Thirteen-year-old Tilalem Kiros lives in the Raya Azebo district in northern Ethiopia. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up but her daily struggle for water may prevent her from achieving this ambition.

Three times a week, Tilalem and her mother Medhin fetch water from the closest source, a spring that flows down the mountain behind their village. It takes them more than an hour to walk there, often leaving Tilalem too tired to attend school. Her school work has suffered as a result.

Raya Azebo is a drought-prone district with few accessible water sources. "The most reliable year-round water sources in that district are deep wells," says Leul Fisseha, a water and sanitation advisor for UNICEF in Ethiopia. "Providing access to a safe water supply often requires a significant amount of funding." 

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UNICEF is working with the regional water bureau to improve access to safe water. At the moment this means bringing in water by tanker but the aim is to install a deep well and water distribution system.

In contrast, Shefena Hagos lives in the village of Jalla in Raya Azebo where UNICEF has already supported the installation of a deep well water system, like the one needed in Tilalem's village.

"When we went to fetch water in the place called Oda, we would spend the whole day there," says Shefana. "It was so far away, we would have to spend the night there, and the children would go hungry. But now that the water point is close by, we fetch water in peace and we are able to give our children lunch and dinner. They no longer have to go to bed hungry."

It also means her children are able to attend school regularly. The hope is that children like Tilalem will soon be able to as well.

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Tilalem,13, lives in Raya Azebo district of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. Three times a week she makes a two-hour round trip to fetch water. This often leaves her too tired to attend school. © UNICEF video
Tilalem,13, lives in Raya Azebo district of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. Three times a week she makes a two-hour round trip to fetch water. This often leaves her too tired to attend school.© UNICEF video