Lulya is a 16-year-old girl and the eldest child of five. She is an enthusiastic 10th grade student at the local secondary school, and her favourite subject is handcrafts. Her family live in the village of Weqerti, a remote community of approximately 400 people located 50km south of Eritrea’s capital The village is situated on a semi-arid high plateau running down the centre of the country to the Ethiopian border, where water is scarce. Under this project supported by SMBC, the village now has sustainable access to safe water. What’s more, member of the community have been trained in maintaining and making basic repairs to the infrastructure, and have access to a store of spare parts – meaning the borehole can operate continuously without always requiring special assistance from technicians located many kilometres away.
In recent years, Lulya’s learning has often been interrupted by the need to assist her family in collecting sufficient water each day. The village borehole, installed several decades ago, fell into disrepair and has not been functional for the last two years. Access to the spare parts required to rehabilitate is challenging in Eritrea, and the water resources departments of local government are overstretched. Families in Luyla’s village had to walk long distances each day to collect water from seasonal streams, dams and unprotected, shallow hand dug wells. Not only has this been an enormous burden on their time (it is a task that overwhelmingly falls to women and girls), but the water they were collecting was unsafe and often contaminated. Diarrhoea is a major cause of illness and even a factor in the death among children under five in Eritrea, and other vulnerable members of the community.
“It was very unsafe to drink the water from the surface sources” Lulya remembers. “We all used to often suffer from diarrhoea and stomach aches – and the clinic is about 20km away”
Thanks to this project, the broken-down hand pump at the water point in Lulya’s village has been fixed and has made a huge difference in the lives of the community. Their exposure to disease and infection is reduced, they have enough water for drinking cooking and cleaning, and those trips to the clinic for stomach complaints have all but disappeared.
“Since the borehole has been back in use, not one member of my family has had to visit the clinic – that means we have also been saved the cost of the medical expenses”.
Being able to access safe water from within a 20-minute round trip from their homes has relieved this community of a massive burden on their time, which cut across all aspects of life. Women in Weqerti now have more time to spend on their farms and other income generating activities, and the things that make life worth living – such as calling in on friends and attending community events and meetings. For Lulya, there is no question what the most significant impact in her life is:
“Since the borehole was restored, I have not missed a single class at school. I also am not worn out when I get there. I have enough energy to study, especially handcrafts”