The Millennium Village of Koraro is located in the Hawzien district in northern Ethiopia, an area surrounded by jagged escarpments and dusty, arid land. Koraro is in one of the poorest regions of Ethiopia, owing to a confluence of geographic, political, economic, and environmental factors. It is also one of the most remote and isolated sites and suffers from very poor infrastructure and severe drought.
Most homes in rural Ethiopia are made of mud and stick or thatch walls, which are unstable, and provide little protection against adverse weather conditions and vermin. Women usually cook using indoor fires which create respiratory problems due to poor ventilation. Over 90% of the population has no access to decent sanitation facilities, and 73% does not have safe drinking water, causing disease to run rampant. Koraro and its 55,000 inhabitants are no exception. Major health problems in the area include acute respiratory diseases, malaria, high maternal mortality rates and diarrhea. Access to safe water for drinking and irrigation is a major challenge.
One program, initiated by the Ministry of Health, being promoted to address these health challenges in the villages of Koraro, is the “Building and Maintaining of a Healthful House” project. This program, implemented in over 100 homes throughout the cluster, is trying to improve sanitation and hygiene in the household, decrease disease burden and promote food security using the community health volunteers and the government’s health extension workers.
The improvement of homes begins with the structure. Separate spaces for animal livestock have been built away from human homesteads. Better latrines are constructed in a separate block from sleeping sites and kitchens, with hand-washing facilities for improved hygiene. Liquid and dry composting has also been promoted.
Traditional drip-pot irrigation was installed to grow nutritious fruit trees such as mango and avocado. These pots have small holes in the bottom that allow for water to slowly hydrate trees. These fruit trees not only promote better nutrition in the household, but could also be a source of income for the community.
Fuel-efficient, yet culturally appropriate cookstoves have been promoted. These cookstoves have a traditional hotpot used to cook “injera”, a flat bread consumed with most meals in Ethiopia made from teff grain. The stoves use less firewood and push the smoke out of the homes, allowing women to cook without being exposed to toxic smoke.
Modernized beehives and more sanitary chicken coops were implemented in homesteads for those in the community interested in diversifying into honey and egg production.
Insecticide-treated malaria bed nets for each sleeping site were installed to help decrease the burden and prevalence of malaria, and hand washing facilities have been installed in many homes.
The volunteer community health workers are helping to train households in beautifying their homes and also monitoring acceptability. The beautification of homes in Koraro has already produced positive results. Not only have families accepted the new practices but they are also enjoying the improved surroundings and health benefits.
Jessica Fanzo is the Nutrition Coordinator for the Millennium Villages Project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and serves as a Nutrition Specialist for the MDG Centre for East and Southern Africa. She is based in New York.
Aregawi Tedella is the Health Coordinator for the Koraro Millennium Village. He is based in Koraro, Ethiopia.