In the past, patients would travel as far as 12 miles, sometimes on foot, to reach health workers at the Biyo Health Center in Oromia, Ethiopia, and then discover they couldn't be properly treated. They had the medical resources in place, but did not have reliable running water.
Before the new water systems were installed, health center staff often served their patients with water fetched from nearby wells. “The well water was contaminated and unfit for healthcare purposes,” says Sister Meka Abdella, a midwife at the health center. “Hand washing is basic before and after any procedure, but this was the only water we had to clean our hands and our instruments before and after delivery.”
Sister Meka explained, “When a mother came to our center to deliver her baby, it was difficult to ask the women who accompanied her to fetch water. We stored water collected from wells and rain for such emergencies, but in many cases had to ask patients to bring their own water.”
Today, water is collected in the rainwater harvesting reservoir, passed through a PV solar disinfection unit, and then stored in water tanks. Sister Meka confirmed that this new system will dramatically change health services at the center, saying, “Now we have clean, potable water for washing our utensils and hands, and we can also keep the facility clean.”
Oliyad Bilbila, a lab technician, described how the water systems will enable him to better serve his patients. Previously, he was unable to provide blood and pregnancy tests because there was no water to wash laboratory utensils or clean his hands. Now, he looks forward to providing laboratory services for the community.
“We have been trained to serve the people,” he said, “but without the means to provide much needed health services, we were frustrated and concerned about losing our skills. Now we are able to properly diagnose patients, perform lab analysis, and give appropriate treatment, which brings us great satisfaction.”
Through the Assistance to Health Systems Expansion project, USAID, the Ethiopian government, and Chemonics are building the capacity of local institutions to improve the country’s health infrastructure, provide quality assurance and control, as well as services for construction, renovation, and refurbishment of health centers and other facilities.
As a result of these efforts, the government of Ethiopia has built nearly 2,700 health centers and inspected and improved 150 others.