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Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is very low in Ethiopia: in 2011, only 49 percent of the population had access to safe water and 21 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services and poor hygiene practices negatively impact health and nutrition; diarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of under-five mortality in Ethiopia.
Agricultural activity is by far the largest consumer of water in Ethiopia. An estimated 93 percent of all water withdrawals in the country (surface water and groundwater) are for agricultural use, much higher than the global average of 70 percent. However, water withdrawn for agriculture represents only an estimated four percent of the overall country’s available renewable water resources. While Ethiopia has relatively abundant water resources, it is considered ‘water stressed’ due to rapid population growth over the last decade. Estimates of renewable annual groundwater per year range from 13.5 to 28 billion m³, of which only about 2.6 billion m³ are currently exploitable. Natural variability in rainfall patterns and distribution, punctuated by extreme climatic events, has thrust many regions of the country into conditions of extreme water scarcity, degraded water quality and chronic food insecurity. At the other extreme, flooding is a significant problem in some parts of Ethiopia. Compounding the unpredictable nature of the country’s rainfall is the shortage of existing water related infrastructure.
The Government of Ethiopia aims to increase access to safe water supply and basic sanitation in rural and urban areas and to invest more resources into water related infrastructure. For example, under the One WASH National Program, the Government of Ethiopia aims to increase access to safe water supply to 98 percent for rural areas and 100 percent for urban areas and to provide all Ethiopians with access to basic sanitation. USAID supports the Government of Ethiopia’s efforts by incorporating water, sanitation and hygiene activities into its health, education, agriculture and food security, humanitarian assistance and democracy and governance programs.
Banja District Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion: Improve the health of the most disadvantaged people in 10 rural kebeles (communities) of the Banja woreda (district), by increasing access to safe water supply, reducing the average time taken to fetch water, and increasing access to, and use of, sanitation facilities.
Empowering New Generations to Improve Nutrition and Economic Opportunities (ENGINE): Use nutrition cooking demonstrations and other platforms to conduct community conversations on WASH, to promote hand washing, safe water and food storage preparation and handling and use of latrines, and to ensure that participants understand the relationship between nutrition, illness and WASH practices.
Integrated Family Health Program (IFHP): Strengthen and promote increased use of high-impact family planning, maternal, newborn and child health practices, products and services. IFHP provides an integrated package of family planning and reproductive health, maternal, newborn and child health interventions. Investments directly support the Health Sector Development Plan and the Health Extension Program with a focus on delivery of key services and products through a continuum of quality care from the health center to the health post and community level in rural, peri-urban and hard-to-reach parts of the country. IFHP promotes hygiene and sanitation through health extension workers. IFHP supports 302 woredas (districts) in the Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray regions and the emerging regions of Benishangul-Gumuz and Somali. The activity benefits approximately 35.2 million people—roughly 40 percent of the entire population of Ethiopia.
Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP): Construct and rehabilitate potable water sources and sanitation facilities through public works activities, promote hygiene education, provide water-harvesting technologies to smallholder farmers, and promote watershed management activities.
Sustainable Water Resources: Capacity Building in Education, Research and Outreach: Support graduate-level education, research, community outreach and institutional development in sustainable water resource management between five partnering universities in Ethiopia and the University of Connecticut in the U.S.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Oromia Region: Develop and rehabilitate springs, hand dug wells and shallow wells, and promote construction of household latrines and gender appropriate school sanitation facilities. Employ innovative approaches for hygiene behavior change, with an emphasis on reducing open defecation, improving hand washing, water storage and handling, and point of use water treatment.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER): Improve access to clean and sustainable water sources for target communities in the Somali, Afar and Oromia regions.
Fact Sheet: Water in Ethiopia [PDF, 179 KB]
Water Development in Ethiopia’s Pastoral Areas, [PDF, 4 MB]
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Last updated: August 13, 2014