Lifewater Results in Dodola, Ethiopia: Safe Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, New Life

In the nation of Ethiopia, over 50 percent of the population does not have basic access to safe drinking water. It’s a challenge that touches every area of a person’s life every day of their lives. But, when it’s resolved, the transformation is far-reaching.

Lifewater staff began working in target communities in Dodola, a region of southeastern Ethiopia plagued by waterborne diseases, childhood diarrhea, and scarce water, in April of 2019. At the time, only 13 percent of those we surveyed had a safe, protected source of water.

Between April 2019 and June 2022, Lifewater staff served 19,925 people with safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. Following program completion, staff conducted surveys and focus group discussions to measure WASH progress in the area.



Dodola, Ethiopia Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation Results

92 percent decrease in the prevalence of childhood diarrhea

An estimated 297,000 children globally under the age of five die each year from diarrheal disease as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene. Globally, this makes diarrheal disease the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

Before Lifewater programs, 31 percent of households with children younger than 5 years old had at least one child with diarrheal disease within the week prior to the survey. After, only 2.4 percent reported the same. That’s a 92 percent decrease in childhood diarrhea.

“At present we are healthy and economically benefited because medical expenses for [diseases] diminished,” said one water committee member.


At baseline, no one we surveyed in Dodola used a latrine that was “improved with dignity”

Building and using a bathroom is critical to health. When people use open fields or forests to defecate, health deteriorates. This is especially harmful when those same families depend on surface water sources for drinking water; rains wash everything from surrounding fields into water sources like ponds or rivers.

Using an improved latrine separates people from feces, drastically decreasing waterborne diseases and improving health.

A bathroom that is considered “improved with dignity” is one that has four walls, a roof, a slab (floor), and a door. Before Lifewater programs, not a single family had a latrine improved with dignity. Afterwards, 50 percent did.

In addition, 2,899 Healthy Homes were registered in Dodola – 97 percent of the homes in the project area!

“Before Lifewater start[ed] implementing the program, [the] majority of the community who lives in our village [did] not have a latrine, which made the community [use] open defecation,” said a local pastor. “Now, things are changed, almost all of the community have latrine in his household. Which makes the environment clean.”



Time spent fetching water plummeted, from 120 minutes to 30

Women and girls are the most affected by long walks for water, collectively spending 200 million hours every day gathering water. If the walk to a safe water source is too long, they often revert to unsafe but closer water sources, like ponds and rivers.

Many women report successful entrepreneurial pursuits after receiving safe water, for with water nearby they regain and repurpose the hours spent on long journeys for water. Families also have agricultural endeavors like farms that become significantly more profitable.

With safe water nearby, the median time people spent walking and queuing for water dropped from 2 hours to just 30 minutes.

“[Three years ago] we were using contaminated water for all purposes,” said one community member. “But now even for our animals we provide clean water!”

In Dodola, Ethiopia, families are living healthy lives because of the generosity of Lifewater donors, because of prayers heard and answered, and because of the hard work that communities themselves put into achieving improved and lasting health.

Get the full report by downloading below, and see how safe water and newfound health are bringing hope to communities in need.



Choose a Village. Change a Life.