Innovative One WASH for Sustainable Development: Ethiopia

On the 4th and 5th of February, 2014 the Ethiopia Water and Sanitation (WASH) met at the Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 6th Annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum with the theme of “Innovative One WASH for Sustainable Development”. It was a huge event with about 500 participants from Government, NGO, private and donor sectors.

Excellency Federal Minister of Water Irrigation and Energy, Ato Alemayhu Tegene
Excellency Federal Minister of Water Irrigation and Energy, Ato Alemayhu Tegene

The event was graced by the presence of  Excellency Federal Minister of Water Irrigation and Energy, Ato Alemayhu Tegene, Excellency State Minister of Water Irrigation and Energy, Ato Kebede Gerba, Excellency State Minister of Education, Ato Fuad Ibrahim and Excellency State Minister of Health, Dr. Kebede Worku.

Among the many discussions the ONE WASH Sector Wide Approach dominated the discussion. The participants agreed more focus is needed on urban WASH and sustainability monitoring and UNICEF and WHO need to provide a measurement of where the country is pre 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

During his keynote speech, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia and DAG WASH Sector Working Group co-chair, Dr. Peter Salama made three points that are crucial to fulfil the remaining commitments to improve access to safe water and sanitation. And one of his points read “we need to reinforce our efforts in addressing open defecation in urban areas.”

Miniters visit exhibition at the sixth One WASH Multi-Sector Forum“The Government of Ethiopia has pledged to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) to achieve 82 per cent open defecation free Ethiopia by 2015. This ambitious goal requires the sector to devise and implement a comprehensive Urban Sanitation Strategy which provides clear guidance on the minimum package for urban sanitation including faecal, liquid and solid waste management and disposal. UNICEF, DFID, JICA and other partners are committed to support the Government in prioritizing urban sanitation. As noted in the ONE WASH programme document, to improve WASH services in small towns, for example, will require an additional US$96 million for sanitation in the coming 5 years. We call upon all partners to join hands with us on this game changing strategy to make Ethiopia open defection free.”

UNICEF calls for US$2.2 billion to help 59 million children in emergencies, including Ethiopia

Largest emergency appeal on record, almost 40 per cent for Syria and region

Somali children concentrate on their learning at a school supported by UNICEF and operated by Save the Children in Kobe refugee camp in Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

GENEVA/ADDIS ABABA, 21 February 2014 – UNICEF appealed today for almost US$2.2 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in 2014 to 85 million people, including 59 million children, who face conflict, natural disasters and other complex emergencies in 50 countries.

“I have just returned from South Sudan, the latest large-scale conflict to disrupt the lives of millions of innocent children. Over 400,000 children and their families have been displaced by the conflict, and over 3.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The rainy season is coming and we need to preposition supplies and reinforce essential services, for which we need urgent funding to prevent a catastrophe,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes.

“The children of South Sudan join millions of others affected by conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria. But while today’s headlines focus on these complex, under-funded crises, many other desperate situations also require immediate funding and urgent humanitarian assistance. These include Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen, and other countries reflected in UNICEF’s appeal,” Chaiban said.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2014 appeal highlights the daily challenges faced by children in humanitarian crises, the support required to help them survive and thrive, and the results that are possible even in the most difficult circumstances.

For Syria and the sub-region, UNICEF is appealing for US$835 million to deliver life-saving assistance including immunization, water and sanitation, education, and protection; and to support the social cohesion and peace-building skills needed to build a more sustainable future.

“Children are always the most vulnerable group in emergencies, facing a high risk of violence, exploitation, disease and neglect,” Chaiban said. “But when support is made available, we can change the lives of children for the better. With its partners, UNICEF is working to address a diverse range of humanitarian situations including malnutrition in the Sahel; lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in Yemen; cholera in Haiti; increased attacks on children in Afghanistan; and drought in Angola.”

In Ethiopia, to support children affected by humanitarian crisis and accelerate efforts to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and poverty, UNICEF is appealing for US$31,126,000 million by working closely with Government and partners. The fund is allotted to treat 238,700 children aged 6 to 59 months affected by severe acute malnutrition, provide water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene for 1,200,000 people and offer formal and informal education to 90,000 children. This year’s appeal will build on the past gains made towards strengthening the resilience of communities in Ethiopia and save the lives of children. The 40 per cent decrease in requirements from 2013 reflects a projected improvement in the food security and nutritional situation in 2014.

See the press release here. 

‘Toilets’ shouldn’t be a dirty word

This article originally appeared on

In this 2011 file photo, a toilet is seen in a house destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WaterAid’s Director of International Programmes Girish Menon opened today’s debate on Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Energy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Here are his reflections on why sanitation and water are so critical in the post-2015 process:

I spent this morning talking toilets at the UN.

Of all the potential topics of conversation with global decision-makers, needing the toilet might not be high on your list. We all do it on a daily basis but in polite conversation, it appears we’d prefer not to talk about it.

Whether we like it or not, the silence surrounding how we dispose of our bodily waste has to be broken. The health, prosperity and wellbeing of 2.5 billion people rests on it – 2.5 billion people who right now have nowhere to go to the toilet.

This lack of basic sanitation facilities causes diseases that kill 2,000 children under the age of five every single day. As well as gross indignity, women and girls in particular face sexual harassment and even violence when defecating in the open.

It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that today’s debate happened at all – that sanitation is now recognised as worthy of discussion at the highest level.

But there’s much further to go…

Put toilets at the centre of new goals

When the Millennium Development Goals were first agreed in 2000, sanitation wasn’t included. It was added later, as an afterthought. And now, progress towards the sanitation MDG target is massively off-track – in fact, it is one of the most off-track targets of all.

When the MDGs expire in 2015, a new set of ‘sustainable’ development goals and targets will replace them. It is vital that sanitation, along with safe water and hygiene, is at the forefront of this new framework.

So it’s been encouraging to hear key decision-makers in the UN acknowledging this today.  Sitting next to me this morning was the President of the General Assembly His Excellency John Ashe who said that sanitation is one of “the pre-eminent development challenges of our world”. Minutes later, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added, “Access to water, sanitation and hygiene must feature prominently in the post-2015 agenda.”

For the last three years, the water and sanitation sector has been discussing possible targets for the post-2015 framework. 200 organisations from around the world, including WaterAid, have come together in a process facilitated by the World Health Organisation and Unicef’s Joint Monitoring Programme. This consultation has led to a Furthermore, it includes a target on water and sanitation so that by 2030:

  • No one practises open defecation.
  • Every household, every school and every health centre has drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • The proportion of the population without access at home to safely managed drinking water and sanitation is halved.
  • Inequalities in access are progressively eliminated.

I’d recommend that anyone interested in this process read more about the targets and the consultation in this document.

This crisis can be tackled

But of course, none of this will be easy.

It needs member states to hold true to the ambition of creating a post-2015 framework that can both eradicate extreme poverty and achieve sustainable development.

It requires convincing donor and developing country governments to increase their financing for water, sanitation and hygiene.

It requires us to get better at making projects sustainable, so that the taps and toilets built today are still working in a decade’s time.

It requires us to move beyond serving just the easy-to-reach, to include all those who live in rural and remote areas, or who find their access limited by disability, gender, or ethnicity.

But it is possible.

I quoted Nelson Mandela this morning and his words seem entirely appropriate: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

This crisis can be tackled if national governments, donors, NGOs, civil society coalitions and the private sector work together to transform the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Time to act

All over the world, people now recognise the importance of safe sanitation not just to the world’s poorest people but to all of us. Two million people have called for governments to commit to reaching everyone, everywhere with safe water and sanitation.

Today I heard leaders at the UN talk toilets.

Now it is time to act.

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? To get to the bottom.

Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? To get to the bottom.

Has that joke left you flushed with amusement? Or was it a flash in the pan? Do you feel you got a bum deal from a supposedly serious editorial? Puns and humour abound whenever toilets or poop come into the conversation, and that’s understandable: over the last couple of hundred years the natural, inevitable act of defecation has been locked out of polite society, to be talked about only with humour or embarrassment. As India’s Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh recently said that “when we talk about sanitation we can only giggle.”

But that is about to change, because today is the first ever UN-endorsed World Toilet Day.

A latrine stands alone in the expanded area of Kobe refugee camp in Dolo Ado refugee camp
A latrine stands alone in the expanded area of Kobe refugee camp in Dolo Ado refugee camp © UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Ose

That may make you laugh too. After all, there are UN days for Africa Industrialization, Philosophy and Television, and that’s just in November. But behind the humour of toilets and pooping, there are some deadly serious facts and figures that make it obvious why 100 countries – from Afghanistan to Viet Nam – came together earlier this year to pass the resolution that enshrined an official UN World Toilet Day for the first time in history. Here is one figure: 10 million viruses. That’s the number that can be found in only one gram of human faeces. Here is another: 2.5 billion. That’s how many people around the world still have no decent sanitation. One billion of them must do something called “open defecation”, or pooping in the open, in fields, on roadsides, on railway tracks. Every day, nearly two billion tons of human faeces, with a dizzying number of potential viruses, bacteria and worm eggs, are lying around our planet ready to be trodden on, touched or ingested in water and food. The consequences are easy enough to calculate: Diarrhoea, caused by that contaminated food, water and environment, is still the second deadliest killer of children in the world, killing 1,600 children every day. Only pneumonia and respiratory infections are more deadly (by the way, World Pneumonia Day is in November too). Women and girls get a particularly raw deal, having to find somewhere safe to defecate in darkness for modesty’s sake, putting them at risk of rape and animal attacks (linked to another UN day in November focussing on violence against women). That children are dying from something as seemingly trivial as diarrhoea, or girls are getting raped because they have to find somewhere to do their toilet business: neither of those facts should make you giggle (International Children’s Day is also in November).

Yet the attention and funding given to sanitation and diarrhoea – which is easily preventable with adequate sanitation, safe water and good hygiene – have for decades been dwarfed by that given to other causes and challenges such as HIV/AIDS. When the Millennium Development Goals – a set of targets to reduce poverty and better maternal health and education amongst other things – were signed in 2000, sanitation wasn’t even mentioned. (It was added in the 2002 Johannesburg summit.)

Kanu Fanta, 30, mother of 6, washes her hands at a latrine at her house
Kanu Fanta, 30, mother of 6, washes her hands at a latrine at her house in Amari Yewebesh Kebele of Amhara Region in Ethiopia © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

Luckily, there is much more to celebrate now than ten years ago. Since 1990, 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation (although population growth means the number without scarcely changed). Even so, on average, 26,000 Africans gained access to sanitation every day, and there are 244 million fewer people defecating in the open worldwide. Also, we’re doing our sums better. The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program has launched an Economics of Sanitation Initiative that is producing figures to dazzle any treasury minister, calculating that a country can lose 1.5% of its GPD to costs incurred by poor sanitation (economic loss, hospital costs. Kenya loses $324 million a year in this way. India is $54 billion out of pocket (that’s the entire GDP of Croatia). But we can look at those figures from another angle: if we can figure out how to install adequate sanitation for 2.5 billion people, we can save $260 billion a year. Investing $1 in installing sanitation can save up to $5 in economic losses avoided. No matter how you do your sums, that’s a bargain.

Other cheering connections are being made between sanitation and other fields and departments. After research showing that sometimes up to a quarter of schoolgirls drop out of school permanently because of the simple lack of a toilet (usually when they begin menstruating), WASH – water and sanitation and hygiene – in Schools initiatives have multiplied. Experts in malnutrition now understand that sanitation plays a vital role in both the problem and the solution. Improving sanitation can reduce stunting and improve nutrition, the economy and development.

So do laugh by all means. All these new connections and understandings are causes for jubilation, and World Toilet Day is a wonderful way to celebrate them. It’s also a new spotlight on a public health crisis that has been hidden by shame for far too long. If jokes work at getting people to turn their attention to sanitation, let’s keep telling them.

Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water, and Secretary-General of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Hon. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Minister of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments, United Republic of Tanzania, and Chair of the UN-hosted Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Chair of UNSGAB, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water & Sanitation

Hold your breath… Water and Sanitation is about to go big in Ethiopia

Ethiopia needs more than 18,000 water professionals and technicians to implement the world’s largest sector-wide WASH Programme. Learn why you should be one of them!

By Dr. Samuel Godfrey, UNICEF Ethiopia Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)


Wubalem Asmamaw, 17, makes the short 20min journey to fetch water for her family in Machakel district, Amhara region, northern Ethiopia (©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose)

Meet Wubalem Asmamaw, a 17-year old girl who lives in Machakel district of the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia. Five years ago and like millions of girls her age or younger up and down the country, Wubalem used to spend more than three hours a day travelling to and from a nearby dirty river just to fetch water for her family. She would often run late or even miss her classes at the nearby elementary school not only to spend the day looking for water, but also to stay home and care for ill parents, siblings, and/or neighbors.  Her parents, who make a living from subsistence farming in the lush teff and wheat growing fields of West Gojjam, spent their hard-earned income on buying medicine.

For those years at least, Wubalem lived a life of fear. Fear that the lush, but open fields on her way back from the river might unleash a thug who might abduct and force her to marriage at the age of 12. Fear that she would be thrown out of school for skipping classes. Fear that one of her parents or siblings might fall sick again from diarrhea and miss many days of work in the field. And most important of all, Wubalem feared that her dreams of finishing high school and then studying to become a doctor might end prematurely.

When I met Wubalem two months ago at a recently-rehabilitated water point in her village, there was no fear in her eyes. Thanks to a water point that was built by the support from the European Union and UNICEF, Wubalem’s commute to fetch water has been reduced to just 20 minutes.  Instead of pessimistic predictions about her future, Wubalem talks about the new things she learned in her biology classes and why no one in her family or her neighborhood has fallen ill from diarrhea in the last three years. Why? The water they now drink every day is not only safe, but is enough to wash hands before and after meals and keep the family toilet clean at all times. After scoring top grades in her class early this year, Wubalem is also already looking forward to the last two years of high school not with fear, but with the passion of a teenager who loves school!

Sounds like a fairytale, right? This story is what we in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector work for and use to remind ourselves why we do what we do. Our job is not just about constructing and/or helping rehabilitate urban and rural water and sanitation facilities in every village and district, but also see millions of empowered young boys and girls ready to continue Ethiopia’s hopes of becoming a middle income country by 2030. We envision a country of many Wubalems- healthy, educated, and economically-empowered citizens ready to lift millions of their compatriots out of poverty.

This week, we take our current reality closer to our vision when Ethiopia launches the world’s largest Water and Sanitation (WASH) Sector Wide Approach (SWAP). Termed ONE WASH and supported by UNICEF, the international donor lead for WASH in Ethiopia; this huge undertaking terms ONE WASH National Programme (OWNP) brings together four national ministries- Water and Energy (MWE), Health (FMOH), Education (MOE), and Finance and Economic Development (MoFed) – in an innovative approach designed to meet Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation (GTP) and universal access ambitions.

But what does this really mean?

Like UNICEF, there are many development partners and stakeholders which work in WASH. From the smallest Civil Society Organization (CSO) which collects enough money to build a small hand pump to the largest multilateral and development partners like UNICEF, the World Bank, DFID, African Development Bank (ADB), Government of Finland, JICA, and the European Union which fund million-birr community water schemes, every organization works in WASH, but in their own different ways. They have different priorities, different monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, different reporting requirements, and varying amounts of funding and financial reporting systems.

With ONE WASH, this will be no more. As the experience of countries like Mozambique where I previous worked as Chief of WASH for UNICEF suggests, combining efforts accelerates efforts to meet both GTP and the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) which is providing universal access to water and sanitation. It also helps reduce duplication of funding, efforts, and priorities. With ONE WASH, all stakeholders work together to produce one plan, all contributing to a consolidated WASH account at federal, and producing one report.

And it does not stop there!

Successfully implementing ONE WASH requires over 18,000 additional skilled personnel of all types across the country. More contractors, water technicians, drilling companies, and higher education programmes with larger intake are all needed in the next 5-10 years.  Based on my experience in other countries, I see the WASH sector personnel in Ethiopia becoming a bit like what is currently happening to X-ray technicians at the moment- there simply aren’t enough of them! And those who currently work as X-ray technicians are increasingly demanding higher wages and flexible working hours so that they can take on additional part-time work.

Ethiopia needs more contractors with well-trained and sufficient workforce of technicians, engineers, and office staff to meet its lofty water and sanitation goals. It needs more students in universities tackling subjects like Water Engineering, Water Technology, Sanitation Engineering, and others. Given the demand and forseeable shortage of professionals, I see these fields competing and perhaps winning the battle to attract talented students straight of high school. And this is not just about installing water schemes in remote parts of the country. This affects everyone from your small town favorite plumber to the ambitious school or hotel that uses solar energy to power its water pump.

Rest assured, the WASH sector is the place to be in Ethiopia for the next 5-10 years.