By: Dessalegn Yeshambel Wassie

In a contemporary world, water and the issue of accessing fresh water are increasingly becoming the source of tensions and an alternative chance for enhancing and developing cooperation among shareholding actors in different countries, and become a pressing global agenda that highly attracts the attention of many politicians an Editor in Chief in Water Diplomat Dr. Tobias Schmitz said in the official opening speech of “agenda Nairobi Workshop on Water Diplomacy for  East African Journalists during 30 January to 3 February 2023.”

 He added that over 2 billion people worldwide lack access to fresh water, significantly observed in poor rural areas. From this figure, around 36.1 million people are highly affected by drought in the horn of Africa.

In the opening speech, Dr. Boubacar Barry, Scientific Advisor to the Secretariat of the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, exclusively confirmed that Africa has a problem with access to fresh water and sanitation; 40% of its population lives in arid areas and gets only 9% of freshwater in Sub-Saharan Africa or Sahle Region.

Dr. Boubacar Barry, Scientific Advisor to the Secretariat of the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar

He further emphasizes that a protracted drought and ongoing political conflict are the leading causes of the scarcity of water that affected millions of people and livestock in the Horn of Africa. Accordingly, the region is in its third consecutive year of below-average rainfall and is now experiencing one of the worst climate-induced emergencies of the past 40 years, especially in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Unlike many African countries, Ethiopia has faced more significant water shortages, poor sanitation, and a lack of access to clean water sources. According to Simon Thuo, an expert in the alliance for global water adaptation, Ethiopia, particularly the rural communities, are highly affected by the water crisis due to severe drought and an existing political conflict in the regional states.

Amhara regional state, particularly  Northern Wagihimira Sequota Zone, is one of the region’s region’s drought and more significant water shortage. Regarding water shortage in rural areas, Aberiha Assefa, a Zonal Water Official, addressed that almost 69.8% of water services are damaged and cut off due to a political power conflict between TPLF and Prosperity Party groups. He further added that Sahila, Dahina, Debre Habeba (015), and Semen Ber (09) rural kebeles are severely affected by water shortage and sanitation in Ziquala Woreda.

Aberbir Yihun, a rural water and sanitation coordinator at Ziquala Woreda, stated that nearly 70% of the rural communities in the selected Kebeles are highly suffering in accessing fresh water for drinking as sanitation purposes and for their livestock as well. Due to these problems, thousands of people are forced to cross long distances to search for river and stream water for drinking and domestic use.

On the other hand, local communities noted that more people, particularly women, and children, are vulnerable to water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. They further added that women are becoming vulnerable to psychological and physical harassment while searching for water outside of their homes.

Though efforts have been made to resolve the problem sustainably, it is becoming beyond the capacity of the intervention organizations since there are poor infrastructures and more significant numbers of users in the community, experts and intervention organizations working in the area said.

To solve the problem and bring sustainable change, a call to action for humanitarian assistance is highly needed in drought-prone areas. Besides governmental (Amhara Regional Bureau of Water, Sanitation and Energy) and non-governmental interventions (Action Against Hunger), community engagement in roof water harvesting, rainwater harvesting, river water diversion, managing well and pond water, constructing shallow and spring water, working on underground water as well as managing surface water through water shade management is highly needed in the area.