubs in schools. At one WASH Club, the members share a handwashing song to demonstrate effective handwashing to their fellow students. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” they count, as they scrub each part of their hands. They have also encouraged students to use a cut-off plastic bottle as a cup to collect water from a tap. Previously, the practice of dipping a bottle into the tub to fill up with water led to contamination. Students collect water from a nearby borehole to fill up the hand washing and drinking water containers at the school.

Water relief for those who need it most dave WASH

Dave (pictured) is a year 4 student and member of his school’s WASH club. He and other members proudly take care of the school surroundings, including keeping the borehole on the school grounds tidy, digging rubbish pits and cleaning the toilets – all to ensure students have a safe, sanitary and hygienic environment. Dorcas, the chair of the club, said the students have taken what they’ve learned back to their families, even setting up handwashing facilities at home – and as a result, rates of diarrhoea have reduced.

Water relief for those who need it most sanitation

And ROCS has worked with school communities to upgrade toilet facilities like this one. These are known as VIP latrines – Ventilated Improved Pits – and allow better airflow and reduced odour and flies, which can spread disease. The blocks also include a private washroom for girls – so that their monthly period doesn’t hold them back from coming to school. With the new handwashing facility at this school, students are learning to use taps for the first time. Run off from the taps is being used to water tree seedlings around the school property, which will replenish the soil and offer shade and fruit in years to come.

Sudan

Sudan is one of the most water insecure places in the world, and in recent decades has experienced more frequent droughts and high rainfall variability. The conflict that broke out in April 2023, so far displacing more than six million people within Sudan and forcing more than one million to flee to neighbouring countries, is compounding the challenges for this hard place.

ZOA has also been providing emergency water, hygiene and sanitation support... simple but effective measures to meet some of the basic needs of people who have been left with little to nothing as a result of conflict.

Tearfund’s partner ZOA Sudan has been working with communities in North Darfur since 2011 to improve their access to water and support secure livelihoods through training in conservation farming and business skills. Project staff have worked with schools to construct handwashing facilities, provide soap and hygiene awareness sessions, and construct latrines.

In response to the current conflict, ZOA has also been providing emergency water, hygiene and sanitation support to communities of internally displaced people who are now sheltering in schools and camps. This has included provision of latrines (toilet facilities), safe drinking water, and raising awareness of strategies to improve health and hygiene. These are simple but effective measures to meet some of the basic needs of people who have been left with little to nothing as a result of conflict.

While the conflict has made it difficult to access some communities and implement this work safely, and the number of people in camps for internally displaced people has been growing by the day, ZOA Sudan has been faithfully supporting people as best it can at this very difficult time.

Helen Dela Fernandes 1

Helen Fernandes, from Tearfund’s Africa Team, says: “The outbreak of conflict has been devastating for Sudan and the communities of North Darfur. ZOA’s ongoing work and presence there has allowed them to respond to the needs of internally displaced people – particularly around the issue of access to water, which is critical in such a dry environment.”

Prayer

Pray with us

  • The 22nd of March is World Water Day. Give thanks for the abundant, clean and safe water that most of us enjoy in Australia. As we drink this water, cook and clean with it, and cool and refresh ourselves in it, pray that we will be mindful of the 72 per cent of people globally who are water-insecure.
  • Access to water and sanitation is a human right, yet so many people lack these life-giving resources, including 1.34 billion people in Africa. Pray for all people who do not have access to safe, clean water. Contaminated water and poor sanitation also contribute to the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Pray for people who are being impacted by these diseases, and for Tearfund’s partners as they work to improve sanitation and health.
  • As conflict continues in Sudan, pray for the people of this country, including for those who have had to flee their homes, and for those who have been injured or lost loved ones in the violence. Pray also for the staff of Tearfund’s partner ZOA Sudan as they work to provide safe, life-giving water and reduce the spread of disease through hygiene and health measures.
  • Pray for communities in Zambia as they cope with both drought and floods in different parts of the country, and with all the challenges to health, including ongoing cholera outbreaks, and livelihoods that flow from these. Give thanks for the long-term work of ROCS to improve access to water and build strong, resilient communities.
  • Pray for communities In Ethiopia, where climate shocks, disease and insecurity are driving a humanitarian crisis, and give thanks for the hope that is rippling out from the work of Tearfund’s partner EKHCDC.

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Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).