By Lane Bunkers
This day, like many during my 3 plus years as the County Representative of CRS Ethiopia, was all about water. At a time when we are occupied by the impact the current drought is having on millions of people in East Africa, for a few hours on a Friday morning we were able to pause and celebrate a significant advancement in our fight against the lack of water – the purchase of a new drilling rig. This is the third rig bought by CRS and donated to our national partner, the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat. The funds for this rig have come 100 percent from private donors to CRS’ East Africa Strategic Fundraising Initiative, a Wellspring of Hope.
It is not every day you see an archbishop blessing a large piece of industrial equipment, but we saw that on this day, so important is this drilling rig to the well-being of Ethiopians.
Some 80 percent of the people in Ethiopia reside in rural areas and are dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their economic livelihood. With the changing rain patterns this past decade, there have been more years of drought in Ethiopia than there have been of “normal” rains. Our water programming in Ethiopia utilizes the Multiple Use System which considers a community’s water needs for domestic uses (washing, bathing, and cooking) as well as productive needs (irrigation systems, troughs for livestock). This work in Ethiopia has reached new levels these past years with the addition of the drilling rigs and we are seeing that impact this year during the current drought situation. Those communities that have benefited from CRS’ programming in water and sanitation have had an adequate water supply and have felt little interruption in their livelihood despite the lack of rain.
As I watched Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel sprinkle the gleaming new rig with holy water with the choir singing a song of praise in the background, I couldn’t help but think of the many people in the US who contributed to the success of this project. When it was my turn to address the crowd of CRS colleagues and partners gathered for the event, I tried to convey that feeling to those gathered. Having met some of the donors to the project during visits to Ethiopia, I could imagine seeing their faces in the crowd and how pleased they would be to know that soon enough, their generous contribution would be put to work bringing a safe and secure water supply to a community in need.
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