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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 However, water withdrawn for agriculture represents only an estimated four percent of the overall country’s available renewable water resources.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.
Integrated Family Health Program (IFHP): Support the Government of Ethiopia’s Health Extension Program, including promotion of point of use water treatment, clean water storage, construction and use of ventilated improved pit latrines, hand washing, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in schools.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Water Development in Ethiopia’s Pastoral Areas, [PDF, 4MB]
Desalination Plant Opens in Afdera, [news story]
Last updated: April 16, 2014