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Creating a healthy environment by building latrines in Ethiopia's Amhara Region

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2007/ Getachew
Tiringo Haile, mother of three, pours water for one of her cows in Mota District, where sanitation coverage soared as a result of a UNICEF-supported project.

By Indrias Getachew

MOTA DISTRICT, Ethiopia, 17 October 2007 – Tiringo Haile, a mother of three girls who lives in a farming community in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region, has lived most of her life without access to a toilet or latrine.

“In the past if we wanted to go to the toilet we had to use the outdoors,” says Ms. Haile. “I would get sick with bladder pains and then it was off to the hospital. What else could I do?”  

According to a joint monitoring programme by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, only 13 per cent of Ethiopians have access to latrine facilities, one the lowest levels of sanitation coverage in the world. 

A successful pilot project

In 2003, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Amhara regional health bureau, embarked upon a rural sanitation initiative designed to bring rapid improvement. They promoted the construction of pit latrines using simple technology and locally available resources. The village where Ms. Haile lives was one of three sub-districts selected for the pilot sanitation project.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2007/ Getachew
Hygiene and Sanitation Services expert Netsanet Berhanu trains farmers from surrounding villages on the benefits of latrine construction and use.

“We selected 80 heads of household in each sub-district and gave them a one-day training regarding the benefits of using latrines, the hazards of not using a latrine, as well as how to construct them,” says Hygiene and Sanitation Services expert Netsanet Berhanu. “The second day, we built model latrines around churches, district offices, health posts and health facilities, thereby enabling community members to learn about sanitation and how to build latrines before going home.” 

The success of the pilot sanitation project initiated in Amhara, in collaboration with UNICEF, has attracted the attention of other regional health bureaus working to promote sanitation and hygiene practices in Ethiopia. 

Latrines needed in schools

School sanitation coverage in Ethiopia is low, and even in schools that do have latrines, there often aren’t separate facilities for boys and girls. Recent studies conducted by UNICEF in two parts of the country indicate that girls are likely to have 10 per cent less facilities than boys.

Worse still, the availability of hand-washing facilities adjacent to the latrines was seen only 4.4 per cent of the time in 1,800 sample schools.

In many cases, the latrines are so dirty that children are forced to find other solutions, which often means missing school or using unsanitary practices. Water-borne diarrhoea results in over 500,000 child deaths each year, and 60 to 80 per cent of all diseases in Ethiopia are water and sanitation-related. It is hoped that the rapid construction of latrines in this region will curb deaths and create a healthier environment for women and children.

“It has been two years since we built our latrine and I am very happy, especially for my children.” says Ms. Haile. 




UNICEF correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on a successful programme bringing update sanitation facilities to areas in Ethiopia.
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