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Ethiopia: Integrating climate resilience with WASH to leave no one behind

Abiy Girma, National Coordinator ONE WASH National Program
04 Jun 2020

Being home to twelve major river basins, Ethiopia has abundant water resources, both surface and groundwater. But what prevents the country from utilizing these resources well? It’s the uneven distribution of water resources (both spatially and temporally) exacerbated by extreme climate shocks– that poses a continuous challenge to water resources management and service delivery for human consumption and productive use. Therefore, the Government of Ethiopia has set out its development goals in successive Growth and Transformation Plans (GTPs) to especially identify water and sanitation as key priority areas for achieving sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

Ethiopia is showing strong signs of progress in making the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policies climate change resilient. The ONE WASH National Program (OWNP) is the Government of Ethiopia’s answer to strengthening multi-stakeholder platform for an integrated plan for achieving universal access to services. The OWNP not only brings together four sector ministries but also provides the framework for harmonizing the government and donor approaches to planning, financing, and implementation. Phase II of the OWNP has integrated Climate- Resilient WASH (CR-WASH) to make sure that drought-affected areas (mostly inhabited by the pastoralist communities) are not left behind. Even at the 2019 SWA Sector Ministers’ Meeting, the Government of Ethiopia took a commitment to upscale the implementation of the Climate-Resilient WASH and Water Safety Planning to each new water supply project and select old most vulnerable and top priority water supplies in rural and urban areas. 

We have been moving ahead from commitments to action. The key objective for Phase II is climate resilient, improved WASH access and adoption of good hygiene practices equitably and sustainably. Additionally, sustainable sanitation and hygiene for urban and rural areas is well elaborated in phase II to emphasize gender, persons with disabilities, baby WASH, refugees and other vulnerable groups. The focus is now increasingly on cross-cutting issues– water quality, environmental safeguarding, equity in WASH. 

Ethiopia Graphic

Ethiopia requires USD 3.4 billion per year to achieve the WASH targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. For OWNP Phase II (2018-2020), USD 6.5 billion is required of which a total of USD 2.5 billion is allocated for the Climate Resilient WASH (50% from Government of Ethiopia). 

The National water sector policy advocates full cost recovery mechanism for urban water supply infrastructure development , operation and maintenances costs while the rural communities are subsidized by the government and donor partners for water supply capital investments. There is well proven cost recovery mechanism registered so far (nearly 95%) at urban setting. The rural communities are paying only for operation and maintenance costs.  Therefore, one of the priorities is to further explore current and alternative funding sources to reduce the funding gap and improve efficiency of the funds and synergies between interventions and diversification of financing modalities (with 3Ts – taxes, tariffs, transfers, blended financing, climate finance and humanitarian nexus funding).

Currently, what’s working well for us is a basket funding instrument called Consolidated WASH Account (CWA)– wherein the Government of Ethiopia and development partners are pooling finances. Moreover, due to the increased popularity of OWNP, public financing has doubled in 10 years. The Water Resources Development Fund (WRDF) is operating well in terms of providing access to WASH financing to cities/towns but lacks funding for rural areas- this is now our focus in Phase II. The private sector investment and commercial loans are slowly increasing, but the challenges remain in terms of low tariff in urban water supplies, limited capacity to pay of the public and lack of a legal framework for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). 

To further explore such innovative partnerships and improve sector coordination within the OWNP, Government is continuing its efforts on Mutual Accountability Mechanism through Joint Technical Review and Multi-stakeholder Forums. We believe that WASH should be addressed as an integrated package, given the challenges faced by Ethiopia in terms of climate change. This would help us in not just building resilience and improving sustainability but also help in eliminating inequalities. 


Additional resources:

  • To see, all the six commitments tabled by Government of Ethiopia, which include a focus on increasing financing and upscaling the implementation of climate-resilient WASH as well as rolling out national strategies to eliminate open defecation here.
  • Read Ethiopia’s country brief, here.