Ethiopia: Expediting Urban Water, Sanitation Facilities to Catch With Rapid Urbanization in Ethiopia

Sanitation is a critical issue that has significant implications for public health, economic development, and the overall quality of life in a given country. Ethiopia has made notable progress in recent years, but there are still substantial challenges that need to be addressed. Access to basic sanitation facilities, such as improved toilets and proper waste management systems, remains a major concern in Ethiopia.

According to the World Bank, as of 2021, only about 28% of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities. This means that a staggering 72% of Ethiopians still lack access to basic sanitation services. Data from the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency reveals that, as of 2021, only 7% of rural households had access to improved sanitation facilities in rural areas. This lack of access is primarily due to limited resources, poor infrastructure, and low levels of awareness about proper sanitation practices. In many rural communities, pit latrines are the most common sanitation option, but these are often poorly constructed and not properly maintained, leading to further health risks.

The high population density in Ethiopia, especially in urban areas, is one of the main causes of the country’s sanitary problems. Inadequate sanitary infrastructure and overcrowding are results of rapid urbanization. Consequently, a large number of individuals choose open defecation, which worsens the sanitation situation. Because it causes contaminated water supplies and the development of diseases transmitted by water, this lack of access generates serious health dangers. In addition to polluting water sources, open defecation helps diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid spread throughout the country.

Nuredin Mohamed, Lead Executive of Sanitation Infrastructure with the Ministry of Water and Energy, told The Ethiopian Herald that Addis Ababa has constructed a number of contemporary waste-filtering technologies. According to him, there are three catchments in Addis Ababa, and the Kaliti catchment alone can filter up to 100,000 cubic liters of water every day.

According to him, numerous small filters have been put in place in other cities, but due to new and current developments, they are not reducing as much as is necessary. He said, however, that these features are being updated as cities expand.

The consequences of inadequate sanitation are far-reaching. Waterborne diseases are a significant cause of illness and death in Ethiopia, particularly among children under the age of five. According to UNICEF, diarrhea alone accounts for approximately 15% of all deaths in this age group. Poor sanitation also has economic implications, as it leads to increased healthcare costs and reduced productivity. The World Bank estimates that the economic losses associated with inadequate sanitation in Ethiopia amount to about 1.7% of the country’s GDP.

The Ethiopian government has implemented a number of initiatives and programs in partnership with foreign partners to address the sanitation challenge. The United Nations has established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the goal of providing adequate sanitation to all people by 2030. The One WASH National Program, which aims to enhance water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services nationwide, has been implemented by the Ethiopian government, which has also coordinated its national policies with these objectives.

Ethiopia is planning several sanitation-related projects and implementing them in 23 cities. Among these works, he said that due to the high density of people in cities, public and communal restrooms are being built. He added, “With the assistance of technological devices that can remove and filter sewage, we have completed preparations to build one in each of the 23 cities.”

Furthermore, in order to prevent environmental pollution and health risks to humans, we are installing pipelines on all roads to facilitate the removal of these pollutants. He further stated that approximately 25 vacuum tracks have been purchased as a result, and another 70 devices are in the process of being purchased.

An effort has been made in order to raise the public’s awareness of the significance of good hygiene and sanitation. Many places have implemented community-led total sanitation (CLTS) initiatives to encourage behavioral change and prevent the practice of open defecation. Through active community participation in identifying and resolving sanitation-related concerns, these programs promote the sustainability and ownership of sanitation infrastructure.

He stated that in order to achieve the SDGs, Ethiopia is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Work and Skills, the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority, and other partners.

Furthermore, investments have been made in the construction of improved sanitation facilities, such as public toilets, in schools, health centers, and other public places. These initiatives aim to ensure that essential sanitation services are available in areas with high population density and where people gather regularly.

Despite these efforts, significant challenges remain in achieving universal access to basic sanitation in Ethiopia. Limited financial resources, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of skilled personnel pose obstacles to the implementation and sustainability of sanitation programs. Additionally, climate change and recurrent natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, further compound the difficulties in providing adequate sanitation services.

According to him, the building of a waste filtering system in Addis Ababa’s East Cement district could take up to three years; he also mentioned that the modern waste treatment facilities under construction in other cities will be finished in a year or a year and a half.

In general, the World Bank is providing financial support for this initiative, totaling 505 million USD to date. According to the Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Bureau, more assistance projects with a total estimated cost of 60 million birr will be completed, he mentioned.

He stated that through implementing comprehensive strategies aimed at strengthening community awareness, this transformative project seeks to effectively eradicate the deeply ingrained culture of outdoor-based defecation. By engaging with local residents, conducting educational campaigns, and fostering a sense of personal responsibility, the initiative aims to bring about a significant shift in societal norms and behaviors surrounding this issue.

The project is not only providing alternative sanitation facilities but also addressing the root causes of the problem through community mobilization and awareness-building activities. Through collaborative efforts and sustained advocacy, the project endeavors to create a lasting impact, ensuring that safe and hygienic sanitation practices become the new standard within the community, ultimately leading to improved public health and well-being for all residents.

Besides, despite the fact that Ethiopia has improved sanitation over time, much work needs to be done before everyone accesses even the most basic amenities. Significant health concerns are associated with improper sanitation, which also hinders economic development. In order to resolve Ethiopia’s sanitation problems, constant investment in infrastructure, programs to modify behavior, and community involvement are essential. Additionally, in order to mobilize the resources and understanding required to speed up development in this crucial sector, it is imperative that the government, civil society organizations, and international funders fortify their collaborations.

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