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Published on: 25/08/2023

IRC Ethiopia held a three-day blended training on the WASH systems strengthening approach in Jinka town, South Omo Zone, Ethiopia. Around 30 participants from the zone and woreda WASH sector offices participated in the training and they were from water, health, education, and finance offices as well as collaborators like Action for Development and Ari Development Association. Four of the trainees were women. The training used the WASH Systems Academy's Basics course especially developed for Ethiopia which was recently translated into Amharic.

Trainees immersed themselves in the online course. Photo by Gezahegn Lemecha

Trainees did the online course on their own and the facilitator presented the key points of each session and facilitated discussions. The South Ari Woreda team, one of the long-term engagement districts of IRC Ethiopia, shared their hands-on experience related to the discussion points.

Some of the observations that were put forward were:

  • Participants found the training to be very helpful in understanding how the systems approach is used in real-world settings and how it can be applied to improve WASH service delivery.
  • Though WASH services in the zone are at a low level, participants emphasised the absence of sufficient resource allocation to improve them. They also noted that sanitation and hygiene are left for NGOs.
  • Sharing documentation of changes made through a systems approach and arranging experience-sharing visits can drive the commitment of others to follow the same path, according to participants.
  • As there are private drinking water well owners selling water to the community in Jinka town, participants stated the need for proper regulation regarding licensing and monitoring.
  • They also underscored the importance of private service providers in the water sector to fill gaps that exist in government similar to what is being done in the health sector.
  • Usually, urban utilities board chairpersons are mayors, but they don’t have enough knowledge about the sector and high turnover exacerbated the issue. Therefore, participants suggested having a leadership that has a good understanding of the sector.
  • Participants also found the sanitation chain shown in the course is not applicable in the case of rural Ethiopia, where latrines are replaced when full. 

After completing the training, Dagim Mekonnen, head of the South Omo Zone Education Department, said, "I gained basic knowledge of WASH from this training. It was different from other trainings I've attended in the past because it required individual effort to complete the course. I learned the importance of data management for decision-making and the need for collaboration to improve WASH services. The knowledge I gained from this training can help me influence the South Omo Zone Cabinet."

Nigatuwa Sisay, vice head of the South Omo Zone Finance Department, said that the combination of self-paced and facilitated training helped them stay focused. "I think all trainings should be designed this way," she said.

Yohannes Melti, head of the South Ari Woreda Water and Energy Office, said, "This training built our capacity on systems strengthening. The training approach was new because it required individual effort. IRC WASH showed us a new way of learning. It requires us to work day and night to complete the course. We must be able to apply it in our day-to-day activities to change our institutions to improve services in the community."

Solomon Ayalew, from Jinka Polytechnic College, said that the training was supported by technology, simple, and well-facilitated. He suggested creating a discussion platform for political leaders to apply the systems strengthening approach.

The training was supported by the Agenda for Change district-wide approach for the South Ari Woreda project. This is a two-year project that is supporting South Ari woreda to implement the WASH master plan.

For more information on the WASH Systems Academy and the free courses of offer, visit this page.

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