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Published on: 26/07/2022

Ethiopia has an arid or semi-arid environment covering 60% of its land area which is prone to recurrent droughts. The repeated droughts make life miserable for the people who live in these places. Despite the fact that the country's policy emphasizes the need to address climate change issues by implementing and promoting mitigation and adaptation measures, strategies, and readiness at all levels, there is still more work to be done to address the challenges posed by climate change.

In light of this, IRC WASH Ethiopia and DT Global, in collaboration with UNICEF and the One WASH Program Coordination Office, organized a learning and sharing event on July 19, 2022 in Addis Ababa with various government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on climate change and WASH under the theme “Climate change, water, and sanitation in the lowlands of Ethiopia”. The objectives of the event were to exchange knowledge among various climate related initiatives working to strengthen water and sanitation in the lowlands of the country, to identify difficulties in implementing national policies, and to promote collaboration and partnership among all actors engaged in Ethiopia's lowlands.

The State Minister of Water and Sanitation from the Ministry of Water and Energy, His Excellency Ambassador Asfaw Dingamo, in his keynote speech addressed the threat of climate change to humanity, as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies as the only options to address the challenges. "Considering the serious impact of climate change, the Ethiopian government has developed a climate resilient green economy strategy that mainstreams climate change adaptation in all development programmes, and the national adaptation plan was developed in 2007 to implement the strategy," said Ambassador Asfaw. He also stated that water is where the immediate impact of climate change is felt. Floods and drought are climate-related hazards that the country is enduring as it has different agroecological zones. Ambassador Asfaw underlined the need for development partners to collaborate with government in overcoming these challenges.

The learning event highlighted different climate change and WASH-related topics based on learning shared from different initiatives. Some are focusing on enhancing water security by working on watershed management, while others are focusing on climate resilient solutions to WASH infrastructure planning and design.

Mr. Abyi Girma, the One WASH National Coordination Office Coordinator, presenting about the policy, strategy, and plan for CR WASH in the lowlands of Ethiopia.

Mr. Abiy Girma, the One WASH National Coordination Office Coordinator, presenting about policy, strategy, and plans for CR WASH in the lowlands of Ethiopia

Participants discussed a variety of topics during the event. Much discussion focused on the need for proper planning and responding to emergency situations. Additionally, the necessity for coordination among various initiatives focusing on climate change and WASH was raised. Participants indicated that several NGOs are working on the issue but not in a coordinated manner resulting in duplication of effort. A synergistic approach was offered to save resources and time while having a major impact on the situation. NGOs working on this issue should report to the One WASH National Program and collaborate with government operations, and with each other, but with government in the lead. It was also noted that other government sectors such as agriculture, finance, meteorology, and even parliament members themselves must participate in mitigation and adaption efforts.

Technical components were also discussed. The importance of detailed hydrogeological mapping in order to have a well-structured water information management system was emphasized. The Ministry of Water and Energy has begun work on building a database, and all NGOs with relevant knowledge and experience are invited to contribute to this endeavour. Overall, use of various technologies to reinforce the system is critical and should be implemented. Indigenous knowledge should also be used and community participation is a necessity. The importance of enlisting the private sector to contribute to climate change adaptation was also highlighted, particularly due to their contributions to the problems in the past.

The fundamental issue requiring more attention is advocating for climate resilient WASH. Key decision-makers must comprehend the true threat of climate change and its impact on WASH and should help find solutions and make decisions to mitigate and adapt to the challenges. Participants recommend that a strategy that can lead to sustainable solutions should be developed and supported with strong collaboration among all actors. According to the Ministry of Water and Energy, a new water resource management policy is being developed and will be launched soon, and the topic of climate change and WASH is being properly addressed in the document.

Posters presented in ecosystem rehabilitation based on the experience of Bale eco-region and the experience of Ziway - Shalla sub-basin CR WASH learning platform

Posters presented in ecosystem rehabilitation based on the experience of Bale eco-region and the experience of Ziway - Shalla sub-basin CR WASH learning platform

Because the sector has high levels of leadership and personnel turnover, another key element agreed upon is the development of strong institutional memory and the capacity of those working in the sector to continue and build upon existing and planned work to address climate change challenges.

In concluding remarks, Abera Endeshaw, the Minister's Senior Advisor and Head of International Affairs, underlined the need to focus on long-term solutions and strong planning. He also emphasized the necessity for developing staff capability, enhancing systems, and developing and managing infrastructure. There is also a plan to bring the agenda to the attention of government officials.

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