Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities. Provision of water and sanitation also plays an essential role in protecting human health during crisis and disease outbreaks.
Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in water and sanitation over the last two decades. According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2014 report, the country has improved water supply by 57% (97% in urban areas and 42% in rural areas), thus achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 target 7C. Although the sanitation target has not yet been achieved, there has been tremendous progress during the past decade in improving sanitation and ending open defecation. The progress has been largely due to the establishment of a Government-led WASH coordination mechanism (ONE WASH programme) involving Ministry of Water, Health, Education and Finance and Economic Development, as well as development partners.
Despite the progress seen in Ethiopia, 43% of the population does not have access to an improved water source and 28% practice open defecation. The National WASH Inventory (NWI) report of 2012 also indicates that the majority of health facilities in Ethiopia lack access to clean water and only about 32% have access to safe water. Moreover, 17% of childhood deaths are associated with diarrhea (EDHS 2011) which remains the third leading cause of under-five mortality attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
In the area of water and sanitation (WASH), WHO support has focused on capacity building activities. The WHO initiative Water Safety Plan was introduced through capacity building training in collaboration with the Ethiopian Government and partners including German Agro Action, Drop of Water, Relief Society of Tigray, JICA, Norwegian Church Aid and Finland’s COWASH Program. More than 500 professionals and students attended various trainings organized in 2013, 2014 and 2015. WHO is currently providing technical assistance to the ‘Building adaptation to climate change in health in least developed countries through resilient WASH’ project with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), as well as to the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) to implement the ‘Climate resilient Water Safety Plans’ through development of a national strategic framework.
Contact: Mr Waltaji Terfa Kutane, Health and Environment, WHO Ethiopia; Email: kutanew [at] who.int