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

Developing a Latrine Superstructure Prototype. Photo credit: Kathrin Tegenfeldt

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.

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By Monte Achenbach, Chief of Party, USAID Transform WASH, PSI.