Photo by: Julia Montijo, PCI Director, Operations
Over the course of a month, our team designed a project aimed to address some of the key issues affecting four of the most impacted “woredas”, or districts, in Afar and submitted a proposal to partner with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance on a $1.5 million 12-month project. The project, referred to as the Ethiopia Emergency Drought Response and Rehabilitation (ENDURE) Project has four components: (i) provision of nutrient-rich supplemental feed for livestock to improve their health and restore body condition; (ii) reinforcing the capacity of local partners to provide veterinary assistance to livestock; (iii) increasing access to clean water for human and animal consumption through repair of existing water infrastructure and water treatment; and (iv) reinforcing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices in order to prevent diseases common to drought, such as cholera. Within a few weeks, we heard that we received the award and could launch our response project.
As a child, I believed humanitarian workers were like superheroes. They swept in to help people in need just the same as Batman and Robin did. I had no idea at that time what international development was or how these “heroes” did what they did, but I remember watching them on the news with my parents and I remember feeling proud of them. Even back then, that is what I wanted to be like– to be someone who came to the rescue when people needed it most. And, of course, I wanted my very own cape too. With the launch of this project, my backpack became my cape and it was filled with resources and documents and checklists to ensure we started everything off right. People across Ethiopia were in need and I felt like part of the Justice League.
The severity of the drought was immediately evident to our team, who saw trucks of jerry-cans being hauled off to be filled and returned to communities devoid of water. I was told that this wasn’t the worst of it and to prepare myself for when we made it to Afar. But this visual exposé into the reality fueled me during the long hours spent reviewing the project design and preparing for the project orientation and meetings with new staff and our partners.
The team, though, was poised and ready, having been through this before. They are professionals – smart and capable and they were ready to use their expertise as veterinarians, water engineers, and logisticians, and more to help. They are the true superheroes. And they were ready to respond.
In implementing this response, PCI was able to enhance its team through a partnership with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) USA. For the launch, EWB-USA deployed skilled and motivated staff to assess and rehabilitate water points in order to better respond quickly and efficiently and restore water to communities in need. The EWB-USA team came with experience responding to disasters and restoring water services in difficult conditions and even in Ethiopia. They quickly became integral members of PCI Ethiopia and of the communities they entered.
In fact, in the initial days of the water assessment phase, the EWB-USA team, along with PCI’s Water Engineer and community and government counterparts, were able to make repairs to water points that brought water back to hundreds of families. And, not only were they able to make these repairs, but they were also able to train community members on maintenance in order to help prevent future water loss from a supply that should otherwise produce.