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Credit Julie Thacker

Students Alexander Clunies-Ross, Melissa Hutchings, Jonathan Abeles, Ike Ogbo with Dr Julie Thacker, Dr Ian Coutts and Dr Kannan Ambalam from Wollega University. 

Medicine students raise £10,000 for water wells in Ethiopia

Twelve thousand people living in the Ethiopian town of Nekemte, now have access to free, clean water thanks to money raised by University of Exeter Medicine students.

The Truro-based students have been working with the University of Wollega in Nekemte, Western Ethiopia since 2014. 3rd, 4th and 5th year students have been visiting the area 1-2 times per year to work on a number of projects and shared teaching. Whilst visiting, students became motivated to help tackle the issue of a lack of clean water supplies in the area. A collaboration was then formed with the University of Wollega and the Nekemte branch of the International Red Cross.

“It is hard to imagine in this day and age, but the people that live in those villages have no access to clean water” said Dr Julie Thacker, trip leader and Clinical Sub Dean at the University of Exeter Medical School.  

“They cannot afford to buy it and have to drink from the local lake, which is contaminated with human and animal waste.

“We performed a study on a local secondary school there along with the microbiology department of Wollega University and found that 70 per cent of the children at that school were suffering from gastrointestinal infections.

“For some of these people, it is the first time that they have had access to clean water, ever!”

Mr Weyesa Oljira, the head of the local Red Cross branch in Nekemte, said: “Thanks to the money raised by the University of Exeter Medical School we have built two hand dug pump wells for Toleera Elementary School and Kewiso Shano Secondary School. The wells have provided access to free clean water to 12,000 more vulnerable people.”

Louise Le Blevec, a student involved in the project, said: “£1,000 of the money has been raised over the last two years via a huge variety of student-led events. Including: pub quizzes, performing arts nights, charity waxing, treasure hunts and various sports events.

“Having had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia and see first-hand the everyday struggle that the people encounter, the desire to help and do our bit came naturally. Not only are these people's health at stake, but their whole livelihoods too as it inevitably impacts on the children's education and parents' earnings.

“I’ve really enjoyed taking part in the project and fundraising for it, knowing that the money raised is going to such an important cause. It feels brilliant to have made a difference to so many people’s lives so far and I am excited to see the development of the project, with the construction of more clean water wells and sanitation facilities!"

The students are due to return to Ethiopia this November with approximately £2,500, enough to pay for another well.

If you are interested in getting involved in the project, please email either Ian Fussell: or Julie Thacker:

If you would like to make a donation, please visit the Facebook Page Exeter - Truro - Wollega Link

Date: 2 October 2018

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