This trip was one never to be forgotten with Covid 19. It was a time of weariness. Setting to travel to America, I boarded a plane out of Asmara Eritrea’s capital city via Dubai. Fly Emirate has a nice airplane with enough leg room. Quite conformable. Arriving in the USA after a long flight was nice. Once in the USA a dear friend received me and headed to Virginia where we spent the day. The day started with a long drive, something that I’m not acclimated with. America has its own glory; the burger is out of this world; Juice and tasty nowhere to be found, pizza, fried chicken, and the many nice fast food are to die for. Convinces are abundant, life in America is happy.
Visiting family and friends is always a pleasure. People ask how life is in Eritrea; inquisitive, trying to get a feeling of sorts. Ladies ask about how life is in Eritrea, the wellbeing of people. The Men on the other hand ask about politics. The questions are directed on the way they feel about themselves and how they perceive their own life. There are those who have positive outlook in their life and are always positive yet there are some with negative outlook.
During my discussion with guys the subject that comes for conversation is always what the Eritrean Government has not done to their individual benefit. People had said to me “The Government can’t even provide water in Asmara”. Dumb founded I say “Asmarnos live without water they must be angels.” Here are facts in water resources management in Eritrea.
Water is the most essential material for human existence. Water shortages have become the concern of many nations. According to the world water resource organization 780 million people, one in ten people are living without clean water. Daily 800 hundred children die due to shortages and water borne diseases. African women travel on average 6 kilometers daily to fetch water. 4 billion people live under severe water shortages and 23 billion people use water that is not safe. In 2025 half of the world population will live with water shortages another 700 million people in 2030 will be migrating due to water shortages and 2040 one out of four children will live with severe water shortages facing water borne diseases. These are the challenges that the world as a whole faces.
Eritrea’s location is Sub Saharan, which is prone to drought. It gets minimal rainfall that varies from year to year. In short Eritrea is poor in water resources. Due to Eritrea’s topography the country is divided into three different climate zones; the highland, mid-highland and the lowland. The highland gets from 600 to 900 milliliter of rain per year. The mid-highland gets 400 to 500 milliliter of rain and the lowland in the Gash-Barka region gets 350 to 450 Milliliter and the coastal lowlands get 0 to 100 milliliter of rain.
The mid-highland and lowland are hot, the heat gets from 10 degree centigrade to 40 degree centigrade and are the main cause of water loss due to evaporation. Eritrea has many encounters in water resources, be it for drinking or farming its rainfall is minimal. Knowing these challenges the Eritrean liberation front started working on the water shortage problem starting in 1976 during the armed struggle to be able to provide water to liberated areas. Prior to independence clean water availability in Eritrea was only 7% in rural areas. Since 1992 the water resources unit in the ministry of land and water management has been working in securing clean water.
According to Mr. Mesgana G/Selassie director of water resources management and development “the mission of the department is to be able to provide clean water to all nationals”. Accordingly the Government of Eritrea has been building dams in order to secure clean water to all corners of the country. The water distribution has difficulties due to the landscape and scattered villages with few residents. Households in rural areas need 20 liters of water daily and urban households need 40 to 50 liters of water per day.
Water management like any business needs to plan, study and implement projects. These projects encompass many different inputs such as human resources, capital and goods. 90% of the budget is covered by the Government and partners and 10% is covered by the people who are beneficiary of the project. Taking to mind the limited financial resources and riches of the country it’s amazing what has been achieved to date.
The first phase was to dig more water wells the number increased from 135 to 445 wells increasing water supply. Converting hand pumps with solar and electric was completed and water availability jumped from 7% in 1991 to 20% in 1997. In 2016 availability of clean water reached 75% and in 2021 availability of clean water in Eritrea has reached 80%. These achievements are due to the development plan and hard work of the people and government of Eritrea. Several big and medium size dams have been built to enrich the underground water. These dams and water reservoirs have enabled the nation of Eritrea to store large amounts of water that are used for drinking and farming purposes. 80 to 90% of the urban and 80% of rural 1,729 villages have clean water to drink and ample amount of water for irrigation farming. Eritrean farmers have been able to farm two to three times a year because of availability of water.
Dams are continually built to amass more water. 2021 more work is being done in installing solar based water distribution systems to increase the number of villages and cities that can benefit with improved water supply systems and achieve 100% water distribution to all nationals. To reduce interruption of water availability; training is provided to local village people in repair and maintenance. To secure the continuity of clean water the Ministry of Water and Land is working on increasing the number of professionals in the field of water resources. My friends in diaspora Eritrea have growing pains but are striving to realize better living with sufficient water.
In summation I would advise people to follow the news, read annual reports that are published by the UN organization and partner countries and comment on issues of concern in an informed manner.