His Excellency Peter Doyle, Ambassador of Australia to Ethiopia, and representatives from SNV and The Fred Hollows Foundation met with partners at the Lelisa Ali Doro Primary School and the community to learn about their WASH activities, and how these are contributing to the elimination of trachoma incidence.
With a prevalence of 48.8% among children aged 1-9 years, trachoma is an infectious eye disease. When left untreated, it can lead to permanent blindness. It is estimated that about 90% of cases of blindness in Ethiopia are preventable.
Towards trachoma prevention and as part of the collaborative project Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Trachoma Elimination (WASH Tra), the partnership facilitated the construction/rehabilitation of water points at the Lelisa Ali Doro Primary School and the community. As a result, 600 students and 15 teachers now benefit from the school's water points and 300 households now access water from the community’s water point, which is fitted with six taps.
Celebrating WASH wins
Reporting that the rehabilitated and constructed water schemes have improved the sanitation and hygiene situation in the woreda, Mogos Bullo, representative of the Woreda Water Office said, 'the intervention has increased water coverage by 16% and reduced the percentage of non-functional water schemes by 10%.'
Sufala Kasaye, a member of the community exclaimed that 'We no longer have to travel long distances. We gather water in turns since lots of people are fetching from this water point.' Recalling the challenges she used to face before the construction of water points in her locality, Sufala explained that half of her day was lost to fetching water. Back then, she would be away from home from 06:00 to 13:00. Soon as she returned home, she would have to immediately prepare food for her children, who by then would have long been waiting for food to be laid on the table.
At the school front, Dereje Techane, Director of Lelisa Ali Doro Primary School said that students used to skip class after their breaks in search of water. He said, 'since the community as well as the school can now access drinking water from the water points, this problem has been solved.'
Going beyond a WASH infrastructure focus
To complement infrastructure development, the WASHTra project built the woreda's WASH capacity to improve WASH maintenance and services. Employees, health extension workers, and WASH committee members received training. Plumbing tools were also provided. As a result, trained Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCos) began offering appropriate water scheme management support. Integration amongst sector offices was strengthened, thanks to the training activities, on-going supervisions and regular follow-ups.
At the school, the WASH contributions of student members of the WASH club - a club that is organised similar to a ministerial cabinet  – was revitalised. Each of its members championing proper and regular hand and face washing, also encouraging peers to keep their environment clean.
Congratulating partners for all their joint achievements thus far, His Excellency the Ambassador stressed the need to keep the momentum for progress. 'Through your own organisational efforts, I urge you to make sure that what have been achieved so far are maintained and taken even further.'
Mesfin Tadesse, SNV Ethiopia Deputy Country Director, added ‘such problems need a consolidated effort and commitment by not only government, implementing partners and donor organisations, but also by the community.' The results so far point out to the importance of partnerships, and the joint commitment to reduce trachoma incidence.
1 The club was established following MOE guidelines developed in 2017. The club consists of 10 students and is led by a student-elected prime minister and ministers of resource mobilisation, water, sanitation and hygiene. Each class appoints eight ambassadors whose responsibility it is to ensure that students practise personal hygiene and that the school compound is kept clean. Two teachers serve as advisers.