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Lent: Waiting for Water

Community members meet to discuss water needs with a World Vision engineer (holding notebook). A rock marks the spot where drilling will begin.  Rose, Ethiopia.  Photo: ©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision

Community members meet to discuss water needs with a World Vision engineer (holding notebook). A rock marks the spot where drilling will begin. Rose, Ethiopia.
Photo: ©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision

by Kari Costanza, World Vision Communications Manager

As a storyteller for World Vision, I like to interview people one-on-one and in private. People feel safe to open up when they’re not surrounded by a crowd.

So imagine my dismay when I arrived to do a story about water in an Ethiopian village and it appeared that the entire town had turned out to be interviewed.

I sighed. This was not going to be easy.

The town lined up and I asked them four questions: what is your name, what do you do, why do you need water, and what about your life will change when clean water is found?

Their answers surprised me and helped me understand what having no water means to a village—in an unexpected way.

Their town was called Tsigereda, which means rose.

Ironically, roses have never been able to grow here because this is absolutely no water.

But that’s not the worst of this town’s woes.

Mekdes Abera, 24 and a nurse, described a vividly horrible scene at the health clinic where she works.

“The most dangerous thing about having no water—after delivery, there’s nothing to wash my hands with,” she said. “We worry for those women who give birth. They might be contaminated. We are required to wash after each patient, but we can’t. It is not practical.”

The health center is completely unsanitary, she said. “We can’t clean instruments because of a lack of water.”

And they can’t clean up the blood.

“Pregnant women come with blood gushing out of them,” said Mekdes. “There is no water to wash the floor.”

Nurse Kefele Getaneh, 26, who works with Mekdes at the clinic said, “We catch rain water from iron sheets. We keep it in reservoirs. We run out. Most community members get diarrhea, especially the children. We lose children.”

Aselef Dereje, 13 and a student, became absolutely livid when talking about water. She practically stomped her foot when she answered my questions.

“Parents demand that their daughters fetch water. When I am on morning shift, I walk for hours. Then I am late for class. When we go to school late, we can’t get into class.”

I asked how clean water would change her life. She told me she’s second in a class of 57 and added, “But I could be number 1.”

If Rose had water.

“The problem is colossal,” says Assefa Alemu, 25, a local administrator. “People fight with one another in the queues. Mothers who get vaccinations can’t even wash.”

He described how blood from vaccinations would run down a woman’s arm, and with no way to clean afterward, just dry there in a bright red stain.

“When we get water, the mother [source] of all our problems will be gone,” he said. Standing there among the villagers, I had never felt so much anger expressed because of a lack of clean water.

Sadness and fear, I’d seen. I’d seen hopelessness. But never so much anger.

And, I thought:
Why can’t Nurse Mekdes wash her hands after delivering a baby?
Why can’t Aselef be at the top of her class?
Why can’t Assefa plant roses to commemorate his town’s name?

The worst kind of interview had turned into the best possible way for me to understand the frustration of a community that doesn’t have water.

I left the town called Rose awash with emotion — angry that the town didn’t have water, but thankful that I work in an organization that someday — will ensure that they do.

This story is part of Women of Vision’s 2014 Lent series “A Spring of Living Water.” Read more stories in this series.

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