Voices from the Field – IRC Blog

International Rescue Committee (IRC) Refugee, Staff & Volunteer Blog

Posts Tagged ‘GPS’

Changes from the ground up / Ethiopia

Posted by Emily Holland on 11 August, 2008

Emily catches up with a group of children around an IRC-built tap stand.
Emily catches up with a group of children around an IRC-built tap stand. Photo: The IRC
International Rescue Committee communications officer Emily Holland and IRC intern and Princeton University student Daniella Raveh are visiting Ethiopia where they will be blogging about the lives and struggles of refugees and young girls and women.  See all their posts here.West Hararghe, Ethiopia When the IRC began building tap stands in peasant villages in West Hararghe, Ethiopia, staff were confident that health would improve for the thousands of residents who live there.  What IRC didn’t foresee was how much life in general would improve—and for women, especially.
Kedija, a 30-year-old mother of nine, used to walk four hours every day—two hours each way—to collect water for her husband and children.  Not only did this chore consume most of Kedija’s day, the water she brought back was often undrinkable.
Now, Kedija frequents an IRC tap stand that yields clean water just ten minutes from her home.  Her family no longer suffers from water-borne diseases.  Kedija’s family can drink water whenever they choose and bathe and wash their clothes more frequently.  Best of all:  with more time on her hands, Kedija is catching up on the education she cut short to marry and raise a family.
Commented Daniella:  “The way that people spoke about life before the tap stand made it seem like a very long time ago.  It’s obvious that this is a new time.  Accessible water is moving their village forward and, when it comes to challenging gender roles, breaking tradition with the past.  Usually, we think of big change coming from the top down.  Here, this tap stand is changing things from the ground up.”

Daniella and a friend give the GPS device a try.

Daniella gives the GPS device a try.

And also from the sky…since 2003, the IRC has been using satellite images, digitized maps, and aerial photographs collected in the field using GPS technology to pinpoint areas that lack potable water and identify new water sources.  With the information collected, we’re able to monitor each tap stand, covered spring, and latrine the IRC has constructed in Ethiopian communities.  We’re also able to put this technology to work to analyze other problems:  why are children in this community dropping out of school?  Could it be that water sources are located too far from their schools?  Or from their homes, requiring them to walk miles each day to collect water for their families, precluding school altogether?


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