ERRWASH-12: Emergency clean water

An Erga from Assilekebele

Image: An Erga from Assilekebele.



Project Title: Emergency WASH in Disaster-Affected Hamar Woreda

The ERRWASH-12 project was launched in 2012 to provide emergency relief of safe water to 7,200 people living in in the Hamar woreda1 in South Omo Zone, Ethiopia.



The beneficiaries of the ERRWASH-12 project are 7,200 Hamar pastoralists living in 15 kebeles:2 Lala, Area Umbale, Assile, Mirsha, Betagalafa, Shanko, Kelema, AchiAlgone, Area Keyisa, Simbele, Denbayte, Genbela, Demeka, Angude, Kolakeja, and WoroDayina.



The Hamar region had developed a reputation for failed emergency relief projects. More than 40% of the existing water schemes were non-functioning. Many wells were constructed too close to the sandy riverbeds without adequate protection from flash flooding and livestock.

For the people in these 15 communities, safe drinking water was not available, open field defecation was standard practice, the incidence of water-borne and communicable disease was over 85%, and inter-tribal killing was a frequent occurrence as people competed for scare water.



The project focused on providing emergency water relief, but our goal included making sure the communities themselves could maintain their access to clean water. To reestablish clean water, the project refurbished the 15 non-functioning and damaged water schemes. With community participation we established or re-energized local water sanitation committees, training the members to maintain and manage their water points.

Key to sustainability is motivating the community to adopt safe hygiene and sanitation practices. Because of the short, emergency timeline of the ERRWASH-12 project, we hired Ergas (community facilitators) from previous projects as consultants to assist GTLI employees with our community learning process.

The experienced Ergas helped us fast-track the emergence of 110 new Ergas from the communities to encourage community adoption of new sanitation and hygiene behaviors. We formed household inspection teams to promote proper disposal of feces, safe water management, and hand washing. With community participation we marked defecation free zones surrounding the refurbished water points.



In a short 5 months 7,500 people gained access to 15 newly functioning wells providing clean water. But the longer lasting impact for these communities is they were positioned to be able to maintain those wells. More than twice the number of tribal members participated in our community learning process to promote sanitation and hygiene behaviors than we expected. One reason for this success was the work of consultant 15 Ergas from our previous projects in Hamar areas.

The impact on the lives of the women Ergas we hired was life changing for them and their communities. These pioneering Hamar women, who had been model facilitators in their own communities, overcame objections of their husbands to travel and work in these communities, remote from their own. Even though the Hamar men are not accustomed to listening to women, these persistent women were able to effectively encourage another Hamar community to change centuries-old harmful hygiene and sanitation practices. After five months away from home the women returned with their earned money to invest in their families and their futures.



Before   After
# People accessing clean water   0   7,200
# Functioning wells (maintained by community)   0   15
% households using pit latrines and adopting healthy hygiene   0%   29%


USAID logoIRC logo

  1. a group of 20-40 kebeles, the smallest government unit
  2. the smallest government unit


  • Implementing Partner: International Rescue Committee (IRC); funded by USAID/OFDA
  • Timeline: Completed Jun 2012