For many people in the north-east of Ethiopia, the impact of climate change is devastating. They used to expect rain for up to four months a year, but now it only falls in August. People do not have enough water to survive – it is an issue of life or death.
"Whenever there is no rainfall, our animals die as there is no grass or water." – Orbisa
For families, like Orbisa's, everyday life is a real struggle. Orbisa lives with her husband and nine children in Afar, north-east Ethiopia – one of the hottest inhabited places in the world.
"Life is very challenging here, we have no food and are dependent on our livestock for our livelihood. Whenever there is no rainfall, our animals die as there is no grass or water. This affects our lives significantly. We will not get money or have milk to drink. We have no other option," explained Orbisa.
During the rainy season, Orbisa could collect water from a river just five minutes’ walk from her village. As the dry season has extended due to the changing climate, this river has now dried up and no longer provides for Orbisa and her family.
"In the last ten years, the droughts are now increasing from year to year. Households used to depend on the water from the river. During the dry season, those streams dry up and then availability of water is very, very difficult," said Berhanu Dawa, the program director of Tearfund partner, Friendship Support Association (FSA).
Now, Orbisa has to walk for up to ten hours every day to collect water for her family. Due to the searing heat, Orbisa is forced to start walking before sunrise, often leaving her village at 4am. The walk is very dangerous as she faces wild animals, including hyenas and leopards. Orbisa is not the only woman who spends hours each day in the search for water. In fact, women around the world will spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water today, according to Water.org.
"The water I collect is not sufficient, I am only able to collect less than half of what my family needs each day. We need most of it for drinking, but sometimes it is not enough and my family has to go to bed thirsty. I feel extremely sad whenever I cannot provide water for my children," Orbisa said.
As climate change has contributed to extended drought, the area has become even more dry and arid. People are suffering and giving up hope. Forced to collect dirty water, more people are getting sick and their livestock – their only source of income – are dying due to lack of water.
But, there is good news. Tearfund is changing lives, by working with local partner, Friendship Support Association (FSA), to set up solar-powered wells that will provide clean water closer to communities. This will help to restore hope and give new life for all who live there.
"If we could get water access in our village, this would change things for me. This is the first and most important thing that would give me hope," said Orbisa.
Dwindling access to clean water for millions around the world is a consequence of global climate change. As Christians, we have a crucial role in calling for, working towards and praying for a world that allows everyone, and all of creation, to flourish. Please join me in interceding for a breakthrough in the climate crisis, and for more people of faith to care for creation together.
This Women's History Month, find out how you can stand with powerful women like Orbisa.
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