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Published on: 05/04/2013

Addis Ababa – 8 April 2013. Providing universal access to water and sanitation, the goal of the Ethiopian Government, is a huge effort that is transforming lives and the economy. Behind efforts to improve service delivery – building new communal water systems, repairing broken pumps, encouraging households to improve their family wells and latrines – are monitoring systems, data and statistics. Reliable data are vital for investments to be made in the right places and the correct policy decisions are taken. Should limited public finance be directed to maintaining and repairing existing water supply systems, or to new construction, for example.

The recently completed National WASH Inventory has been a major initiative to better monitor the performance of the water and sanitation sector in Ethiopia. This involved survey of over 92,000 rural water supply schemes, over 1,600 small town systems, 50,000 schools and clinics and interviews with 12 million households. The costs amounted to more than 200 million Birr (about 12 million USD). For the first time, the National WASH Inventory provides a national baseline of all water and sanitation facilities using standard methods across all regions.

It is in the rural areas, with 82% of the population and fewer facilities than the cities, that the challenge is biggest. The results show that access to rural water supplies is close to the figures reported by the Central Statistical Agency and reported internationally by the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme, the international reporting initiative tracking progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The new and improved figures show that the challenge of extending services is also bigger than previously recognized: the majority of rural Ethiopians (51%) still lack access to a safe water supply.

Now that a good baseline has been established, the monitoring challenge shifts to making the data available, using data in plans and policy making, and updating. This is all needed to underpin better service delivery, and to reach the unserved with more services says Tamene Hailu, National WASH Inventory Coordinator at the Ministry of Water and Energy. Updating is already underway in some regions.

These issues will all be the subject of a seminar on Monday 8 April, ‘National WASH Inventory: lessons learned and maximising value’, organised by the Ministry of Water and Energy, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and CCRDA-WSF. This event is part of a week of events in Addis Ababa bringing together international experts in water and sanitation monitoring. John Butterworth from the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre at The Hague says that ‘counting may seem less important than building new infrastructure, but the better data collected in the National WASH Inventory could be a force that drives a new spurt of growth in the sector. Put to use, the numbers could result in many millions of people getting new or better water supplies and sanitation facilities’.

The seminar on the National WASH Inventory precedes the international symposium “Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery” which is being held from 9-11 April and also takes place in the Addis Ababa Hilton.


  • Tamene Hailu (National WASH Inventory Coordinator, MoWE)
  • John Butterworth (IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre)
  • Inge Klaassen (IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre) (
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