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Published on: 15/03/2021

''In Mille District, water resources are scarce. Women travel long hours searching for water and the quality of the water is very poor. This has been a big challenge for the community, resulting in various water-borne diseases. To change this situation and build a strong WASH system, we are developing and finalising a WASH SDG Master Plan,'' said Mohammed Eshetu, Water Engineer at Mille District Water, Irrigation and Energy Office. I met Mohammed in a workshop conducted in Afar Region aimed at validating and launching the Mille District WASH SDG Master Plan.

Mohammed acknowledged IRC WASH Ethiopia for providing technical and financial support in developing the master plan which will enable the entire community in the district to have access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services by 2030.

Woba Ari district discussing on the final master plan

IRC WASH Ethiopia, with financial support from USAID Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (SWS) has been supporting Mille District in the Afar Region and South Ari, Baka Dawla Ari and Woba Ari Districts in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) to develop their district master plans. IRC WASH Ethiopia, through other projects, is also supporting five other districts in both Amhara and Oromia regions.  Three districts in Amhara Region have completed their plans and begun implementation and the two in Oromia Region are in the final stages of development.

In Afar and SNNPR, the four districts are finalising their plans and have all recently conducted individual workshops to validate and launch their master plans. The current status and targets for community and institutional water, sanitation, and hygiene for each district were presented and discussed with a wider audience of WASH stakeholders.

Water service

The four districts valued the basic contents of the master plans and were ready to go into the plans during the validation and launching workshop. They discussed the expected challenges in carrying out the plan and suggested solutions based on their practical experiences. In Mille District, most participants said that since the community is leading a pastoral life, water access for their livestock should be considered and incorporated into the master plan. They said that their nomadic life would be a challenge for building a resilient WASH system, therefore they recommended incorporating a strategy for villagization into the master plan.

Participants discussed the need for a strategy to evaluate the quality of water scheme construction which should be included in the master plan. They said that water schemes are breaking down mostly because of poor construction which is related to design, equipment, and site selection. This is happening because of weak monitoring and evaluation systems established by the Government.

Fluoride in Mille and turbidity in South Ari are two of the water quality challenges mentioned by the participants. Strategies like using historical data and test wells in site selection, and using different filtration methods, different household water treatments, and safe water storage were raised as issues to be addressed by the master plan. Giving due attention to water resource management is also vital to safeguard water supply sources, according to participants. Afforestation of indigenous plants, delineation of buffer zones around the water schemes, and establishing private, local maintenance and spare part supply enterprises are stated as some of the strategies to reduce non-functionality and ensure the sustainability of water services.

Capacity building trainings for technical staff will be helpful to strengthen the quality of water scheme construction and management, including operation and maintenance. Participants claimed that lack of technical skills is a major hurdle in construction supervision and post-construction support. Therefore, they suggest collaboration with the Ethiopian Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to build the capacity of the technical staff.

Participants emphasised the need to consider community contributions in building and maintaining water schemes. Therefore, having a strategy to empower the economic status of the community and households for better income generation and linking households with loan services are important.

Sanitation and hygiene

The district information in the master plan shows that access to sanitation and hygiene is very low in all districts. Much work is required to upgrade the existing situation and get to improved sanitation and hygiene services. It was agreed that a collaborative effort is needed to improve the situation, for instance, in the absence of water, it is not possible to achieve proper sanitation and hygiene.

Awareness creation is a major activity and health extension workers and religious leaders are expected to play a substantial role in this. Assigning kebele level WASH focal persons, providing kebele level WASH plans, and using government networks such as women development armies are proposed mechanisms to improve the communities' awareness about improved hygiene and sanitation.

In pastoralist communities, implementing Community Led Total Sanitation and Hygiene (CLTSH) is a challenge, because of people’s mobility. In this case, villagization may also be a solution. 

Besides awareness creation and behavioural change activities, households are to build improved sanitation and hygiene facilities. Establishing sanitation marketing centres nearby is therefore essential. Participants believe a market-based sanitation approach will encourage people to move up the hygiene and sanitation ladder. 

Institutional WASH

The master plan assessed the existing situation in the target districts and aims to achieve at least 100% basic institutional WASH services for health care facilities and schools. Institutional WASH has been overlooked previously, and there was no coordination among sectors. For instance, in South Ari District none of the schools have basic sanitation services and basic water services is only at 21%. This shows that there are a lot of challenges ahead and coordination is needed for proper implementation of the plan

According to participants’ previous experiences in selecting sites for constructing of healthcare facilities or schools, the availability of water in the area has not been considered. So accessibility to water should be one of the key recommendations when selecting a site. They also said that institutions should collaborate with the district water offices and even support them by allocating budget to connect institutions to the main water supply since this is the task of the water offices.

In schools, students, teachers, and parents could play a significant role in constructing and maintaining water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities so their role and contributions should be incorporated into the master plan. 

Generally, the discussion in the four SWS districts showed the need for coordination of the WASH stakeholders and dedicated implementation of the master plan. The planning teams in each district captured the comments and suggestions from the discussion and pledged to incorporate and finalise the master plan and then hand it over to the district administration. All district administrators have agreed to closely follow up and implement the master plan and the District Council and cabinet will discuss the master plan and endorse it. They will then begin implementation.


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