Water in Ethiopia

Women in Kenya walking to collect waterThe April issue of National Geographic has an in-depth story on water in Southern Ethiopia. This hits home for a number of reasons—including our continuing commitment to clean water (we’re trying to build a well, remember?) and the fact that Southern Ethiopia is Milo’s birthplace.

I’ll pull out some especially poignant moments, but I’d suggest you read the whole article (read the printer version to avoid pagination)

  • The article follows Aylito Binayo, a 25-year-old woman who lives in the village of Foro, in the Konso district of southwestern Ethiopia. Her life story can be told around watershe dropped out of school at 8, in part to help her mother haul water. Today she spends 8 hours a day hauling water for her family. And the water she brings home is dirty and unsafe.
  • Hauling water is women’s work. The only time a man hauls water is in the few weeks after a child is born.
  • Here’s an incredible picture (second picture in the flash slideshow—silly National Geographic, not giving direct links to pictures). Villagers digging a trench for pipes to bring water to their village. They sing while they work: “We can do anything!”
  • The author carries a jerry can of water (weighing 50 pounds) with Binayo, but can’t make it up the hill. The author switches with a child, who has half a can of water, but the child can’t make it up the steep part of the hill: “Binayo takes the heavy jerry can from the girl and puts it on her own back, on top of the one she is carrying. She shoots us both a look of disgust and continues up the mountain, now with nearly 12 gallons of water—a hundred pounds—on her back.” I carried 40 pounds of water last year—it sucked.
  • The average American uses 100 gallons of water a day in the home. Binayo uses two and a half.
  • She washes her hands with water “maybe once a day,” but not with soap, since her family can’t afford it. She bathes “only occasionally.” They don’t elaborate on what ‘occasionally’ means.
  • She washes clothes once a year: “We don’t even have enough water for drinking—how can we wash our clothes?”
  • Another incredible picture. A group of women in Northern Kenya walking across a desert to get water—they’re carrying the same yellow jerry can I did last year. Let me tell you—it sucks.

The article ends on a heart-breaking note:

“She has never dared think that someday life could change for the better.”

That’s a brutal reality we’ve left our fellow brothers and sisters in. That’s why a portion of the proceeds from my book are going to build a well in Ethiopia. I hope you’ll buy a copy. Or forget the book—make a donation directly to charity: water.

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