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ETHIOPIA: Project builds water wells

A water-well project in the Gambella region of Ethiopia* is supported by Salesians and the nonprofit organization Cuore Amico.

100 wells provide water to people in drought-prone region


(MissionNewswire) A water-well project in the Gambella region of Ethiopia* is supported by Salesians and the nonprofit organization Cuore Amico. Father Filippo Perin, a Salesian missionary, facilitates the project to open as many wells as possible to ensure the population’s survival, according to a recent article in Vatican News.

According to the article, 100 wells have been built in Gambella with the support of the Catholic Church, the Cuore Amico Fraternità Foundation, and many private individuals. There are plans for more.

Gambella is home to many different ethnic groups as well as South Sudanese refugees living in eight refugee camps. The life expectancy in the region is below age 50, and the area is faced with drought and famine. People clash, sometimes to the death, over a jug of drinking water, according to the Vatican News article.

Fr. Perin told Vatican News, “Only 14% of the population has access to drinking water, so it is not uncommon for bloody clashes to break out between villages over water. That is why one of the first things we felt was most urgent was to raise funds to dig wells. The costs, however, are high. Just to bring the excavating machine to this impervious and isolated area requires 3,000 euros, and the cost for the digging work is also expensive, but it saves people’s lives.”

Fr. Perin explained to Vatican News why the project is so important to him. “There is a lack of food; people have only one meal a day. There are no hospitals, and the local clinics only distribute two medicines: paracetamol and amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic for various types of infections. Nothing else. Young people and children fall ill and die from diseases that are curable in other parts of the world. There are no schools; education is not even a priority for governments, so it is often entrusted to the church or NGOs that perform this important task as best they can. The children don’t have books or notebooks to write in but they have a great desire to learn. Not to mention the climatic situation: from December to June the temperatures are over 40-45 degrees and there is no rain, so agriculture suffers a lot.”

During his 16 years in Gambella, Fr. Perin has opened new parishes and raised money for 30 wells. He also found a company that provides the equipment to dig during the dry months. Otherwise, in the rainy season everything is too flooded and the roads are impassable. The technicians do an inspection to find the perfect place for the well and then dig. They also build a cement base with a pump to bring the water up.

The Vatican News article explained, “When the first water comes out, the whole village erupts in celebration. Women arrive to fill their jerrycans, some drink, some shower, some play with the water like crazy, some dance with joy! They all stand around the well for hours and realize what a great gift they have received!”

Supplies are limited and there is always the risk that the water will run out. Fr. Perin noted, “It is important to ensure that the well is well maintained. The inhabitants are instructed on the correct use of the crank handle but it often breaks and then we have to call the company again to try to repair it but this involves other expenses, more money.”

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38% of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85% of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture, but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.



Salesian Missions – Ethiopia

UNICEF – Ethiopia

Vatican News – Ethiopia and its life-giving water wells

*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.

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