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Published on: 10/11/2022

Ethiopia. Salesman handing plastic latrine slab to female customer

Credit: PSI/USAID Transform WASH project

This blog is co-authored by Lars Osterwalder, IRC Associate and Monte Achenbach, Chief of Party, USAID Transform WASH | PSI Ethiopia

The world is off-track to reach universal access to safely managed sanitation by 2030. Still, we have almost 10 years to change the trajectory. Bill Gates is credited with the saying, “People overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.” We think that this is very true. For instance, while ending open defecation in Ethiopia is an impossible task to be achieved within one year, tremendous achievements have been seen over the past decade, when open defecation dropped from 47% (in 2010) to 17% (in 2020). These numbers give us hope that ending open defecation in Ethiopia is realistic over the next 5 to 10 years!  

While generally successful at reducing open defecation, the community-led total sanitation approach applied broadly in Ethiopia over the past decade did not trigger the construction of improved sanitation facilities. Most Ethiopian households constructed pit latrines using locally available materials such as wood, mud and stones. These “traditional” latrines are not considered to be “improved” according to the definition of the WHO/UNICEF JMP definitions because they are neither cleanable nor durable. To reach a level of sanitation service that has greater impact on health, households need access to a broader range of affordable, quality products and services to upgrade their latrines – and we believe that the private sector, with government creating a strong enabling environment, is the most effective, sustainable option to deliver these products and services! 

WHO.UNICEF JMP Household data – Sanitation – Ethiopia – Service Levels - 2000-2020

Source: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP)

In countries like Ethiopia, where private businesses are scarcely engaged in the sanitation sector, government and development partners can play a role in strengthening the private sector by implementing ‘market-based sanitation’ programs. ‘Sanitation market development’ is a term that is used interchangeably with ‘market-based sanitation.’ ‘Sanitation marketing’ or ‘SanMark’ is a component of market-based sanitation that focuses on the specific activities of businesses offering sanitation products and services, while market-based sanitation refers more broadly to strengthening the enabling environment and facilitating greater supply and demand for market growth. 

In a special issue of Amplify newsletter we share key outputs of a market-based sanitation activity implemented in Ethiopia: USAID Transform WASH (2017 to 2023) a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, IRC WASH, and, through 2022, Plan International. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water and Energy, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments. 

Please take your time to learn about an exciting door-to-door sales approach and how stakeholder coordination can be strengthened. Learn about how we think universal sanitation access can be reached in Ethiopia and have a look at the national sanitation subsidy protocol developed to provide guidance on smart and targeted subsidies to reach the poorest. Watch below our animations, which highlight some key findings that you should consider when implementing a market-based sanitation intervention yourself. Finally, please ask your colleagues and staff members who are new to market-based sanitation to reserve two days and take our introductory course, Market-Based Sanitation – The Basics

Building on the lessons learned from USAID Transform WASH and the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to institutionalize market-based sanitation as a key approach to improve the quality of toilets, we are hopeful to seeing an increase of households using at least basic sanitation services - small annual increases that lead to a huge increase over the next decade!

WASH Systems Academy: Safe sanitation for everyone - where to start

WASH Systems Academy: Practical lasting solutions to sanitation

WASH Systems Academy: How to create a sustainable sanitation business


About Transform WASH

USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation.

Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.


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