Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Improving sanitation and hygiene to address stunting, diarrhea and trachoma, leveraging resources for access to water and sanitation in schools and health facilities, innovating to improve functioning of water supply

Millennium Kassa,10, grade 2, drinking water from a new water point built by UNICEF at  Oloncho village, Mekonisa kebele. SNNPR.

For every child, clean water

In Ethiopia, 60 to 80 percent of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services. In addition, an estimated 50 percent of the consequences of undernutrition are caused by environmental factors that include poor hygiene and lack of access to water supply and sanitation. There are strong links between sanitation and stunting, and open defecation can lead to fecal-oral diseases such as diarrhea, which can cause and worsen malnutrition.

Diarrhea is the leading cause of under-five mortality in Ethiopia, accounting for 23 per cent of all under-five deaths – more than 70,000 children a year.

Water and sanitation in numbers

  • 65 per cent of households have access to improved water sources
  • 6.3 per cent of households have access to improved sanitation
  • 60 - 80 percent of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services
  • 70,000 under-five deaths per year due to diarrhoea
  • 17 per cent of people practice improved hygiene behaviours and live in healthy environments
Feysel Ali, 8 and a grade 2 student washing his face at Tsetse Adurnunu primary school, Benishangul Gumuz

UNICEF ensures that the Ethiopian population – especially women, children, adolescent girls and vulnerable groups – equitably access safely managed water supply and sanitation services, end open defecation and adopt appropriate hygiene practices, including menstrual health and hygiene, in households, communities and institutions in rural and urban areas. UNICEF collaborates with the government on the ONEWASH National Programme, a sector-wide and multi-sectoral approach to WASH programming.

Sanitation promotion, hygiene and Baby WASH, in areas with a high prevalence of stunting and diarrhea, are a significant focus of UNICEF’s work. UNICEF innovates to improve the functioning and resilience of water supplies in water insecure districts, and to expand urban sanitation and water service delivery. In a country with regions that face chronic drought, UNICEF is supporting the OneWASH programme to strengthen its climate resilience through the promotion of sustainable deep boreholes linked to multi-village supply systems. UNICEF also strengthens sector coordination for development and emergency programming.

Through the network of 38,000 Health Extension Workers, UNICEF promotes hygiene and sanitation. A National Sanitation Marketing guideline from the Ministry of Health is used to increase the supply and demand for culturally accepted and improved sanitation products and business models along with a promotional strategy. UNICEF has played a lead role in developing a National Urban Sanitation Strategy to address the gaps and challenges in urban sanitation.

UNICEF strengthens the capacity of the WASH sector through evidence-based strategic planning, coordination and implementation of development and emergency interventions. Improving knowledge management through data generation to inform and strengthen service delivery, policies, procedures, monitoring and evaluation is a key focus.

In emergencies, UNICEF enhances sector coordination and technical support to partners for effective and timely responses to populations affected by WASH emergencies in line with minimum standards.