WatSan.eu Feeds

❌ About FreshRSS
There are new articles available, click to refresh the page.
Yesterday — 27 January 20222. Sanitation

At the crossroads of health, water and sanitation in Niger

27 January 2022 at 13:39

The daily reality of a community health worker in Niakatiré in the commune of Makalondi, Niger.

Mourtala Abdou

My name is Mourtala Abdou and I am a community health worker in charge of the healthcare facility in the village of Niakatiré in the commune of Makalondi, Niger.

Every day that I work I receive and treat patients. The biggest challenges that I face on a daily basis are the hygiene of the premises, the sensitisation of my community and the care of the patients.

What I most enjoy

The aspect of my work that I most enjoy is raising awareness about hygiene. The improvements I'd like to see in the future in terms of biomedical waste management and environmental cleaning in healthcare is the construction of an incinerator at the facility – in most healthcare facilities, especially in villages, waste is disposed of through open burning. Also, in terms of general needs for our healthcare facility, I would like to have a birthing room for the community.

Working at the crossroads

My work is at the crossroads of health, water and sanitation. I recently participated in a workshop on biomedical waste management and environmental cleaning. We were provided with a series of tools to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services as part of the larger goal of improving health care facilities.

We are trying hard now to get the community to participate in the management of the healthcare facility. Little by little the community is getting more involved.


This work is done with the support of DGIS, the Swedish Postcode Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Before yesterday2. Sanitation

Climate-resilient community wastewater management

11 January 2022 at 20:33

A prize winning solution for vulnerable urban communities in India.

Spandan team along with community women paint the Integrated Blue-G

Photo caption: Spandan team along with community women paint the Integrated Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) system, Puri, Odisha, India. Credit: Spandan Odisha

In the streets of the Penthakotta fishing settlement of Puri in the Indian state of Odisha, children play around open drains. Chittama, one of the mothers, complains about the stench of stagnant wastewater and the mosquitoes. Often there are outbreaks of diarrhoea and dengue that affect the community, especially children. In addition to that, climate change increases the vulnerability of the coastal settlement's people and infrastructure to flooding and waterlogging.

Spandan, a local NGO, works closely with the community especially by supporting a women's Self-Help Group (SHG), which set up  a disaster resilience fund. Spandan implemented a pilot project to manage wastewater and prevent sand erosion. 

As the winner of the World Resources Institute (WRI) India's The CityFix Lab: Accelerating Access Prize, Spandan received support to extend their work at Penthakotta settlement. Based on discussions with the women's SHG, WRI India helped improve the pilot project's intervention by introducing an Integrated Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) system. This consisted of a blue-green filtration system, additional treatment through soak pits and replacement of seacoast weeds with bay-hops to prevent sand erosion. Open drains were repaired and covered to prevent mosquito breeding. These improvements inspired the women to create safe, bright public spaces with tyres and sandbags as seats, fish drying platforms and a play area.

Spandan trained local women and appointed 20 WASH ambassadors for long-term maintenance of the drains and the BGI systems. In the end the lives of almost 5,000 families were improved in just over a period of six months. WRI India hopes that women such as Chittama  in other Indian fishing communities can benefit from similar community-based approaches..

IRC is a partner of WRI India's Accelerating Access Coalition (AACO), which awards the INR 150,000 (US$ 2,000) TheCityFix Labs: Accelerating Access Prize. IRC's Shiny Saha was part of the jury for the selected the prize winner.

This news item is based on "How Blue-Green Infrastructure elevates water resilience: story of the Penthakotta community", written by Sindhuja Janakiraman, WRI India, January 6, 2022.

Reaching 100 percent sanitation access in Ethiopia – Can it be done?

4 January 2022 at 13:52

A combination of public and private sector actions can help Ethiopia achieve its ambitious 2030 sanitation targets

Ethiopia has set ambitious targets for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Launched in 2019, the "Total Sanitation to End Open Defecation and Urination" (TSEDU) campaign aims to make Ethiopia open defecation free (ODF) by 2024. Ethiopia also wants to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 for sanitation. This includes 100 percent access to 'safely managed' sanitation by 2030 (currently such access is only 7 percent) (World Bank) with an interim target of 60 percent of the population with basic sanitation by 2025 (FMoH, 2021).

There is good reason to believe that these goals can be achieved. Between 2000 and 2020, Ethiopia reduced open defecation from around 80 to 20 percent. However, much of this progress involved installation of unimproved household toilets. As a result, diarrheal diseases are still the second leading cause of under-five illness and death in Ethiopia after pneumonia (Negesse, et al., 2021).

Meeting the sanitation challenge with government-led efforts alone will not be possible, so the government has called for active participation by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. The USAID Transform WASH project, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and others, is helping to firmly establish market-based sanitation in Ethiopia. Transform WASH is active in 63 woredas (districts) in all regions of the country and will soon begin the final year of its six-year lifespan.

Transform WASH spoke to a wide range of experts in Ethiopia and elsewhere about how to develop and expand the private WASH sector; the USAID WASHPaLS project also provided valuable insights. The discussion that follows is largely based on these experts' reflections on the challenges faced and actions needed to overcome them.

Key challenges for WASH businesses

Infrastructure: Ethiopia faces geographical and logistical challenges related to its road and transport, electricity, water, sanitation, telephony, and internet systems and services. This makes access to markets difficult for many businesses, increases the cost of imports and exports, and reduces the country's global competitiveness.

Imports: Importing equipment or supplies can take many months, which is especially hard on manufacturers. As a consequence, manufacturers often produce only well-known items that require little or no marketing, rather than taking a risk on new WASH products designed for affordable, simple functionality, such as the SATO pan.

Foreign exchange: To purchase and import items into Ethiopia, Ethiopian Birr (ETB) must be converted to a foreign exchange currency (Forex). Forex is in very high demand, and most is earmarked for fossil fuels, agricultural inputs, pharmaceuticals, and major infrastructure projects. Other Forex requests are considered 'non-essential' and may require a long wait often for only part of the requested amount.

Taxes and tariffs: These include customs duties, value-added tax (VAT), surtax, excise tax, and withholding tax. Together they may comprise up to 50 percent of the final retail price. For example, the SATO pan is imported for about 150 ETB from Kenya. With tariffs and taxes (plus profit margin), its retail price would reach nearly 500 ETB (Kebede, 2019).

Start-up requirements: Starting a business in Ethiopia involves several administrative, financial, and legal steps. Smaller businesses often struggle with the large investment of time and money required.

Workforce capacity and related limitations: Ethiopia lacks an experienced manufacturing workforce as well as certain other types of skilled labour. Low workforce productivity and high turnover rates can deter investment and growth.

Political stability: Political and security issues in various parts of Ethiopia are not new, but these ongoing problems impact not only communities and individuals, but negatively impact the investment climate.

Financing for businesses: WASH businesses often find it difficult to access loans, partly because banks, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) have little experience working with the WASH sector. Some may believe WASH products are highly subsidized, and therefore not very profitable.

Financing for consumers: Nearly a quarter of Ethiopia lies below the national poverty line, so installing an 'improved' pit toilet is a major expense for them. Affordability issues are believed to be one of the main reasons for limited demand for sanitation products and services.

Proposed way forward

With only nine percent of Ethiopian households accessing basic sanitation services, reaching 100 percent by 2030 will require a multi-pronged approach. The graphic below shows a range of regulatory and policy actions and how they could be sequenced (with some concurrence possible) to increase access while maintaining public revenue and minimizing market distortions.

Figure 1: Recommendations to strengthen the private sanitation market (adapted from WASHPaLS 2021).

Taxes and tariffs

Reducing tariffs and taxes on WASH products can help keep prices low, which increases demand and expands access. The primary consequence of tax breaks is some potential for reduced government revenue. Therefore, proposed tax cuts should be analysed to assess their costs and benefits.

Findings from WASHPaLS research shows that tax and tariff reductions could result in a 13-percentage point increase in rural sanitation access with the projected benefits of this policy far outweighing the cost of foregone government revenue.

During Phase 1, to promote consumer demand and uptake in the nascent WASH market, exemption of finished sanitation products from customs duties, surtax, and VAT is recommended. During Phases 2 and 3, as local manufacturing is being promoted, tax exemptions should be extended to importation of manufacturing equipment and the raw materials needed to produce finished goods locally.

Sanitation loans 
Businesses and consumers alike find it difficult to obtain loans for production or purchase of WASH products and services. Consumers need loans because even an improved household toilet can be a significant investment for them. Key recommendations include:
Prioritize WASH-related loans: Encourage the Ministry of Finance to prioritize WASH for development financing, especially sanitation. Support the National Bank of Ethiopia, the Federal Cooperative Agency, commercial banks, SACCOs, and MFIs to develop loans tailored for businesses that offer WASH products and services and for households that wish to purchase them. Share evidence demonstrating that Ethiopian businesses serving the WASH sector have solid loan repayment records (Aboma and Osterwalder, 2020).
Increase financing available to the WASH sector: Encourage the Development Bank of Ethiopia to set a target percentage of its rural financing for low-interest sanitation loans. Other strategies include working with Ethiopia's regional governments and with programs seeking to strengthen MFIs, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development's Rural Finance Intermediation Program.
Sanitation subsidies
In the third phase, it is recommended to provide subsidies to households in the lowest economic strata so they can afford to invest in sanitation. The need for this could be substantial given the large number of households living below the poverty line. Evidence suggests that economically vulnerable households are more likely to construct toilets that do not meet the 'basic' service level and/or revert to open defecation. This results in the poor having lower access to sanitation and increases overall public health risk.
Sanitation subsidies must be properly designed and targeted so they do not distort the market, and they complement Ethiopia's TSEDU and community-led total sanitation and hygiene (CLTSH) campaigns. This means subsidies should be part of a coordinated government approach, guided by FMoH but involving other relevant agencies and partners. It is recommended to channel the subsidies through the Ministry of Agriculture's Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) as this operates in roughly half of the country's woredas, including those with chronic food insecurity and poverty issues. It also may be advisable to establish a national sanitation fund to galvanize support and mobilize finances to cover the costs of sanitation subsidies.
Other interventions

To encourage expansion of the private sanitation sector, it also is recommended to:

  • Reform the Forex allocation process so that sanitation businesses can more easily import needed supplies and equipment and make payments to external investors and IP rights holders;
  • Encourage businesses serving the WASH market to seek needed land or space allocation at industrial parks under government programs;
  • Clarify and reform rules governing intellectual property protection and royalty payments;
  • Support the expansion of distribution and marketing channels for WASH products and services; and
  • Encourage the growth of the MSE sector offering households WASH products and services.
Combined effect of proposed policies

Ethiopia's private sector already offers some WASH products and services, but support is required to reach the large population in need. If the policies and actions discussed above are implemented in a targeted and phased manner, we believe they will provide the needed momentum to reach national goals, including 100 percent access to basic sanitation services and ODF status. The figure below shows how this might be accomplished.

Figure 2. Projected effects of policy actions to achieve 100% sanitation access

As Transform WASH is now in its sixth and final year, our focus will be to carry these initiatives forward and build support for them within government, with One WASH National Programme partners, and with our business partners. In addition, we'll be sharing our lessons learned to pave the way toward a strong and healthy future for Ethiopia's private WASH sector – and for achieving the country's ambitious 2030 WASH targets! 

 About Transform WASH

USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation.
Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.



Strengthening WASH business in Ethiopia: Consumer financing

27 December 2021 at 06:54
By: Feldman

Increasing access to affordable credit for WASH customers – a key to unlocking demand


In a series of posts, we will present the main challenges that businesses face when expanding the range of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) products and services available to households in Ethiopia. After describing these challenges, we will recommend specific regulatory and/or policy actions to address those issues, and which also are intended to improve the overall business climate in the country – so that enterprises can more easily start up, grow, and serve their communities sustainably.

This is the final in a series of eight articles discussing the challenges that WASH enterprises face in Ethiopia. This article addresses the importance of improving consumer access to affordable credit mechanisms.

Why does this matter?

Currently, only nine percent of Ethiopians have access to basic sanitation services – a serious situation that affects public health, education, and many other aspects of the country's economic and social well-being (JMP, 2021). Achieving universal access to basic WASH facilities cannot be done by government or NGOs alone; it will require a strong contribution from the country's private sector. The Government of Ethiopia recognizes this and is working to strengthen private sector businesses that offer WASH products and services (including household sanitation) as key element of its greater focus on hygiene and environmental health (FMoH, 2016). These measures are necessary because the current market only meets a small fraction of the country's enormous needs.

To gain insight into how these challenges can be addressed, and to do so in a manner that ensures the solutions are affordable to all, the USAID Transform WASH team spoke with a wide range of experts – including business owners, government officials, and technical specialists in Ethiopia and other East African countries – to get their advice and recommendations on how to develop and expand Ethiopia's WASH market. The post that follows is largely based on these experts' reflections.
To explore this and related topics in more depth, follow this link to the full Learning Note.

Financing for consumers

One of the main barriers to increasing the uptake of basic sanitation services in Ethiopia is the initial investment cost – as many households find it difficult to afford such a facility. This also affects the ability of businesses to sell WASH products and services. Although Ethiopia recorded a sharp decline in the national poverty rate between 2000 and 2016, nearly one-fourth of the population remains below the Ethiopian poverty line of 7,184 ETB per year (about US$ 0.90 per day). An even greater percentage of the population lies below the international poverty line of US$1.90 per day (31 percent). This means that installing an 'improved' household pit toilet (which costs around 1,200 ETB or US$25) is a significant investment for a large portion of the country's households. Access to affordable credit can be vital to encouraging this type of household investment.

There are a wide range of credit mechanisms in Ethiopia, some of which are well-suited to financing consumer purchase of WASH products and services by low-income households. Evidence suggests that repayment rates on these loans is quite high, indicating that such loans should be considered low risk by credit institutions and loan associations. However, the capacity and scale of these credit mechanisms, especially those located at the community level, are still relatively small compared to the scope of the country's WASH needs – especially for household sanitation.

The country has a well-established group of rotating savings and credit associations (collectively known as ROSCAs), which target low- to middle-income households. For example, iqqub and iddir are home-grown mechanisms designed for infrequent or emergency expenditures, such as social celebrations or funerals. These mechanisms do not charge interest, but they have limited capital capacity and would require adaptation and significantly more funds to reach scale. Another popular local financing system is community-based health insurance, through which members make payments into a collective fund, which can be accessed to cover health care costs when a member falls ill.

Community-based initiatives, such as savings and internal lending communities (SILCs), savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs), and village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) are also suitable for household investment in toilet products and installation services. They offer the advantage of local credibility and relatively low interest and service charges, in addition to promotion of household savings. However, these mechanisms require training, management, and supervisory systems that often need external support, such as by the Federal Cooperative Agency (FCA) or NGOs.

Public and private microfinance institutions (MFIs) are more professionally run than ROSCAs and generally have more capital, but they also tend to charge higher interest rates and be geographically limited to the Ethiopian highlands. Water.org's WaterCredit programme in Ethiopia has successfully worked with several MFIs to develop affordable household loans for WASH product purchases. The loans have proven very popular; in less than one year, these MFIs disbursed loans totaling nearly ETB 19 million (US$ 560,000), reaching around 22,500 individuals. The loan repayment rate was 99.9% (Getnet, 2019). Organizations working with banks and MFIs can now cite evidence from this successful microfinance effort to advocate for increasing the availability of loan products suitable for household WASH investments.

MFIs and ROSCAs are often unable to reach consumers at the lower end of the economic spectrum. Since many of these households are also food insecure, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) established the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which currently assists about 8,000,000 people (World Bank, 2017). The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), MoA, and development partners are currently in discussions to explore ways of promoting sanitation within the PSNP program to help reach food-insecure groups.

Gender issues also factor into the uptake of WASH products, services, and use of financing schemes. A study of cookstove purchases in northern Ethiopia found that women are far more interested and willing to pay for those products (Alem et al., 2018). Similarly, women are often responsible for household water thus are more conscious of water-related problems and are more willing to pay for improved services (Bogale et. al, 2012). The burden of not having access to basic sanitation services or adequate hygiene facilities also tends to be felt more by women and girls. It may therefore be advantageous to tailor WASH loan products and financing campaigns toward female consumers.

FMoH has recognized the need for affordable household financing for WASH and is working with commercial lending institutions to establish a class of bank loans targeting household sanitation, similar to what was done to increase the availability of credit for fertilizer purchases.

In conclusion, there is a growing body of experience and evidence regarding consumer financing in Ethiopia. Many of these mechanisms show promise for supporting the expansion of the WASH marketplace, although additional innovation and expansion will be required to adapt these approaches to meet the latent but growing demand for household sanitation and other WASH amenities. In turn, better access to consumer credit also should help private sector WASH businesses grow and develop. Moreover, collaboration is needed with key government agencies such as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) and FMoH, as well as with formal banking institutions such as the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) and the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE), to help prioritize WASH sector financing and to strengthen policies and approaches concerning sanitation financing.

  • In partnership with NBE and FCA, advise commercial banks, SACCOs, and MFIs to develop sanitation loan products designed for businesses and consumers (especially low-income households).
  • Promote setting an aspirational percentage of funding by DBE's Rural Finance Intermediation Program to target financial institutions for provision of low-interest, sanitation-oriented loans.
  • Support efforts by the government to establish links between the PSNP and the national effort to end 'open defecation' and ensure low-income households have the means to acquire basic sanitation services.
  • Work with financial and credit institutions to design products and services tailored for women, who can play a catalytic role in stimulating the private sector market.
  • Encourage MoFED and DBE to prioritize WASH sector financing and lending, adding it to the priority list for development financing, including a clear reference to sanitation.
  • Work with FMoH to increase the awareness of commercial and development banks, MFIs, and SACCOs to the WASH sector and the financing opportunities they offer (as well as sharing information on high WASH loan repayment rates). Related to this, promote the establishment of loan guarantee facilities to encourage expanded access to affordable credit by low-income households.

About Transform WASH

USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation.
Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.



Strengthening WASH business in Ethiopia: Financing for small enterprises

23 December 2021 at 09:35
By: Feldman

Credit Crunch: Affordable financing options for WASH businesses are badly needed

Masons constructing toilet slabs | photo by Monte Achenbach

In a series of posts, we will present the main challenges that businesses face when expanding the range of WASH products and services available to households in Ethiopia. After describing these challenges, we will recommend specific regulatory and/or policy actions to address those issues, and which also are intended to improve the overall business climate in the country – so that enterprises can more easily start up, grow, and serve their communities sustainably.

This seventh of eight planned articles addresses some of the challenges experienced by enterprises when seeking credit (loans) to finance their water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) product and service lines.

Why does this matter?

Currently, only nine percent of Ethiopians have access to basic sanitation services – a serious situation that affects public health, education, and many other aspects of the country's economic and social well-being (JMP, 2021). Achieving universal access to basic WASH facilities cannot be done by government or NGOs alone; it will require a strong contribution from the country's private sector. The Government of Ethiopia recognizes this and is working to strengthen private sector businesses that offer WASH products and services (including household sanitation) as a key element of its greater focus on hygiene and environmental health (FMoH, 2016). These measures are necessary because the current market only meets a small fraction of the country's enormous needs.

To gain insight into how these challenges can be addressed, and to do so in a manner that ensures the solutions are affordable to all, the USAID Transform WASH team spoke with a wide range of experts – including business owners, government officials, and technical specialists in Ethiopia and other East African countries – to get their advice and recommendations on how to develop and expand Ethiopia's WASH market. The post that follows is largely based on these experts' reflections.
To explore this topic in more depth, follow this link to the full Learning Note.

The credit challenge

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Ethiopia often cite the lack of access to affordable financing as one of their top challenges (others include taxes and tariffs, access to foreign exchange, start-up capital requirements, intellectual property rights, importing equipment and raw materials, and others discussed in the Learning Note referenced above). For enterprises offering sanitation and other WASH products and services, accessing loans is even more difficult than in other sectors of the economy. This is because financial service providers, including commercial banks, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) typically have little or no experience working with such businesses (agricultural businesses are more frequently the recipients of financing). Additionally, finance institutions have seen the WASH sector as highly subsidized by the government and other agencies and, therefore, not profitable with high risk for lending. Potential investors and entrepreneurs may also be unsure about the magnitude of consumer demand for WASH products and services, so they question the ability of WASH-related businesses to start up and remain profitable.

However, observations from Transform WASH experience indicate that WASH businesses generally have acceptable rates of loan repayment, though these enterprises sometimes have problems with late payments due to the seasonality of their customers' agriculture-based income (Aboma, 2020). From a business's perspective, even when loans are available, the high interest rates are a key disincentive to borrowing money needed for importing supplies and equipment, business expansion, or for other major expenses.

It's important to keep in mind that the term "WASH business" refers to a broad range of enterprises, including small-scale masons, who make and/or install latrines; retail shops that sell latrine pans and related supplies; importers and wholesale distributors; and commercial manufacturing operations. Many such businesses not only offer WASH products and services, but also manufacture or sell other items. For smaller enterprises, borrowing from SACCOs or MFIs may be suitable options, but as mentioned above, these financing institutions may be unfamiliar with WASH business. For larger-scale WASH product manufacturing, financing will likely need to be secured through commercial banks (or brought in by foreign joint-venture partners).

How to address the financing challenge?

Part of the financing solution will require building a greater understanding within the financial sector of the scope and scale of business opportunities offered by the WASH sector. The government-led, multi-partner One WASH National Programme (OWNP) recognizes the importance of strengthening the private sector for WASH and has highlighted the importance of introducing innovative financing models through commercial banks and MFIs (OWNP, 2019).

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation, a key OWNP player, is particularly well-positioned to increase the availability of loans to WASH businesses. There is a growing body of evidence from interventions carried out with OWNP (such as the USAID Transform WASH project and others) that demonstrate the positive influence of MFI and SACCO loans made to WASH enterprises (Aboma, 2020).

Some potential WASH sector investors and entrepreneurs have expressed a desire for "demand guarantees" by the government or development agencies to ensure, for example, a minimum sales quantity or pricing level. Again, this may result from a lack of familiarity with the WASH sector, from perceptions that consumer demand and willingness to pay are not strong enough, or a concern that the WASH marketplace is still new and untested in the country. More effective communication and dissemination of WASH market information, sharing of the experiences of existing WASH enterprises, and giving a voice to satisfied household WASH customers who desire improved products and services could all contribute to strengthening financing opportunities for the growing WASH private sector.

  • Collaborate with the Federal Cooperative Agency and the National Bank of Ethiopia to help commercial banks, SACCOs, and MFIs develop loan products suitable for businesses manufacturing or selling WASH products and services.
  • Establish systems to track WASH market demand, sales, pricing, and other relevant data to help regulatory and finance institutions to support and manage more effectively the expansion of the WASH economy.
  • Encourage national and development banks in Ethiopia to set a target percentage of their funding to provide low-interest loans to qualified WASH sector enterprises. In addition, establish a "loan guarantee" facility to help encourage financial institutions to engage with the private WASH marketplace.
  • Address the perceived risk of making loans to WASH businesses through improved communication with the financial sector and by presenting evidence of consumer demand and loan repayment records.
  •  Encourage OWNP partners to provide demand guarantees for WASH product orders and service contracts. Ensuring stability and profitability, especially in this early phase of the WASH market's evolution, will help reduce start-up risks both for local manufacturers and importers.

The next (and final) post in this series will address the critical issue of consumer financing to purchase WASH products and services.

About Transform WASH

USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation.
Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.

Reaching the most vulnerable during COVID-19

21 December 2021 at 10:27
By: mebrate

Lessons learnt from WASH First COVID-19 Response Project in Ethiopia

The WASH First COVID-19 Response Project is an intervention aimed at preventing and controlling the anticipated catastrophic effects of the pandemic. Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Government of the Netherlands (DGIS), this 14-month project has the goal of reaching half a million people in Shashamane and Negelle Arsi districts through increasing access to water supply, increasing awareness, prevention, and control of COVID-19, and increasing access to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Non-Food Items (NFI) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Located in the Lake Shala belt, characterised by acute shortages of drinking water for human and livestock consumption and food insecurity, Shashamane and Negelle Arsi districts are high-risk areas. Shashamane town is especially vulnerable as it is the epicentre of a local market ushering in thousands of people a day, a condition that favours the spread of COVID-19.

To realize its goals, the project has focused on increasing access to water supply at community and institutional settings (prioritizing quarantine and treatment centres), increasing awareness of COVID-19 prevention and control, and increasing access to IPC, NFI, and PPE including handwashing systems and waste bins in health care facilities and households in collaboration with private and public institutions. The most vulnerable groups were given special priorities during both the design and implementation phases of the project.

This blog focuses on distribution in both districts through direct field observation and interviews with beneficiaries, local government, and Amref field project staff.

IPC and PPE Institutional and Household Provision

The project provided PPE, NFI, and IPC for both institutions and community members in the intervention areas. So far, the project provided 34,000 PPE and NFI items for each intervention district, mainly focusing on the most susceptible households.

Apart from community level distribution, a total of 36,185 different types of PPE and IPC items were distributed to health and education offices in Negelle Arsi town. For the Shashamane districts, a total of 37,264 IPC and PPE were distributed to district health and education offices, with a separate 51,116 distributed to Shashamane town institutions including health, education, and prisons.

Process and learning from PPE Distribution to the Most Vulnerable Households

While the awareness creation activities targeted the entire community in the intervention districts, the NFI and PPE distribution was intended for the most susceptible target groups due to their ill medical condition, age, and poor socio-economic status. A total of 8,000 households were reached with the essential packages for prevention of COVID-19 in both intervention districts. The package for households included 10 laundry and body soaps, a bucket, five washable face masks, and a jerrican for drinking water storage.

IRC WASH attended the PPE distribution program in three rural kebeles and interviewed beneficiaries. The beneficiaries were happy with the level of concern that Amref showed in terms of protecting them from the pandemic. Some also expressed the need for food support considering their poor socioeconomic status and famine in the area because of delay the seasonal rain.

Coordination and Collaboration with Local Government: The screening of beneficiaries was conducted through collaboration and coordination with community leaders, the beneficiary screening committee, and partners from the Health and Disaster Risk Management Office (DRM). Health Extension Workers (HEWs) played a significant role in selecting the right beneficiaries as they are based at community level.

A community leader in Edo Jigessa Kebele interviewed at the time of PPE and NFI provision, confirmed that he and his team has been actively involved from the very beginning in the screening of the most vulnerable target group. He indicated they prioritized the most at risk, mainly focusing on households with people with disability, bed ridden members, or who are economically destitute, mainly focusing on women headed households and elderlies, especially those who have a comorbid condition.

Samuel Girma, the Area Manager for Amref Health Africa Shashamane field office, confirmed post screening verifications were conducted on a sample of randomly selected households to make sure that eligible households were targeted.

The distribution program was collaboratively organized by Amref and kebele administrations in the kebele administration compounds and attended by HEWs, DRM offices, District Finance Offices, Women and Children Affairs Offices, kebele leaders, and other admirative members.

Verification of Screened Households: To minimize screening of ineligible households or individuals, the Amref field team conducted a verification survey on randomly selected households in selected kebeles.

Alima is one of the selected beneficiaries who was interviewed during the PPE and NFI distributions. She is a mother of seven children and her husband is bedridden. He used to be a farmer and the breadwinner for the household. Out of the seven children, five died and she is currently living with the younger two. The survival of the family is challenged as she is not able to earn a living from daily labour due to low business activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation, reducing her purchasing power.

Other beneficiaries interviewed shared similar stories, but due to the small quota provided to the kebeles, there were eligible and susceptible households who were left out of the distribution. This resulted in grievances among some community members who were present during the PPE distribution. According to them, the quota given to their kebeles were negligible resulting in exclusion of the most deserving households.

Fatuma is a pregnant mother with two children. Her husband has been laid off from his daily labour due to slow business activity in the area related to COVID-19. She said, “I am expecting to give birth in the coming two to three weeks. I am worried because we do not have food. I do not have something to eat in our house to care for myself and my children. I came here assuming there is some food items provision.”

Geographic Equity: The distribution of PPE was made in prioritized kebeles in both intervention districts. The distribution was also made in proportion to the population size of each kebele. On average, 100 households were targeted in each kebele, and kebeles with higher populations were given higher proportions, the maximum being 150 households. According to the leader of Edo Tatessa Kebele, one of the most remote interventions kebeles, despite efforts to include the most vulnerable target group, there were grievances and complaints from most of the community members. He indicated that the area is arid and often food insecure due to recurrent drought. Children are exposed to malnutrition and were physically emaciated at the time of the field visit. A crowd of mothers with their children were in a long queue during the visit waiting for Plumpy’nut for their children. The majority of the households in the community were generally vulnerable, so prioritizing only 135 households was the most daunting task for the screening committee.

Mothers in line to receive plumpynut for their children

Mothers in a queue to receive Plumpy'nut for their children in Ido Tatessa Kebele

Essential Package of Services: Though not able to address all the needs of the beneficiaries, especially those in food insecure geographic areas, the project team has thoughtfully packaged the PPE and NFI to comprehensively address the households hygienic needs, providing households a range of PPE and NFI including washable face masks, laundry and body soaps, a transparent jerrican for drinking water storage, and also a bucket to help households store water for handwashing and other cleaning purposes.

Despite clear communication during the screening process on the objective of NFI and PPE distribution, the majority of the beneficiaries objected that food items were not part of the package, especially in areas where there is food insecurity and extended drought.

“Most of the people you see here are not able to meet their daily subsistence, let alone buy COVID-19 protective items. I want to have a face mask while going outside every time, but I must prioritize the purchase of other food items for my children. I do appreciate Amref provided reusable masks which we can wash and use for long time,” said a mother of five children in Jido Tatessa Kebele.

Another young mother in her early twenties appreciated the fact that packages were thoughtfully put together including a transparent and white jerrycan.

High level of sensitivity to gender equality and social inclusion: The screening process was thoughtful in terms of addressing gender equity and social inclusion. From the total list of 4,000 households in both districts, almost half of them (1,911) were females. The screening committee also gave high priority for the female headed households and households with people with disabilities. The majority of the beneficiaries during the PPE and NFI distribution were observed to be mothers and elderlies.

Post-Distribution Follow up: Following the distribution, the Amref Shashamane field office team has conducted a follow up assessment using a household survey, focus group discussion, and key informant interview methodology. The purpose of the assessment was to see the households’ COVID-19 prevention practices, utilisation of PPE provided to them, and their overall level of satisfaction or experience. Data was collected by the field office team and was under synthesis at the time of writing this blog. The result of the assessment will help to provide an insight on the selection and distribution process and also household’s attitude and practice towards COVID-19, mainly in relation to the provided PPE and NFI.

Way Forward

The provision of PPE and NFI, especially for institutions and households, is important in terms creating an enabling environment for community members to easily practice and adhere to COVID-19 prevention protocols. But other considerations need to be considered while doing so. These include the following: 

Demonstration of PPE Usage During Distribution: During the distribution of PPE and NFI in the 18 kebeles of Shashamane and Negele Arsi districts, the Amref team did provide a brief orientation on activities undertaken by Amref Health Africa and key messages on COVID-19 prevention. But, due to the tight travel schedules, there was no time to demonstrate to community members how to properly wash their hands with soap and how to use the reusable face mask, including frequency of washing and how to handle them within large households. The district partners reported demonstrating the items in some neighbourhoods where the number of beneficiaries were manageable to handle, but they were often overwhelmed during the distribution and unable to provide sufficient guidance.

Additionally, during the distribution almost all the community members were not wearing face masks and also not practicing social distancing which casts doubt on their proper utilisation the PPE items of provided to them.

Creating Mechanisms for Dealing with Community Grievances: Two major grievances were expressed and observed during the PPE and NFI distribution. One is related to quota given to each kebele as most of the interviewed households objected to the size of the screened households from the total population as inadequate. The second point for grievance was the lack of food items.

Rahamat expressed her grievances saying, “There is no way that these selected households are more deserving than me. I am pregnant and my husband is not working any longer. I beg you to let the government know that we are having hidden famine in this community. We have nothing to eat.”

Consider Project Design on Livelihood and Resilience: Despite budget limitations, emergency aid needs to build in elements, which support sustainable livelihoods and resilience. This means humanitarian relief organizations should collaborate with and seek support from development organizations with experience in strengthening resilient systems. 

How Tanzanians got back into building toilets

15 December 2021 at 11:38
By: Kwezi

Lessons from the National Sanitation Campaign.

Sanitation campaign in action in Tanzania

In 2012, the Tanzania government introduced the National Sanitation Campaign to accelerate sanitation coverage, particularly in rural areas. The first phase of the campaign which ended in 2016, relied heavily on training of public officials and dissemination of information and education to generate public demand for sanitation facilities, particularly households. The campaign made some progress, but it suffered from its relatively low priority, poor monitoring and reporting of results, and ineffective deployment of financial resources. To mitigate these shortcomings, the government embarked on the second phase in 2016 and relaunched it as Nyumba Ni Choo campaign in December 2017.

The Nyumba Ni Choo Campaign

The Nyumba Ni Choo set an ambitious goal to eliminate open defecation (OD) by 2021 and ensure that every household in Tanzania uses ‘Choo Bora’ (an improved toiletby 2025. It has now concluded four years of what appears to be a successful campaign. It has mobilised high-level political support and evolved into one of the most successful government-led campaigns, a unique brand and platform with value, mobilising more than 8 million Tanzanians to build and upgrade their toilets. Official reports by the Ministry of Health show that by June 2021, access to improved sanitation had increased from 42% in 2017 to 70% alongside the reduction of open defecation from 7.2 % to 1.3%.  This is a remarkable achievement. Below is my personal reflection of the lessons learnt from the campaign implementation

Create a unifying identity

Planning and design of a large-scale campaign such as this can be time-consuming and a complicated process. In countries like Tanzania where the sanitation subsector has many players and fragmented initiatives, it can be very challenging to coordinate stakeholders to come up with a campaign idea that would work. In our case we spent two years (2015-2016) researching, planning and designing the campaign together with the Ministry of Health. This is because we wanted to generate evidence and insights on what would work in our context whilst learning from success and failure in the past. Two years might sound too long but provided us with sufficient evidence and time to engage all stakeholders to buy into the design process. This helped us to create a unified identity for the campaign which everyone wanted to be associated with.

Ensure ownership from the top

Sanitation was high on the political agenda in Tanzania in the early 1970s when the former president Julius K. Nyerere led the Mtu ni Afya campaign which helped the majority of Tanzanians to acquire basic toilet facilities. Since then, sanitation has had a low priority both in terms of planning and actual allocation of resources, leading to lack of progress of improved toilet coverage for most households. Learning from the Mtu ni Afya campaign, the Nyumba ni Choo adopted strategies that helped to elevate sanitation to the top of the political agenda in Tanzania.

First, prior to launching the Nyumba Ni Choo campaign, we implemented a bridge PR campaign namely the #NipoTayari (I am ready). For example, the Ministers of health, water and local government were photographed personally holding the Nipo Tayari frames as a symbol of commitment and readiness in support of the national campaign to end open defecation. Their photos and commitments were captured and amplified through radio, TV and digital platforms to ensure we can later follow up on the commitments they made to the public. The use of camera to inculcate a sense of accountability of commitment was powerful enough to get the majority of national and local leaders, government officials, development partners, and private sector personally aligned to the core mission of the campaign.

Second, the UK Government through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) channelled some of the campaign implementation funds directly to the Ministry of Health and Local Government Authorities to support coordination and monitoring activities at national and local levels, with each LGA receiving an average of US$ 30,000 per year. While this is a small amount compared to the needs, channelling part of the funding through the government system helped to ensure government ownership and accountability of government officials in the delivery of campaign results. One of the successes, for example, is that the government was able to use part of the funding to strengthen the National Sanitation Information Management System (NSIMS). The NSIMS is currently being used nationally as a main source of data for monitoring, and reporting progress on sanitation in Tanzania.

Third, during implementation we ensured a whole-of-government approach was taken, where local government officials developed the plans and activities to achieve targets committed by regional and district commissioners. To ensure accountability of results, baseline data and monitoring relied on the government’s NSIMS. Each quarter the National Sanitation Campaign Coordinator (who was appointed by the Minister of Health with high-level backing and position, politically savvy with unlimited energy) organised meetings around what were termed as the sanitation league tables to monitor progress and iron out implementation issues. The use of NSIMS (regardless of the quality of data reported) to monitor performance helped to ensure the system is being used nationally and made government officials focus on implementation. 

Do not Educate - build a campaign around the drivers of change 

Nyumba Ni Choo didn’t rely on training and education to generate demand for household toilet improvements. Instead, the campaign was based on the insight that Tanzania is modernising rapidly, with people upgrading their homes, but leaving their outside toilets in a ‘traditional’ state. Built around the ‘big idea’ that a household is not fully modern without a good-quality, modern toilet, the campaign employed reality TV shows, live engagements and mass and digital media postings, all targeted at motivating both the government and general population to improve toilets. By moving away from educating the public to using modernity as a driver of toilet improvement, the campaign successfully resonated with a large segment of the population and made toilets a topic of national conversation which resulted in a major uptake in the rate of toilet building. 

Private public partnership is key

Experience from Nyumba ni Choo shows that no single partner (public or private) can deliver a large-scale public campaign such as this alone. There are reasons for this.

First, delivering a campaign such as Nyumba Ni Choo, requires assembling a multidisciplinary team with experience, diverse skillsets, and capacities in behaviour science, research, marketing, professional creatives, media, sanitation specialists and project management. Most of these skills aren’t readily available in the public sector but even when available in the private sector, they would require an association of several local and international firms to assemble an optimal team to deliver the campaign.

Second, sanitation is a public good and requires government and political leaders to devise country-led reforms. In our case, we needed the Ministry of Health to coordinate implementation efforts of development partners and other line ministries as well as to provide oversight function to ensure a contracted Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) service provider and local authorities deliver results and are held accountable in line with the campaign goal.

To ensure efficient and effective delivery of results, the Nyumba Ni Choo campaign therefore adopted a private public partnership approach where the government through the Ministry of Health led the coordination and provided the implementation oversight of the campaign. The private sector- i.e., the SBCC service provider was then contracted to focus on formative research, strengthening supply chain, creative designs, production, and distribution of campaign materials. Partnering with private sector helped the government to leverage skills and platforms which are efficient in delivering results. For example, an assessment of value for money of the Nyumba ni Choo for the past two years shows that the costs of reaching one person with campaign messages through Nyumba Ni Choo is about half of the costs used to deliver similar campaigns. This shows that that the campaign is efficient in reaching the target audience.

An evolution: from a campaign to platform

Nyumba ni Choo has evolved from being a one-off campaign to a brand and platform with value. A Geopoll survey conducted in mid-2021 showed that 97% of the general population is aware of the Nyuma Ni Choo brand. The existence of this brand and the extremely high awareness of it nation-wide provides a huge opportunity for sustainability as platforms can be used and pivoted in different ways. For example, when the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Tanzania in 2020, the government used the Nyumba ni Choo platforms: mass media, digital and on ground activations to disseminate COVID-19 preventatives messages to 14 million Tanzanians. At the beginning the platform was quickly pivoted into #Mikono Safi Tanzania Salama (‘Clean Hands Safe Tanzania’) campaign which prioritised handwashing with soap as first preventative behaviour in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Later it evolved to ‘Usichukulie Poa, Unategemewa’ (Don’t take it easy, you are depended on) campaign which persuaded people to practise other preventative behaviours (e.g., social distance and wearing masks etc.) to reduce the transmission of the corona virus. Following the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in Tanzania in June 2021, the Nyumba Ni Choo platform is currently supporting the Government to implement a new campaign namely “Sasa ni zamu yetu” meaning ‘it’s our time’ as a call for urgency to get  Tanzanians vaccinated. 

As a platform Nyumba ni Choo has the potential to leverage financial resources from the government, private sector, and other development partners to sustain some aspects of the campaign post-FCDO support. In fact, in addition to mobilising millions of Tanzanians to upgrade their latrines, the creation of the Nyumba ni Choo brand is perhaps the most valuable asset that has been created, and one which can be used in a variety of ways going forward. Indeed, it has already proven its worth by enabling the Tanzania government to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now in tackling vaccine hesitancy. It has also been able to demonstrate effectiveness with respect to its initial mission in terms of producing an increase in the rate of improved toilet coverage in the country. So, it makes eminent sense for the donors and government to make use of such a highly adaptable brand in future public health endeavours. 

Disclaimer: Lukas Kwezi currently works for the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as Water and Sanitation Adviser, based in Dar es SalaamHe writes blog posts in his spare time. Though he may talk about the work he does in the sector, this is neither a corporate nor a political blog and the opinions and ideas expressed here are solely his own, not those of his employer

Gender equality and social inclusion overview for the WASH sector in Ethiopia

6 December 2021 at 15:02

A contextual assessment of GESI in the WASH sector based on a review of national policies, strategies, and implementation practices in Ethiopia.

Gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) is key to sustainable development. It is a key process for ensuring access to resources and services for all. Socially excluded groups have the right to access safe, improved, and affordable WASH facilities in the community and in institutions. Although there is progress in providing access to WASH services for all, women and girls, and persons with disabilities are still disadvantaged. 

In Ethiopia, most WASH facilities are built without considering the diversity of the people living in the community and their different needs. When WASH services are inclusive, everyone benefits including people that are often excluded or marginalised. To provide sustainable WASH services in communities and institutions, the full participation of everyone, especially women and persons with disabilities, at every stage of the process (planning, design, implementation, management) is critical. This will facilitate the empowerment of women and people with disabilities.

As an organisation working in the WASH sector, IRC WASH Ethiopia passionately believes in the idea of leaving no one behind and intends to advocate gender equality and social inclusion to all its partners at different levels to ensure that all WASH projects from inception to service delivery are inclusive. In line with this, IRC WASH Ethiopia is planning to develop a GESI Strategy that will be linked to the design of projects and day-to-day functioning of the country office and influencing actors in the WASH sector to do the same.

The objective of this assessment is to contextually assess GESI in the WASH sector by reviewing national policies, strategies, and implementation practices in Ethiopia. This will enable us to understand the opportunities and challenges for embedding GESI strategies in implementation of interventions. In addition, the assessment aims to provide inputs for the development of IRC WASH Ethiopia’s country programme GESI Strategy. 

Connecting market-based sanitation stakeholders in the age of Covid

25 November 2021 at 11:13

Telegram app builds community for sharing in Ethiopia.

This blog was written with the contribution of Melaku Worku

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Covid-19 has scrambled the way we work and connect. As we’ve all experienced, the pandemic forced in-person meetings to go virtual, including our gatherings of people with a particular interest in WASH market development. But more than simply replace meetings, the use of one online tool has enhanced on-going communication and sharing in ways that we hadn’t planned.

The Telegram mobile messaging app is a relatively new communication tool, and it’s been expanding rapidly in Ethiopia as one of the most popular online platforms. So, as pandemic-related restrictions took hold, it made sense for the USAID Transform WASH team to turn to Telegram to help us fulfil one of our primary responsibilities: connect multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) at all levels to learning and networking opportunities on market-based sanitation. We started simple, disseminating MSP meeting action points to help members translate their common agendas into action and hold each other accountable.

MSPs are learning alliances led by Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health (MoH) at national and sub-national levels to coordinate market-based sanitation activities, share lessons learned, and exchange ideas with the ultimate aim of identifying and scaling up best practices. Since June 2017, USAID Transform WASH has been supporting the Ministry of Health by taking on the secretariat role for the multi-stakeholder platforms.

Move to Online

When the pandemic hit, our Transform WASH team identified two widely used options for online organisation of remote meetings: Zoom and Telegram. While ministries and development partners mostly used Zoom to organise virtual meetings at the national level, we encountered many challenges in the regions, such as unstable internet connections and frequent power outages. Virtual communication through Telegram, which has lower bandwidth requirements while enabling persistent texting and group functions, was found to be more suitable and reliable. 

Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, the MSPs, with Transform WASH facilitation, had been discussing the importance of establishing a social media presence through which members could interact with each other online and improve social accountability in implementing market-based sanitation (MBS). Covid-19 helped us speed this up as physical meetings were officially cancelled.

Example of message shared with the members of the Oromia MSP Group

Example of message shared with the members of the Oromia MSP Group

Establishing Telegram groups and user participation

Altogether, ten Telegram groups have been active since June 2020. T/WASH invited MSP members in 10 regions to join their respective regional group. So far, 285 standing members of MSPs have joined, including many representatives of regional health bureaus (RHBs).  Individual members have been given permission to invite and add new members to the app groups, too.  While the groups are administered by T/WASH currently, responsibility for ownership and operation will ultimately pass to the RHBs once the Telegram groups are firmly established and running smoothly.

The active participation of MSP members so far has been encouraging with expected room for improvement using such a new forum. Beyond T/WASH consortium partners, participants include representatives of the MoH, RHBs, microfinance institutions (MFIs), technical and vocational education and training institutions (TVETs), and the job creation agencies among government stakeholders. We also see members of NGOs, academia, and the private sector active in the groups. Businesses have found the groups to be a ready audience for introduction of their products to various interested parties.

Use of Telegram for market-based sanitation

Telegram has emerged as a great way for platform members to communicate and discuss market-based sanitation (MBS) ideas online. Group members share text messages, photos, and documents, such as research findings and action plans. Despite our early success using the platform, many groups were not engaging at the levels that we had hoped to see. To address this challenge, we created more appealing content, such as pop quizzes to pique members’ curiosity, test their knowledge, and keep them active and engaged. The quizzes promoted friendly competition and interaction with important related policies, like the MoH’s MBS implementation guideline. Quiz respondents were rewarded with free internet credit to make the quizzes even more motivating and fun.

Several functions evolved from the Telegram groups, some even beyond what we originally envisioned: 

Communication about MBS

  • Information about upcoming MSP meetings and minutes of previous meetings
  • Photos of MBS training sessions and field visits
  • Photos of sanitation products introduced to local markets, such as: SATO toilet pans, AIM plastic slabs, full toilet solutions and components, handwashing stations, and various installation methods
  • Advertisements promoting local business products and services.


  • Files shared by Telegram group members are permanently archived for future reference and can be downloaded or sent to others
  • Status of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ethiopia was regularly shared (https://covid19.who.int/region/afro/country/et)

 Career opportunities (various links to web sites on MBS)

Through the Telegram groups, members also gain easy access to contact information of other members, such as mobile numbers, which helps them reach out directly when needed. This could ultimately contribute toward more productive relationships among MSP members and more coordinated MBS action. Overall, they could play an important role in improving the status of sanitation in the country.

Shared files and media can be accessed easily in Telegram

Shared files and media can be accessed easily in Telegram

Monitoring success

To track the extent to which the Telegram groups are being used, we collect information on a few key indicators on a quarterly basis, as presented in the table below (October 2020 to September 2021):

Summary of key performance indicators for October 2020 to September 2021

The Telegram groups allow the MoH and other stakeholders to reach out to 285 professionals throughout the country who are engaged in MBS activities. In four regions (Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Somali) all four core sector offices are represented, although in other regions we need to encourage more participation from missing sector offices and engage them in the MSPs. 

Private sector representatives are also underrepresented, so we plan to be more proactive about bringing them in at both national and regional levels. For small local businesses, access to Telegram remains a challenge due to the absence of smartphones and reliable internet connections.

As I mentioned earlier, the active participation of MSP members so far has been encouraging. But, as always, there’s room for improvement. Over the last year, one message was posted, on average, in every group per week – still some way to go to reach our target of one message every other day.

Lessons learned using Telegram
  • Telegram can be used at a relatively small cost.
  • With a little encouragement and internet data incentives from T/WASH, we can actively engage MSP members on Telegram.
  • Telegram can play a positive role in supporting communication among stakeholders from government to NGOs, private sector businesses to academia.
  • The Ministry of Health and other stakeholders can easily access all the regions’ members through Telegram and can share relevant information, such as guidelines, plans, presentations, pictures, and videos.
  • Using Telegram to report on activities and goals increases accountability among MSP members because Telegram creates transparency around what others are doing.
  • The MoH and T/WASH can oversee the flow and prioritisation of information on Telegram, making it easier for the right information to reach key audiences.
  • Telegram enhances strong working relationships among different MBS sectors as they share information and successes. This could ultimately contribute toward more coordinated MBS action that results in improvements in the sanitation situation in Ethiopia.

Please join the MSP Telegram group of your interest! The groups can be accessed by anyone interested following the links below: 


Running a marathon backwards – reflections on sanitation at COP26

17 November 2021 at 15:56
By: Naafs

Man running backwards in a marathon

While we see more focus on methane mitigation and increased recognition of sanitation in national climate plans, we all need to face the same way, particularly regarding finance.

Photo caption: Flickr/Mary-Katherine Ream, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Keep pushing harder and harder for more and more. Because that's what's required to meet that challenge. Gird yourself for a marathon, not a sprint.” – Barack Obama urged young climate activists to accept “imperfect compromise” as part of any COP26 agreement. To me, as an avid runner, it feels very much like running a marathon backwards – there is progress, but it would be so much easier if all of us could face the same way, particularly regarding finance. It would save a lot of pain and agony and ensure we reach further, farther and faster.

As water, sanitation and hygiene experts at IRC, we started sprinting on the climate crisis well over a decade ago (see for example our 2011 publication) and now the sector as a whole is really getting up to speed that WASH system strengthening is climate action (GWP/UNICEF Climate resilient WASH, WaterAid, Sanitation and Water for AllUN Water, and our own joint paper with Water For People). At the COP Water pavilion, there was even an entire day dedicated to resilient WASH and strategic placed messages which will have reached all participants. No doubt, this mass sprint will continue towards the milestone of the UN 2023 Water Decade Conference co-hosted by the Government of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A lot of this is about the now undeniable key role of water and public services such as domestic water supply and sanitation in the adaptation agenda. But on this World Toilet Day 2021, we should ask ourselves, what happened at COP26 that influences the sanitation agenda?

Methane mitigation

The most prominent change affecting the sanitation sector is the pledge by the US and EU at COP26 to slash methane. More than 100 countries have signed up to The Global Methane Pledge, which aims to limit methane emissions by 30% by 2030 compared with 2020 levels. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) and responsible for a third of current warming from human activities. It is also the main gas that is emitted from sewage, sludge and shit. Our World in Data estimates wastewater is responsible for 1.3% of all GHG emissions. In an excellent twitter thread, Professor Barbara Evans explores what this means for the sector. Just onsite sanitation (i.e., septic tanks and pit latrines), contributes as much as 1% of total global anthropogenic methane emissions and this far exceeds GHG operational emissions (CO2) from faecal sludge trucks and sewerage. Projects such as SCARE (what’s in a name?) and Future Climate For Africa are posed for further research. Mitigation measures include use of composting toilets, using methane to generate energy in biogas facilities, regular emptying of septic tanks, and effective wastewater management..

The global methane pledge may make it easier for the sanitation sector to access (climate) funding for such mitigation measures. We just have to ensure that it doesn’t only go to large urban wastewater systems, but provides opportunity for moving up the sanitation ladder from basic services to safely managed. As Barbara concludes in her twitter thread:

"All humans produce faecal waste (poop/ poo... whatever you want to call it) and that will produce GHG emissions, wherever it goes, so DO invest in sanitation and DO manage it well for a win-win impact on public health and the environment".

Strengthened political frameworks

A second development has been the publication of many Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in preparation for COP26. Though there are four linkages between climate change and sanitation, only 2% of the NDCs included sanitation in 2020. A rapid assessment using the NDC tracker shows that the percentage now has gone up 16%, an increased recognition of sanitation in the updated NDCs. On top of that, nearly 50% also specifically recognise wastewater, particularly the EU and America depend on sewerage. The host country UK had for example a rather embarrassing two weeks in the run up to COP where legislation was passed potentially leading to more sewage in rivers and streams (map, climate angle). 

These NDCs with specific sanitation measures, provide a stronger framework for action. Malawi is an example of an updated NDC containing specific sanitation measures.  This strengthens the political support for the Malawian government and UNICEF initiative around a climate resilient WASH framework and financing strategy.

Table mentioning sanitation from Malawi's NDC

Example of how sanitation is included in updated NDC of Malawi. Note that it recognises sanitation as not just an infrastructure issue.

Increased Financing

The big-ticket item at COP has always been financing or climate justice if you prefer. The opening speech by Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, put it most eloquently “This is the sword we need to wield.

In May this year, WaterAid’s financing blueprint report estimated that US$ 229 billion is needed each year till 2030 to achieve SDG 6. This is twice the annual amount of US$ 114 billion estimated by the World Bank in 2016. The increase reflects the stalled progress in many countries, the reduced time to 2030, and the cost of building resilience to climate change. The additional costs of climate adaptation for sanitation are approximately US$ 36 billion per year.

But the as yet unmet promise around climate finance is US$ 100 billion per year and that has to cover much more than WASH. Basic water, sanitation and hygiene programmes receive less than 1% of global climate finance at the moment.

So where will the extra adaptation money come from and what did COP26 deliver? Besides a renewed drive for Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM), WaterAid’s blueprint report had already called for a grant transfer of 2.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) from high-income country governments to developing countries to achieve the SDGs. This grant transfer would combine overseas development aid (ODA) and a climate finance commitment.

A grant transfer initiative worth US$ 290 billion to US$ 580 billion by 2030 - the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility - “was submitted by all the 138 developing countries representing 5 billion people” but ultimately rejected at COP26 by the US, UK and EU. Slightly better news came for the pledge from wealthy nations to finally meet their goal to mobilise US$ 100 billion a year for climate financing for developing countries by 2023. This is still far short of the US$ 1.3 trillion per year by 2030 requested by African negotiators at COP26. Answering calls to step up lagging funding for adaptation, the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact urges developed countries to double their climate finance for adaptation. Developed counties have already pledged US$ 356 million to the Adaptation Fund.

At COP26, two big climate accelerator funds specifically for the WASH sector have been launched. A coalition of organisations led by WaterAid has committed to leverage at least US$ 600 million in public and private funding via the Resilient Water Accelerator (Accelerator) aimed at bringing clean water to 50 million people in Africa and Asia by 2030. Similarly, the USAID President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) intends to mobilise US$ 1 billion for climate-resilient water and sanitation services by 2030. An overarching concern is that till date, 86% of the finance offered for climate adaptation within the water (and sanitation) sector takes the form of loans, of which around half was non-concessional or provided at market rates, adding to country debt burdens. And can private investments really be mobilised when most WASH service providers don’t turn a profit but depend on subsidy?

Turning around

It will not be easy to meet the challenges posed by climate change and as Obama indicated, it is a marathon, not a sprint. More precisely, it’s a collective marathon run by governments, private sector, CSOs, banks, utilities and knowledge centres, sometimes in competition, but often in collaboration. For sanitation, steps have been made in the right direction – with more focus on methane mitigation, stronger NDCs and potentially more overall financing.

Though running backwards allegedly has benefits, it is a slow and ineffective way towards progress. We all need to face the same direction for the future – finance for safe, GHG low sanitation, to reach the marathon milestone of safe sanitation for all.

This blog was reviewed by John Butterworth, includes contributions from Cor Dietvorst and was copy-edited by Tettje van Daalen.

Tenkodogo celebrates International Handwashing & World Toilet Day

17 November 2021 at 14:46

IRC organises a public event to raise awareness on handwashing with soap and to stop open defecation.

When? Friday 19, November 2021, from 15:00 hrs onwards.
Where? Place de la Nation (Espace Yennenga) of Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso.
Partners involved: Agence Productions Universelles, District of Tenkodogo, Regional Directorate of Water and Sanitation, Regional Directorate of Health, religious and traditional leaders, private radio (Horizom FM) and Radio Burkina de Tenkodogo.

On Friday 19 November 2021, IRC will bring together the people in Tenkodogo district to raise awareness on handwashing with soap and to stop open defecation.

The afternoon will include messages from regional opinion leaders, performances from various artists and people will be able to get fit for the weekend with some aerobic-zumba.

The event will be an opportunity to officially close the "Clean Hands, Good Health" campaign conducted in Tenkodogo during the months of September and October 2021 which involved 100 teachers and students of 18 schools. 

Stop open defecation. Own a household latrine now. Let's play our part in a Covid-19 era.

17 November 2021 at 14:07

Theme of Ghana's World Toilet Day commemoration.

Ghana's theme for this year's World Toilet Day highlights the need for every household to make the effort to own a household latrine, especially in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme ties in well with the global theme of valuing toilets.

Toilets are crucial. They have a direct impact on health, education, gender, climate change, tourism and the economy.

IRC Ghana and sector partners will join the Ghana Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources in an event to commemorate the day.

Where? at the Jubilee Park, Kumasi, Ashanti region
When? Friday 19 November 2021

The event will include:

  • Greater Kumasi media dialogue on combating open defecation
  • Mass media activities: TV and Radio talk shows, social media
  • Commitment statements from the national stakeholders
  • Reading of sanitation messages / Sermons in churches and mosques
  • Float through the principal streets of the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area (GKMA)
  • Launch of 'Own a Toilet Campaign'

All MMDAs, other government institutions, development partners, civil society organisations, international and local NGOs, consultants and private sector organisations working in the sanitation and hygiene sector for Ghana are encouraged to plan activities to commemo­rate the day, to make it a memorable one. 

Let's address the silent taboo called Toilets and discuss and shine a spotlight on it every day.


Three South Omo woredas commit to continue with WASH systems strengthening

16 November 2021 at 11:59
By: tsegaye

During a close out event for USAID's Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership three Ethiopian woredas promised to continue facilitating the learning alliance platforms.

The USAID funded Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (SWS) has supported South Ari, Baka Dawla Ari, and Woba Ari woredas of South Omo Zone in strengthening WASH systems through facilitating learning alliance meetings, supporting the development of woreda WASH SDG master plans, strengthening rural water maintenance arrangements, and monitoring. The five-year learning partnership is ending and a close out and learning dissemination event was conducted in Jinka town, the capital of South Omo Zone, on October 22, 2021.

The administrators of the three woredas have pledged to continue the system strengthening activities, which until now have been facilitated by the learning partnership. They also said that the learning partnership’s activities have helped them understand the value of system strengthening and motivated them to give more attention to WASH activities. They have promised to allocate some budget to continue facilitating the learning alliance meetings and to mobilise resources to implement the master plans.

Participants at the SWS closing event in Jinka town, Ethiopia

‘’The learning partnership has brought a lot of changes. Previously the issue of water was only the water office's responsibility, but now administration, finance, education, health and other offices are aware that they are also responsible and need to actively participate in and contribute to every WASH activity from planning up to implementation, monitoring and maintenance,’’ according to Yohannis Menti, South Ari Woreda’s Water, Mine and Energy Office Head. He said that the learning alliance meetings played a great role in creating a synergistic environment and South Ari Woreda is planning to convene the 13th learning alliance meeting.

South Omo Zone Water, Mine and Energy Department Head, Workineh Kerma, said that the learning partnership has supported the three woredas in establishing WASHCOs, Federations, and capacitating the WASH sector in planning, maintenance, and monitoring. The effort, so far, has enabled the woreda administrators to identify gaps and develop a detailed plan for the sector, said Workineh. He also said that the responsibility of facilitating the future learning alliance meetings is up to the woredas and the zone administration will continue supporting them. 

The discussion underscored the need for sharing the experiences of the three woredas with other woredas in the zone. The zone plans to use the learnings of the three woredas to convince the region to support the WASH system strengthening activities.

Though SWS is winding up, IRC WASH will continue to support South Ari Woreda in WASH system strengthening. Further support for Baka Dawla Ari and Woba Ari will depend on the availability of additional funding.

Achieving 100% sanitation coverage starts with small steps

1 November 2021 at 15:58
By: Grift


The case of Kijura Town Council in Kabarole District, Uganda.

Kijura Town Council is a municipality in Burahya County in Kabarole District Western Region in Uganda.

Map of Kijura Town Council

Kabarole District is endowed with a wide range of surface and groundwater sources. The population depends on these sources for household water supply, which is delivered through different technologies like shallow wells, deep bore holes, gravity flow pipe schemes and protected springs.

However, water quality has been an issue due to the hygiene practices and other human activities that have a direct impact on the water drawn from ground and surface sources. In July 2017, the Ministry of Water and Environment under the Albert Water Management Zone partnered with IRC and the Kabarole District Water Office to undertake an assessment of groundwater quality. This was in response to the rampant and reoccurring water related diseases that were being registered in Kabarole District. National statistics indicated that 68% of patients visiting health facilities are suffering from diseases caused by poor hygiene and sanitation.

The survey found that the most common cause of contamination was poor management of water supply infrastructure and their surroundings, as well as poor hygiene practices at household level.

Key among the conditions that contributed to unsafe water was runoff stormwater, open defecation, substandard sanitation facilities and construction of latrines in areas that have high water tables. E-coli contamination was particularly high, affecting 80% of the sources, with shallow wells being the most affected.

” The shallow wells and their construction are such that people draw water from just right below the handpump, we call this surface water not groundwater. The wells are constructed in places where the water source table is high, and when a water table is high, it is vulnerable to all forms of contamination, from stormwater and latrines, as they are so close to the level where the water is being drawn”, Martin Watsisi, Regional WASH Advisor at IRC, noted.

The resolve to address the sanitation challenge in Kijura Town Council (TC) was motivated by research and IRC's WASH data collected in 2017 showing that over 60% of water sources were contaminated. Water quality provided cause for concern, with 41% (especially the shallow wells, protected springs, and tap stands) testing above WHO limits for E-coli.

These results were used to start the ‘Water Safety Planning approach’ an effort to improve the water quality at the water source. Following this water quality assessment to address the challenge of water safety, IRC worked with the Albert Water Management Zone to introduce and promote the Water Safety Planning Approach as an approach to control water source contamination in Kabarole District. This approach is widely recognised as a reliable and effective way of managing water supply to safeguard public health. Water safety planning involves curative measures that bring together community members and technocrats to conduct a risk assessment around a particular water source and devise means to manage the risks. Applying the water safety planning approach to all sources in the district would mitigate the dangers related to consumption of unsafe water. 

As the efforts towards attaining a general clean environment around the water sources intensified, attention was shifted to household hygiene and sanitation. Extension workers started sensitising people on the importance of maintaining sanitation and hygiene at home and how that relates to water safety. The construction of standard latrines to end open defecation is taking centre stage. 

This process also triggered an action whereby the Community Development Officer (CDO) Kellen Kanyunyuzi cascaded the Water Safety Planning to Kijura Town Council. The process was started with leaders improving their own household sanitation to motivate communities to do the same, with the belief that for total sanitation and hygiene to be attained, households must be free from open defecation, and they must manage waste responsibly. The effects of sanitation on water sources cannot be overemphasised. This action by the CDO prompted the local leadership to find a solution to the problem, and a campaign dubbed ‘Sanitation begins with Your Leader’, was launched in April 2019. An 11% increase in latrine coverage among households in the Town Council was realised, and this triggered local leadership to seek out partners to assist in scaling the sanitation efforts.

Sanitation coverage in Kabarole District

IRC Uganda came on board in November 2019 to assist the Town Council to prepare a roadmap to improve sanitation and hygiene in the town.

The Town Clerk and council members to the Executive Committee developing a roadmap for Kijura Town Council
The Town Clerk and council members to the Executive Committee developing a roadmap for Kijura Town Council

The roadmap was informed by the following strategic considerations:

  • Sensitisation of local community through existing community groups,
  • Involvement of local leaders and politicians in the sensitisation meetings,
  • Enforcement of by-laws on sanitation and compliance to regulations in issuance of building permits,
  • Promote community cooperation through cells (smaller units in the village/parish administration structures) for construction of latrines at household level,
  • Conduct joint monitoring visits/inspections by local leaders and technical persons, with use of digitised data collection templates.

The roadmap was completed and adopted by the Town Council in 2019-2020 and has been translated into the local language, which has not only enhanced ownership, but also enabled effective implementation of the roadmap by the local community.

A number of strategies were put in place for sanitation and hygiene improvement in Kijura Town Council:

  1. The secretary of Community Based Services will share the roadmap to achieving 100% sanitation and hygiene coverage. And seek approval on enforcement for noncompliance of the building plans and occupation permit. It is expected that the Executive Committee will submit this at the next Executive Committee Meeting.
  2. To conduct a sanitation awareness meeting for all stakeholders at town council level to emphasise ending Open Defecation, good sanitation and law enforcement and on conducting a sanitation crackdown on schools, tea factories, commercial buildings and households that will be noncompliant.       
  3. Politicians/councillors will take the lead in community sensitisation meetings at cell level, with the help of technical staff to achieve 100% latrine coverage. The purpose of the sensitisation meetings is to create awareness and change people’s attitude to sanitation. There are already 40 existing community groups that the politicians will use as platforms for sensitisation of households. The households will be given a specified time for completion of latrine construction. Failure to do so will lead to enforcement in the form of penalties and /or arrest with the use of existing instruments such as the building plan compliance and occupation permit.
  4. Politicians/councillors to make a move of grouping households into a cluster of 10 in every cell so that households support each other in latrine construction. This will be done with the help of the Local Council and Village Health Teams (VHT).
  5. The councillors together with selected technical staff will conduct a two-day follow-up through home visits to monitor progress. A chosen ward will be monitored by the councillors and technical staff on the same day and at the same time, since they will have divided themselves into groups to visit each cell and record findings using a standard template provided by IRC or the Assistant District Water Officer in charge of sanitation. 
  6. Enforcement of the households and commercial premises without the required sanitary facilities. And at that point enforcement spearheaded by the Town Council will take its course.

This article was reviewed by Martin Watsisi, Jane Nabunnya Mulumba, Naomi Kabarungi and Angela Huston, and edited by Tettje van Daalen


Terminating the problem of unsafe water and sanitation services

19 October 2021 at 10:37
By: huston

Recently I listened to a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger on how the climate movement is stuck and needs to reset. I think our approach to solving the water and sanitation crisis could help.

I recently listened to a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Austrian Climate Summit. He lamented about the stagnation and apathy in the movement to combat climate change.  People are ‘stuck in despair and confusion,’ he said, struggling to grasp what it means for the future of our species, which leaves them frozen and unable to take a single step forward.  Headlines like: ‘The icebergs are melting’, ‘Don’t use plastic’, ‘1.5 degrees is a tipping point’, ‘We should be carbon free’ and ‘It's all connected’. What do they really mean?

Similar to the ‘paralysis by analysis’ that we talk about as systems thinkers and leaders, too much information can be counterproductive. This is especially when it is alarming and there is no clear strategic guidance to help us sort through it to find a positive way forward.

Being the action-movie hero that he is, Schwarzenegger (also known as The Terminator), proposed that we need a single shared enemy around which we can rally the public, and international governments, to create a path toward victory and a better future. Schwarzenegger proposes we call this enemy ‘pollution,’ as a useful oversimplification - a clear visual guide - something around which we can create an action plan. ‘Pollution is bad… pollution makes my kids sick… we need to stop polluting in our cities and with the way we live.’ Voilà, the antagonist in our plot to reverse climate change has emerged.

With the problem clear, solutions begin to surface and make sense. The public can participate; we could pollute less by eating vegetarian food, because animal farms create a lot of pollution. We could pollute less by taking the train, because planes leave that cloud of smoke. Our country could pollute less by changing how we produce energy, and by consuming less of it overall.

With a shared (if not simplistic) vision of what the problem is, a wide spectrum of citizens and businesses can start to imagine solutions that they can contribute to, while calling on government and business leaders to be the protagonists for leading our journey toward triumph.

Is ‘The Terminator’ a visionary? I’m not sure. But what he says resonates with my experiences in the water and sanitation sector. And I would argue that our sector is far ahead of the climate movement in terms of leadership.

Workshop with learning alliance in Kabarole, incl. District Councillor, District Engineer, Health Officer, NGO representative

A strategy workshop with the learning alliance in Kabarole District, including a District Councillor, District Engineer, Health Officer, and a representative of an environmental NGO. Photo credit: IRC Uganda

In my research on public drinking water safety, I have seen that a vision-led approach to solving complex problems can surface viable solutions from confusion and despair. I’ve seen this in district council meetings, national ministerial dialogues, and Watershed stakeholders workshops. A shared vision and goal, a strategy to achieve it, and a set of manageable tasks to start pursuing that goal are enough to get started with an incremental, or even a radical, change agenda.  

Taking the example of Uganda 

In our recent article in the International Journal of Water Resources Developmentwe wrote about the drinking water systems transformation underway in Uganda. Uganda’s [national] Vision 2040 calls for piped drinking water for all and establishes a palpable vision to move ‘from a peasant to a modern and prosperous society’ in 30 years. Supported by Sustainable Development Goal Targets and a series of National Development Plans, the direction of travel is clear. What does success look like? The picture is on the cover: Rockets, high speed trains, excellence across the board. Including universal safely managed drinking water services.

Cover image of Uganda Vision 2040


Globally, public service systems take decades, or centuries, to develop; this is usually achieved through gradual (if not meandering) social and technical change. The government alone cannot command instant change, but it can provide a vision, guidance, and coherence between short- and long-term policy (Rotmans et al.,2001).

Vision 2040 provides a framework within which other actors can innovate and experiment to contribute to the desired change. The government uses incentives and disincentives, for example corporate subsidies and regulation, to encourage (or force) other actors to support its strategy. The precise modalities for achieving Uganda Vision 2040 are not known from the start, but they are discovered over time through collective action and adaptive management in pursuit of the clearly established vision; these include regulatory mechanisms, tariff systems, operation and maintenance frameworks, etc.

This also includes guiding decentralised actors to understand and implement the national agenda. A learning alliance has been established in Kabarole District, Uganda, to help pursue the drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene targets at district level through the identification of solutions that also show promise for scaling nationally. At the heart of this, is the Kabarole District WASH Master Plan 2018-2030.

Our paper describes IRC’s use of a scenario planning exercise to support this process with the learning alliance. Using GIS maps to simulate different possible future scenarios (e.g., water resource degradation or massive piped water extension), we were able to bring diverse stakeholders to a shared understanding of what the future of drinking water services might look like, both positive and negative. 

Fig 1aFig 1bFig 1cFig 1d 

Figure 1: Current situation and future scenarios in Kabarole district. From Left to right : a) water points in 2019, where pink dots are shallow wells/springs, blue are stand taps and deep boreholes; b) 2030 scenario of water resource degradation eliminating shallow sources c) piped network coverage areas in 2019 d) 2030 scenario of expanded piped networks. See Huston et al, (2021).

The scenarios were not intended to be predictive; they were used to prompt a wide range of stakeholders to think creatively together about solutions, and to become invested in helping to shape the future. Aside from the ideas that we came up with, stakeholders left the scenario development exercise with a more refined understanding of the vision they were trying to achieve, and more ideas about what they, as individuals and organisations, could do to help get there. 

Vision, strategy, plan, action

The challenge of achieving universal drinking water services, in even one district, is enormous. But as Schwarzenegger warned in his speech, ‘the constant [focus on] how huge the obstacles are, at some point undermines [peoples’] will to accept and to act.’  When we are working with district councillors, church ministers, civil society leaders, water resource engineers, and more - it is essential that people accept the challenge, then immediately feel empowered and motivated to overcome it.

Does the vision have to be perfect? No. Does the strategy have to have all the details worked out in order to start? No. What is important is that the people involved come to a shared understanding of the current problem and a relatively aligned long-term vision of what the solutions might be. Then, we can move from frozen and daunted toward alert, taking concrete steps to move forward.

If our journey to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and reverse climate change were an action film? Advice from Mr. Schwarzenegger: 'no one is going to invest huge sums of money in a movie where there is no hope.'

Strengthening WASH businesses in Ethiopia: Start-up requirements and their impact on WASH market development

18 October 2021 at 09:57
By: Feldman

Clearing the way – helping WASH enterprises get an easier start in Ethiopia.

In a series of posts, we will present the main challenges that businesses face when expanding the range of WASH products and services available to households in Ethiopia. After describing these challenges, we will recommend a series of regulatory changes and policy actions designed to address these issues and improve the overall business climate so that enterprises can more easily start up, grow, and serve their communities sustainably. 

This is the fifth of eight planned articles, and it addresses the challenges that enterprises face when starting up WASH-related businesses in Ethiopia.

Woman at an WASH enterprise in Ethiopia

Why does this matter?

Currently, only nine percent of Ethiopians have access to basic sanitation services – a serious situation that affects public health, education, and many other aspects of the country’s economic and social well-being (JMP, 2020). Achieving universal access to basic WASH facilities cannot be done by government or NGOs alone; it will require a strong contribution from the country’s private sector. The Government of Ethiopia recognises this and is working to strengthen private sector businesses that offer WASH products and services, as key element of its greater focus on market-based sanitation (FMoH, 2016). These measures are necessary because the current market only meets a small fraction of the country’s enormous needs.

To gain insight into how these challenges can be addressed, and to do so in a manner that ensures the solutions are affordable to all, the USAID Transform WASH team spoke with a wide range of experts – including business owners, government officials, and technical specialists in Ethiopia and other East African countries – to get their advice and recommendations on how to develop and expand Ethiopia’s WASH market. The post that follows is largely based on these experts’ reflections.

To learn more, follow this link to the Learning Note.

Business start-up requirements

Starting up a business in Ethiopia entails a wide range of administrative, financial, and legal steps. Some entrepreneurs raised concerns that this process can be overly time-consuming, complex, and costly and creates a disincentive to opening a business, especially in a relatively new commercial market, such as for affordable WASH products and services. 

There are range of concerns cited by businesses involved in the start-up or early phases of operation, including:

  • Complex and costly process to import raw materials or finished goods
  • Increasingly strict and constantly changing regulatory environment; some complain of an ‘anti-business’ climate (government mistrust of businesses’ motives)
  • Difficulty accessing hard currency (foreign exchange, or ‘forex’) for procurement and importation and other international transactions
  • High tax and duty rates, which are passed on through higher prices to consumers, thus lowering demand.

These and other challenges are significant contributors to the World Bank’s ranking of Ethiopia as one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to do business. On the other hand, when federal or regional agencies are supportive of a particular project or business, they can pave the way toward rapid progress, so the experiences of individual businesses in the start-up phase can vary considerably.

Business start-up requires that several administrative applications be filed with the appropriate regional and federal government agencies followed by their sign-off or approval. For certain types of operations, like manufacturing, additional steps may be required, such as preparing an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission. If a full ESIA is required, the preparation process typically requires several types of technical experts and can involve a large investment of funds by the applicant. ESIAs serve a vital national purpose of protecting Ethiopia’s environment and local livelihoods, but smaller business start-ups may struggle with this application requirement among others. These processes also require an investment of time, which entails additional costs that start-ups may find difficult or impossible to afford. Initial government review of ESIAs is intended to be relatively rapid (around three weeks), but in practice the entire process of review, revision (as requested by authorities), and approval can take considerably longer. During that time, progress on the specific operation under review will likely be put on hold. One business noted that their ESIA process took more than one year.

A significant issue for foreign enterprises trying to establish an Ethiopian operation is the requirement that they make an initial deposit equivalent of at least US$ 200,000 in an Ethiopian bank (joint ventures between a foreign company and a local partner have a slightly lower requirement of US$ 150,000). While these funds can later be spent once the business is established, the size of this initial deposit can present a significant hurdle for many investors and small- to medium-sized enterprises.

In some countries, including the UK and South Africa, a separate classification has been created and designed for businesses that address social issues. These are referred to as “social enterprises” (SEs), which are deemed to support the government in meeting economic growth, public health, or other societal objectives.  SEs are businesses that have a well-defined social purpose but operate using commercial business principles. The SE classification confers tax incentives, streamlined registration processes, and other benefits. This allows such enterprises to combine the mission typically associated with a non-profit agency with the focus and efficiency of a for-profit company (and, in the process, generate revenue to finance a portion of its operations). By encouraging the emergence of SEs as a formally established business structure, governments can expand and speed up access to critical services, such as education, energy, health, and water and sanitation, especially in poor communities or regions where it is often most challenging to extend those services.

In Ethiopia, the SE registration option does not yet exist. However, a registered non-profit or non-governmental organisation (NGO) can apply to the Agency for Civil Society Organisations (ACSO) to undertake an income-generating activity (IGA). This allows an NGO to generate revenue under its IGA wing, separately registered, which can be used to cover some of the NGO’s administrative and operational costs while continuing to receive grants and donations. However, relatively few NGOs have sought an IGA classification (British Council, 2017). The British Council study found that most socially-minded businesses in Ethiopia either register as a micro or small enterprise (MSE) or as a sole proprietorship. Another finding was that, regardless of their registration as for-profit businesses, these companies continued to regard themselves as SEs.  

The fact that many socially minded businesses choose to register as MSEs fits with the government’s policy, which states that encouraging the expansion of the MSE sector is part of its strategy to reduce unemployment. MSE registration is carried out by the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction and is considered to be relatively straightforward with low barriers to entry. The MSE classification does carry with it certain limits to capital and human resources, such as a maximum of 30 employees. However, in the overall scheme of the government’s national drive to grow the economy and provide more jobs, larger businesses and industrial interests (which have the capacity to employ a greater number of people) often take precedence over smaller enterprises, such as MSEs and start-ups.   

The challenges of starting a new business in the country are likely impacting entrepreneurs in many sectors and are certainly having a major effect on businesses serving the WASH sector. Encouraging constructive reforms to streamline the registration process and to lower barriers to entry will help expand the ability of the private sector to offer solutions to a wide range of consumer needs related to household and institutional sanitation facilities, water supply and water treatment, and many other aspects of WASH. Some of the ways this can be accomplished are summarized below.

  • Review and sensibly reform start-up capital investment requirements to encourage more rapid growth of the WASH market by incentivising foreign business investment and foreign/domestic partnerships in the WASH sector.
  • Promote streamlining and fast-tracking of the product certification process for MSEs and especially for WASH manufacturing enterprises, including coordination and harmonisation between the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority and the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise.
  • Streamline business licensing and financial auditing processes, especially for enterprises that demonstrate poverty reduction, public health, environmental, or other social objective. Consider establishing a separate classification for such businesses (as social enterprises) to help grow this sector of the economy.  Engage with Social Enterprise Ethiopia and other relevant groups to help promote this.
  • Encourage Social Enterprise Ethiopia or other business groups to offer support for SEs to efficiently navigate and comply with regulatory requirements, including those which are potentially technically complex, such as product certification and ESIAs.
  • Strengthen the IGA mechanism for registered NGOs, including providing tax and other relevant forms of relief to encourage greater use of this option by WASH-focused non-profit organisations.
  • Review policies focused on reducing unemployment and encourage expansion of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and other platforms, which can train young people to join or start WASH-related businesses.
  • Advocate with the Ethiopian Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Commission to promote streamlined requirements and fast-tracking of ESIAs for socially oriented businesses focused on extending critical services to lower-income populations, including WASH products and services.
  • Seek corporate engagement, including foreign corporate interests, in promoting private sector engagement in the WASH sector in Ethiopia. This could be through direct advocacy with government or possibly by establishing a formal public-private partnership initiative. Enlist the support of banking and finance institutions, as well as Ethiopian business groups, to help promote the goals of such an initiative.

Sanitation innovation through user-centred design in Ethiopia

28 September 2021 at 17:45

A workshop delivers prototypes of more affordable sanitation products that meet the needs of lower income households in Lowland Ethiopia.

Written by: Ayatam Simeneh, Dagim Demirew and Mesfin H/Mariam

The Somali region of eastern Ethiopia, a lowland area, poses unique sanitation market development challenges. The region significantly outperforms the country as a whole in access to improved sanitation at 26 percent of households (EDHS 2019) versus seven percent nationally (JMP 2019).  By contrast, Somali households practise open defecation at persistently higher than national rates at 49 percent versus 32 percent, respectively.   

According to our business development team in the Somali region, sanitation product offerings in the local market are limited mostly to full toilet construction options.  These products are expensive, ranging from 7,000 to 15,000 Ethiopian birr (ETB) each, so businesses cater to the wealthiest households, whose strong demand results in the higher-than-national improved sanitation rate.  On the other end of the wealth spectrum, in contrast with other regions, households with no toilet tend to reject self-construction options (e.g., through CLTSH) and aspire to a higher standard of sanitation facility.  Unfortunately, businesses fail to offer products that meet this demand, which is driven by local culture.  

To explore more about the reasons behind the different contexts in the Somali region and to offer some solutions, the USAID Transform WASH team led a workshop using user-centred design principles to come up with more affordable sanitation products that meet the needs of lower income households.  The workshop gathered numerous community members selected for their local knowledge, expertise, and experience. Participants came from all parts of the Somali region and included: community members; masons; professionals from technical, vocational, and educational training (TVET) institutes, including construction workers and wood and metal works instructors; health extension workers, and health officials.   

User-centred design workshops consist of three major steps: observation, ideation, and prototyping.  To prepare the participants, workshop facilitators started with an interactive orientation, which included “speed-dating,” so participants could get to know each other, and a simple co-design exercise in which participants designed a shoe for one of the facilitators. These activities engaged the participants and helped get them into the “design mindset.”  The team then proceeded to core activities, beginning with observation. 

Observation Phase: Facilitators initiated a discussion about the participants’ general sanitation situation and regional context. They then delved deeper into the status of household sanitation.  To guide their observations and perspectives, facilitators presented them with demographic, socioeconomic and geographic data, and information about existing market opportunities and barriers.

Participants presenting discussion results from the observation phase

Participants presenting discussion results from the observation phase

Ideation:  In this phase, participants began to formulate concrete ideas and designs for affordable sanitation products. Participants were divided into groups that mixed professions and backgrounds. Each group formulated and presented their initial design ideas, shaped by traditional, cultural, and religious contexts.  The other groups provided feedback to improve ideas and guide the presenters toward their stated objectives. Privacy, easy cleaning, and water availability were the most common and important issues discussed.  Masons, who have ample experience constructing toilets, raised issues related to soil type and ventilation as critical aspects of toilet design.  Community members also suggested raising footrests to prevent splashing and emphasised the importance of shade from the sun.

Throughout the feedback session, brainstorming continued, ideas grew clearer, and more mature opinions started to form. At this stage, participants began to express their ideas more easily, including with drawings. As part of the activity, participants created sketch models of their designs using paper, glue, and other modelling materials. Each group presented their sketch model to the rest of the participants, who offered another round of feedback and reflections on affordability, ventilation, and other important features.  

Sketch model development Sketch model development

Sketch model development

Prototyping: In this phase, the groups agreed on sketches that they all deemed promising and started creating practical prototypes. They listed material needs to construct their products and assessed the local availability of the materials by estimating revised costs of the toilet which ranged from ETB 5,000 to 10,000. Then each group built a prototype, including the following models:    

Direct pit latrine design - the first team designed a direct pit toilet with a corrugated iron sheet superstructure for the Degabur woreda context. Soil collapse is not a problem in this area, so the group developed a latrine type in which the seat floor was located directly over the septic tank. 

Offset pit latrine design with wood - the Gursum area of the Somali region is prone to soil collapse. Therefore, the second team designed an offset pit latrine design, which would stabilise the area around the toilet. The design also included a wooden superstructure to increase affordability as inexpensive wood is available locally.  

Offset pit latrine design with sheet metal superstructure - the third team developed a toilet with a metal sheet superstructure for the Ararso woreda. This toilet differed from the offset latrine of the Gursum team as it used a metal superstructure rather than wood because of customer preferences in that area.

Direct pit and offset latrine prototypes Direct pit and offset latrine prototypes

Direct pit and offset latrine prototypes

Once the prototypes were completed, the teams tested the designs by presenting them in a nearby rural community. The design teams went from house to house explaining the design concepts and collecting feedback, which was subsequently incorporated into the product designs.  

The final step in the process was to refine the designs so that working prototypes could be constructed in the field.  Building and installing the prototypes will advance the training of masons, enable more testing with households, and help the team develop product and service delivery models.  Ultimately, if product prototypes are successful, they will be produced at scale and made available locally, addressing customer needs and meeting demand for improved sanitation in the Somali region.

Market-based sanitation in the Ethiopian context

23 August 2021 at 13:03
By: tsegaye

Sanitation based marketing

Some key changes in the enabling environment could lead to significant growth in the sanitation market.

Ethiopia is working to address sanitation and hygiene challenges through market-based sanitation. The stakes are high as poor sanitation and hygiene are leading causes of illness. According to the second Health Sector Transformation Plan of Ethiopia, the country aims to drastically reduce sanitation-related illnesses by increasing the proportion of households with access to a basic sanitation service from 20% in 2019 to 60% in 2025. Ethiopia plans to achieve these goals through market-based sanitation, a development approach in which a sustainable marketplace provides reliable sanitation goods and services to consumers and creates viable business opportunities for suppliers.

These efforts have already begun in earnest. The country’s Market-Based Sanitation Implementation Guideline, which was developed by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with development partners, provides a framework for building and expanding market-based sanitation.

What is Market-Based Sanitation?

As stated in the Market-Based Sanitation Implementation Guideline, ‘’Market-based sanitation is a sanitation market whereby the household fully pays at once or through installments to the supplier for the preferred/desired basic sanitation and hygiene products and/or services.’’ Because the market will not work without attractive and profitable business opportunities for suppliers, creating a favourable environment for private-sector enterprises and consumers to conduct business through supportive regulations and policies is a critically important piece to implementing market-based sanitation. This is known as the “enabling environment”.


According to USAID Transform WASH research conducted on Ethiopia’s WASH business climate, businesses offering sanitation products and services in the country face a multitude of challenges resulting from a poor enabling environment. These include access to foreign exchange, tax and tariff rates, intellectual property protection, business registration, and start-up requirements, import challenges, uncertain demand, and business and consumer financing. Lack of access to foreign exchange impedes importation of sanitation products and manufacturing inputs while taxes and tariffs levied on sanitation products increase the price of sanitation products and services, reducing affordability and customer willingness to pay.  Challenges related to intellectual property rights, business start-up requirements, business registration, and uncertain demand discourage emerging businesses. Transform WASH's study examining the introduction of new sanitation products into the Ethiopian market indicated that bringing innovative plastic sanitation products to the local market took nine months longer than was originally planned. Bureaucratic hurdles related to importation, customs, logistics, high and confusing duties, and risk-averse investment decisions of corporate leads created delays and reduced profitability.

Additionally, Transform WASH's study on the assessment of sanitation financing options for enterprises and households shows that local enterprises and consumers are facing financing challenges. Businesses that may wish to offer sanitation products and services lack the capital to purchase raw materials in bulk to use for the production process and marketing tasks. Loan products are hard to access because they carry high-interest rates, or there are no sanitation-focused financial products at all.

Suggested Solutions

Some key changes in the enabling environment could lead to significant growth in the sanitation market.

To make sanitation products and services affordable to all, the government of Ethiopia should exempt or reduce taxes and tariffs levied on sanitation products. Higher prices lower demand, placing additional economic burdens on poor households and reducing the profitability of businesses who wish to sell sanitation products.

Registering sanitation products as essential goods and including them in the priority items list would help solve challenges related to the scarcity of foreign exchange as such transactions receive priority status by sector and by good.

Building a favourable climate for emerging businesses by easing bureaucratic hurdles would enhance growth. There should be an environment in which businesses face fewer impending regulations and sluggish processes for business set-up.

Promoting household understanding of the value of sanitation products and why they should prioritise the improvement of their facilities will create demand for nearby products and services. To do this, Transform WASH experience and research shows that engaging health extension workers and women development army leaders in such promotion will yield positive results along with enhancing business marketing and sales skills.

Expanding financing options is critical for market-based sanitation as small businesses need more and better loan products to blossom. Providing sanitation-focused loans for businesses would enable them to produce, sell, and distribute sanitation products and services at a much greater scale.  Also, strengthening microfinance institutions and village saving and credit associations that provide sanitation loans to consumers would enhance the purchasing power of households. In addressing the poorest customers, smart and targeted subsidies will help address the biggest affordability challenges.

At a fundamental level, establishing a conducive climate for market-based sanitation, working on improving financing restrictions for the enterprises and households, lessening bureaucratic hiccups, and creating demand will change the game and allow Ethiopia to meet its goals. In improving financing restrictions, financial institutions and the regulatory body needs to understand the value of providing finance for market-based sanitation and improve their directives and policy.

About Transform WASH
USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation.

Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.


Scaling up sanitation and hygiene for all in Kabarole

23 August 2021 at 11:49

Home improvement campaigns for sanitation and hygiene assessed in 49 villages in Mugusu and Kasenda sub-counties in Uganda.

A family demonstrates to the monitoring team how they practise handwashing at home using a tippy tap

A family demonstrates to the monitoring team how they practise handwashing at home using a tippy tap

Access to safe sanitation and a clean hygienic environment are fundamental human rights that everyone should enjoy. Kabarole District has set targets to deliver water sanitation and hygiene services to every person, leaving no one behind. Kabarole’s WASH vision commits that by 2030, the district will be 100% open defecation free (ODF), with 72% of the population enjoying basic and 28% safely managed sanitation services.

But sanitation and hygiene are not the only service mandates that the district has. That means that the conditional grant from central government is not nearly enough to reach everyone at once. The district leadership has strategised to concentrate resources in selected underserved sub-counties, making sure that every village and home is served.

Thus, in 2020, IRC made a collaborative commitment to Kabarole District Local Government to support sanitation and home improvement campaigns in two sub-counties per year.  The core purpose of the campaign is to create awareness and inspire change from the grassroots up, by empowering households to install and maintain good sanitation and hygiene facilities, and gradually eliminate open defecation in the entire district.

This year, the sanitation improvement campaign has concentrated on Mugusu and Kasenda sub-counties reaching 49 villages with various activities including community engagement meetings, a baseline survey, home visits and education, piloting of the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) tools, celebration of the 2021 Sanitation Week and rewarding homes that depicted outstanding standards of sanitation and hygiene. 

The ideal home: sanitation and hygiene standards in rural Kabarole

Every household must have a sanitation facility that is in good condition and ensures privacy; have hand washing facilities with clean water and soap, bath shelters, proper garbage disposal, proper water chain management and zero tolerance for open defecation (Uganda Public Health Act CAP 269 (194)).

In Mugusu and Kasenda, most people live in houses built with mud and sticks (semi-permanent, or bricks and mortar (permanent)) with basic sanitary requirements, namely a kitchen and a traditional pit latrine. Before the campaign, only a few homes had a designated bath shelter, 47.5% in Kasenda and 62.6% in Mugusu. Utensil racks with levels for washing and drying were not a priority in many homes; nor were rubbish pits for domestic waste. Even fewer were homes that had hand washing facilities with soap, 32.9% in Kasenda and 37% in Mugusu, and safe water chain management 40.7% in Kasenda and 52.3% in Mugusu.

The change is happening, one home at a time

A monitoring exercise done approximately three months after the campaign revealed that two villages, Magunga and Karwoma in Mugusu Sub-county had recently been declared open defecation free by the District Inspectorate team while 15 more villages had 89% of their households with no evidence of OD. Those which did not have latrines before the intervention were found with new or in the process of excavating pits for latrines. Others had improved from traditional to ventilated improved pits (VIPs) or installed SatoPans and Ecosan toilets to scale-up cleanliness and hygiene.

Household toilet inspection


“After attending the sanitation improvement campaign that was conducted in this village, I committed myself to improve my latrine. I decided to put in a SatoPan. My latrine is now free from the smell and flies. I have inspired other community members to replicate my example of using locally available materials.”- Mr. Darius Nasasira, a community member in Kasenda.

Leading by example

Community leaders including those who represent the people on the lower local councils, as well as those who serve in technical capacity such as the secretary for health and the Village Health Teams (VHT), are expected to have and maintain exemplary homesteads. That means that during the home visits, their homes are also assessed, and model homes awarded with certificates. Model homes not only inspire other homesteads to achieve the ideal standard, but they also constitute a good proportion of households in the village, thus raising the standard of the sub-county closer to the ideal sanitation and hygiene situation.

Lessons learnt

PHAST in actionRating yourself on sanitation ladder

PHAST in action: Community mapping of sanitation conditions (L) and a participant in the training rates her home on the sanitation ladder (R).

Behaviour change is a laborious process and requires time. The impact of a sanitation campaign may not be visible in only three months.

Although resources for constructing most sanitary facilities are within easy reach, some community members remain adamant. Local leaders have resorted to enforcement through police arrests of those who do not comply to the basic requirements of sanitation and hygiene. But this has not significantly contributed to the desired behavioural change. In some cases, because people have acted in fear of the law, the full installation, maintenance and use of ideal sanitary facilities remains below minimum.

The holistic campaign offers a more sustainable approach. The PHAST tools involve the whole community beyond the Health Assistants, allowing them to learn and adopt solutions as their own. Promoting community led total sanitation (CLTS) using tools such as “the walk of shame” and the household cluster approach (UMOJA plus) that embraces togetherness to promote inclusive participation, were found to better influence behaviour change.

Kabarole District and IRC together with other actors such as Amref which is involved in sanitation marketing can consolidate the gains in the same sub-counties by extending the campaign for longer periods. Importantly, learning and knowledge sharing should not be limited to the campaign timelines. For example, training Environment Health Workers and VHTs on new technologies such as installation of SatoPans should continue.

Such collaborative campaigns are an opportunity for civil society to lobby policy makers to put in place guidelines and by-laws that support the technical teams to ensure strict adherence to minimum standards of sanitation and hygiene.  Existing guidelines should be improved to include missing aspects, such as menstrual hygiene management and climate change at household level.

Every single homestead that transforms to the model sanitation and hygiene standards is one step towards building a critical mass of individuals that will propel communities, villages, sub-counties and ultimately the district closer to full and safe access for all.