The Benefits of Clean Water Are Abundant in Southern Ethiopia

By Masha Hamilton, VP of Communications, Concern Worldwide U.S.

DOGE LAROSO, Ethiopia—The child simply couldn’t get well. He was just over 3-years-old, and his mother had taken him to every health clinic she could find, but for nearly a year, he hadn’t been able to shake the dysentery. He was malnourished, often dehydrated, sometimes curled in pain.

There were many bad nights and hard days, but worst was when he would cry heartbreakingly for something to drink, until his mother relented and gave him water. She dreaded that because she knew the water she gave him from her own hand to quench his thirst might be keeping him sick despite the medicine the clinics doled out. It came from the same polluted, 4.5-mile-long Bara River—more a creek than a river—that had made him sick in the first place.

There were times when “he was really so ill that I felt my day had come. I was going to lose the boy,” says 28-year-old Amarech Mana, the mother of four, who lives in Doge Laroso, a remote village about 235 miles southwest of Addis Adaba.

She holds her son Abebayehu in her arms as she talks. At age five, he is finally healthy, and she is sure he will stay that way because her village is now served by a clean water supply project carried out by Concern Worldwide that serves more than 1,000 households in this area.

The project, begun last year and still in its final stages, brings water from a spring about four miles up in the highlands. Concern developed the spring site to make it larger and then laid pipeline to six distribution points, each one to three miles apart.

Now the villagers crowd around the water pumps with their yellow plastic bottles, laughing and sharing news of their day. Concern Worldwide also built a trough nearby for livestock, and a place to wash clothes. The water distribution site has become like a central square.

After Amarech speaks, other mothers crowd forward to tell similar stories of children sick with vomiting and diarrhea, malnourished and weak.

“We had to buy medicines—we had to help our children. But we didn’t have money for the medicines, so we borrowed and went into debt and it didn’t work—still they stayed sick,” said Tamanech Lema, who lost one of her two children.

“When I was a child, it was better,” says Adulu Gheta, a man of about 60 who has lived his entire life in Doge Larosa. “Not so many people were using the river and it wasn’t so dirty. But it has been like this for many recent years.”

Sometimes, when the rains didn’t come, the river ran dry and then villagers scratched in the dirt to try to find some water. But mostly they relied on the river, being used for a variety of purposes by other villages upstream.

“At one point, about three years ago, the level of water-borne illness in Doge Larosa reached epidemic proportions,” Gheta recalls. “The government sent in health workers and provided us with water chemical treatment kits. But it was not sustainable. Once the water treatment kits were gone, we didn’t get any more, so we were back in the same situation.”

Improved health is, of course, the main reason villagers are so grateful for the clean water supply. But it’s not the only reason. Amarech Ayeley, 12, is glad for the water spigots because she believes they have made her a better student.

Not only does she miss fewer school days for illness, but she used to spend an hour every morning before classes fetching the water, before she took off on the 35-minute walk to the school itself. “It had an impact on my studies,” she says, holding her books to her chest.

“I want to be a teacher someday,” she adds, her voice so quiet we must lean very close to hear, “because teachers have comprehensive knowledge—they know everything.” Now she believes she has a chance to accomplish that goal.

About Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide is an international, non-governmental humanitarian organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty, with approximately 3,000 personnel working in 25 of the worlds poorest countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Concern Worldwide targets the root causes of extreme poverty through programs in health, education, livelihoods and microfinance, HIV and AIDS, and emergency response, directly reaching more than 6.5 million people. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

All photos provided by Concern Worldwide.


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Clean water is very important to life, any life.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants3 years ago

good news

heather g.
heather g3 years ago

Thank you for the article and an introduction to the valuable work done by "Concern Worldwide '.

Catrin K.
Catrin C3 years ago

Thank you , water is life .

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

!% of the water on our planet is drinkable.
That means to me that we need to protect our drinking water from business and it's wants.

Jeannet Bertelink

Thank you

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

This issue is only going to get worse and worse. Clean water only constitutes 3%!!! of the total water available on the earth, and it is being polluted or drying up, or not being put back into the cycle in the form of rain or mists due to higher heat. Humans can live for 40 days if healthy without food, but only 3-5 without water. We're killing ourselves.

Anne Moran
Anne M3 years ago

Clean water can make a difference, between life and death...

It's sad, that in this day and age, so many places in the world, still have no access to potable water...

Priscilla Laybolt
Priscilla L3 years ago

Water is so essential to life, and should be provided everywhere. That is a first concern of any gathering of people.

Marianne C.
Marianne C3 years ago

When I think how polluted most waterways are in this world, it makes me shudder. In places in which water treatment plants don't exist, people may literally have to choose between dying or thirst and dying from drinking the water.