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Ethiopia, 23 March 2012: On World Water Day, poor rural people missing out on safe water and basic sanitation

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 23 March 2012 – As the world commemorates World Water Day, UNICEF called on governments to pay particular attention to those living in rural areas who are being left behind in their countries' progress, especially with regard to access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Two weeks ago a UNICEF and World Health Organization report showed conclusively that poor people in rural areas are overwhelming those without these most basic necessities for life.

The report, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, says the world met the Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water at the end of 2010, when 89 percent of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources. However, it says that rural dwellers are several times more likely than their urban counterparts to be without access to safe drinking water. According to the report, globally there is an almost universal disparity of access to safe drinking water in rural areas compared to urban areas.

In Ethiopia, according to the Growth and Transformation Plan (2010), the water supply coverage is 65.8 percent (91.5 percent urban and 62 percent rural). While there has been significant progress in recent years, there are still close to 30 million Ethiopians who lack access to safe and reliable sources of drinking water. The Joint Monitoring Report (JMP) 2012 update reports that the percentage of population using improved drinking water sources is 44 percent (97 percent urban and 34 percent rural). The difference in between the Government and JMP figures can be explained in part by different definitions of improved water source. According to Federal Ministry of Health 2009 report (Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP) IV Annual Performance Report 2009/2010) the national coverage of sanitation stands at 60 percent with urban coverage ahead of rural coverage (88 and 56 percent, respectively).
“Access to sanitation and water supply continues to grow at a steady pace, and the Government of Ethiopia’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme and policies are widely regarded as among the most progressive and effective in the world”, says Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Ethiopia country representative. “However, much still remains to be done to address the rural population that needs safe drinking water for their daily needs. We need to minimize the rural-urban divide for safe drinking water which is 30 percentage points in Ethiopia. Simultaneously we need to reach out to hard to reach areas to ensure equity in our approach”.

The Ethiopian Government has laid out ambitious plans for water, sanitation and hygiene through its “Universal Access Plan II” – which seeks to reach 98.5 percent access to safe water and 100 percent access to sanitation by 2015 (far more ambitious than the MDGs). In order to reach these targets, innovative, cost-effective sector-wide approaches are needed. The cost of achieving these targets will be significant. Recent estimates suggest reaching the “UAP” targets by 2015 could cost as much as US$3.01 billion. Current levels of investment are only about one third of this estimated resource requirement.

UNICEF is supporting the Government and its partners to accomplish this in the WASH sector. UNICEF’s efforts in this regard includes:

  • strengthening the WASH sector nationally including contributing to drilling and self-supply as service delivery mechanisms for rural water in order to reaching out to more than 30 percent of citizens who do not have access to safe water;
  • developing a national hand washing strategy and campaign aimed at school children, addressing critical water, sanitation and hygiene needs in drought, flood, disease outbreak, and other humanitarian emergencies;
  • expanding WASH activities in Ethiopia’s four “Developing Regional States” where access to basic services is very low;
  • harmonizing WASH sector financial tracking and implementation through a multi-stakeholder national “WASH Implementation Framework”;
  • updating the Universal Access Plan (UAP);
  • rolling out of the National WASH Inventory;
  • up scaling of Community-Led Total Sanitation and Hygiene (CLTSH);
  • and the preparation of a National Hygiene and Sanitation Strategic Action Plan.

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:  

For further information, please contact:

Alexandra (Sacha) Westerbeek, Communication Manager, Media and External Relation Section, UNICEF
Tel.: +251 11 518 4039, Mobile: +251 911 255109, email:

Wossen Mulatu, Communication Officer, Media and External Relation Section, UNICEF
Tel : +251 115 184028, Mobile: +251 911 308483,



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