Safe water can be scarce in Ethiopia’s remote region of Benishangul-Gumuz, especially for people living in the countryside. Families can be at risk of becoming sick from waterborne diseases and poor hygiene which is why the Ethiopian Red Cross Society stepped in to develop a clever way of addressing the issue.

With the support of the Austrian Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross, its teams worked with local authorities to set up a spare parts shop – making sure communities could pick up the vital bits and pieces needed to fix hand pumps. The project, which ran for five years, also saw the construction 145 water points, maintained by communities and local authorities through the spare parts shop. Activities to promote hygiene and improve sanitation were also part of the project which targeted 57,000 people across 11,400 homes between 2011 and 2016.

As part of another project  six water kiosks were built by the Austrian Red Cross and the Ethiopian Red Cross, where one jerry can of water was sold for one cent. But the kiosk scheme was more than just a way to supply water – the stores sold a range of supplies like soap and snacks and each one was run by one woman from the local community, contributing to boosting livelihoods and the micro economy of isolated areas.

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And now, a new programme has launched in Shalla Woreda in the West Arsi Zone – another remote and dry region of the country which has been subjected to drought, food shortages and even damage to crops when short bursts of heavy rain caused serious flooding. This two-year programme, set up with the support of the Austrian Development Agency and the Swiss Red Cross, will focus on rainwater harvesting, better toilets and health and hygiene training for communities. It aims to reach 8,000 people across 1,600 homes by 2018.

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World Water Day