Hamdia (6), whose little brother died of acute diarrhoea due to their drinking water being heavy on salt and minerals, Afdera town, Afar region, Ethiopia.
If you happen to drive by it, the steel pipe standing at attention in the middle of the desert doesn’t look very impressive. Yet, this pipe and the borehole beneath it currently form UNICEF Ethiopia’s most innovative and exciting project in the Afar region.
Volcanos created the large flat area covered with sand and soft sandy peaks sprinkled with black ashes from millions of years ago. The region is currently experiencing its fourth consecutive year of drought, exposing people to critical shortages of water. Neither the dwellers, the animals nor the plants have enough water to survive.
Numerous companies and NGOs have tried to drill for water, only to succeed 30 percent of the time. The wells are either dry or filled with salinised water, due to the high concentration of salt in the ground. The solution has been water trucking, which is expensive and unsustainable. Now, sharp eyes from space have come to the rescue.
This problem will soon be history, due to an innovative approach to water finding. With support from EU Joint Research Centre, UNICEF has used satellites to identify reservoirs of ground water as deep as 600 meters below sea level, and to pinpoint exactly where to drill. Because of the constant inflow of water, this is a sustainable solution for the drought-prone area. The approach has a 92 percent success rate, resulting in 11 boreholes delivering fresh water, thanks to support from the German government and the Italian Development Cooperation Agency (AICS). The new water source will replace current water trucking, which costs around USD 260,000 annually, making this solution sustainable from a financial point of view also.
The generator rumbles to life. The pounding noise develops a steady rhythm when the pipe spits out water that becomes a steady flow. Soon, the pipeline down to the town is finished. Assia and other families can buy safe water for a fraction of what they pay for the dangerous water today. UNICEF calls it innovation for children.
Helene Sandbu Ryeng is Communications Specialist at UNICEF Norway.
Original blog post: UNICEF Connect