Women slog for miles seeking last drop of water
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Even in drought-struck Ethiopia, providing water is women's work
By Fikerte Abebe in south Ethiopia
She is tall and slim. From a distance, I see her walking quickly, taking long strides on the dusty road, head bent forward and back bowed slightly. When she gets closer, I see she carries a 25 litre jerry can on her back. I guess its contents: water.
But the jerry can is not what catches my attention. After all, it is very common in Borena for women to seek out and carry water long distances. It is her speed and long strides that signal more.
This is the Dillo district of Ethiopia’s southern Borena region, over 650km from Addis Ababa. Our guide, Duba, and I have gone to check on people enduring the drought and assess the success of ACT emergency cattle feeding and water programmes.
When the woman reaches us, she turns and smiles. Duba and I greet her and ask her permission to take a few minutes of her valuable time.
“I am very fearful of the drought.”
She tells us her name is Galemo. She does not know when she was born but assumes she is 50 years old. Her husband is over 80. Of her seven children, the girls are married. The boys and her husband, who is too old even to keep watch over her cattle, depend on her.
She left her house at 6am to fetch water from the pond closest to her home. Now it is past midday and she has only a few minutes to get home. To me, it sounds a long time to go to a nearby pond. To Duba, who is based in Borena and knows it well, the time was merely average. Many women spend far more hours searching for water than that. Only the lucky ones get it. Galemo had been forced to walk much further than the nearby pond in order to find her 25 litres.
Still, it is not enough for her family and the many tasks for which she needs it. If she had a donkey, she could have carried more.
“If I had older girls they could have helped to carry it. The older boys cannot help. In my culture it is the responsibility of women and girls to fetch water. If I manage to do the remaining housework fast, I have a plan to go back and fetch more,” she says. I am now convinced by what Duba meant when he said the time Galemo spent on water was average.
But it is not the long and tiring search for water and cattle feed that concerns Galemo. “What I am afraid of is that nowadays I go foraging for food all the time yet do not come back with what my family and I need.
“I am very fearful of the drought.”
The pond from which she gets her water is receding daily. She used to go to the highlands to get cattle feed but that supply too has dried up.
The family now lets the cattle roam freely in the mornings and brings them in at the day’s end. “We have no idea what they find in the field. But if they die we will too.”
Galemo finishes by stressing the need for help in order for them to survive. And then picks up speed so she can get back out to collect more water.
ACT is working in Ethiopia's Borena province through its member DanChurchAid (DCA).
- One year on, progress visible in Horn of Africa
- Horn: rain for some, hunger for most
- Kenya: digging for water in the midst of drought
- Surviving the drought, and preparing for the next one
- Ethiopia: medication needed to tackle measles
- ABC News reports from Dadaab camp
- Ethiopia: the elderly have stopped eating
- Horn of Africa: more energy and attention needed
- Dadaab: the road to relief
- Uganda acts on drought resistance
- Ethiopia: setting up camp on hard soil
- Volunteers keep the peace in Dadaab camps
- In Horn of Africa, drought only a trigger
- Dadaab: life in a refugee city
- Mogadishu: ACT delivering essentials to the toughest spots
- Somalia: reputation opening doors to strong-hold areas
- Dadaab: “It’s what makes you get up at 5am”
- ACT's emergency response in Somalia and Kenya: a snapshot
- Africa drought: Dadaab extension a safe haven for Somalis
- This famine knocks on everyone's door
- Dadaab: praise for expansion of Kenyan camp
- Kenya and Somalia: a tale of two droughts
- UN declares famine in two Somali states
- Desperation increases in southern Ethiopia
- Women slog for miles seeking last drop of water
- SMS from South Ethiopia: cattle are dead, we’ll be next
- Anguish as Ethiopians run out of options
- Africa drought: pressure on Dadaab extends for miles
- Horn of Africa drought: 10 million could starve
- This is the last of my food