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Continued rains, flooding and movement of the population continue to be the challenges to curbing the outbreak of the Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) in different parts of the country, According to UNICEF. The UN agency through its health program is currently supporting the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the treatment of AWD to contribute to the reduction of deaths and contain spread of the disease in the communities.
In addition, poor sanitation conditions and poor hygiene practices especially in Addis, inadequate safe water supply coverage and usage of contaminated river water for washing vegetables grown around the river, poor solid waste management, illegal slaughtering of livestock around the river, crossing and leaking water pipes, open or unprotected water sources as well as poor food handling practices in the food establishments are also challenges that are contributing to the spread of the AWD.
“Almost all major rivers and streams of Addis Ababa were found with fecal matter and confirmed positive to etiologic agent of AWD. Alongside of each river growing of vegetables and selling of these vegetables to some of the Addis Ababa markets by rinsing with contaminated river water are common practices,” according Alhaji Bah, Chief of Field Operations and Emergency, UNICEF Ethiopia.
Several awareness creation activities through audio and video messages, public road shows and campaigns, distribution of brochures and posters, promotion by town criers and street theatre, promotion in schools and religious institutions including holy water sites and religious event sites including the use of social media to provide awareness messages to communities, UNICEF stated.
“From the ongoing quick assessment being conducted by our technical assistants, there are positive changes in terms of people’s awareness on the prevention of AWD. In terms of reaching out to the risk population with key AWD prevention messages, the awareness creation activities being carried out are considered effective,” Bah said. It is further reported that people have started practicing some of the key AWD prevention measures like using water treatment chemicals to treat their drinking water and avoiding raw meat, fish and vegetables.
“In general, as behavior change is a process, it requires certain period of time to bring about changes in practice and poor access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities and services which are the barriers that hinder people’s hygiene practices,” Bah also said.
In a statement UNICEF underlined that although the Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority is providing water to its maximum level, there are locations where the supply of water is provided irregularly. There are some communities that receive water once a week which does not guarantee communities’ use of safe water supply all the time.
“These communities are forced to use any available water found in the outskirts of Addis including from spring water, river water and other sources. The communities store the water in the household for a long time , due to irregular water supply from pipes and portions of the water supply network have been observed to be submerged in the ditches where possible contamination risk is very high,” Bah said.
The huge gap with access to latrine facilities in informal or slum settlements in the city as well as in the outskirts of Addis also continue to making the situation dire.