Ethiopia’s ‘One’ model, under which the government runs its water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) national programme, has steadily improved the well-being of the country’s rural and urban communities.

“The ‘One’ here means we have one account, one budget and one report in one consolidated WASH account,” explains Tadesse Masresha, the coordinator for the regional WASH coordination office in Oromia Region.

The scheme combines the construction of infrastructure to extend access to water and sanitation to new areas and the revamping of disused equipment such as pumping stations and pipelines.

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Water resources

The programme also provides technical training to maintenance personnel and users to ensure the sustainability of the infrastructure.

Ethiopia has 12 river basins with an annual runoff volume of 122 billion m3 of water and an estimated 2.6 – 6.5 billion m3 of groundwater potential. This translates to an average of 1,575 m3 of available water per person per year, a relatively large volume.

But due to erratic rainfall and lack of storage, water is often unavailable where and when it is most needed. Only about 3% of its vast water resources are used, of which only about 11% (0.3% of the total) is used for domestic water supply.

“The ‘One’ element has helped to improve implementation by eliminating duplication of roles among partners. It fosters transparency and facilitates active participation of beneficiary communities more seamlessly,” says Beshah Mogesse, head of Ethiopia’s Water Development Commission and chair of the National WASH Technical Committee.

The country launched the 5-year first phase of the One WASH National Program in 2014, and it had benefitted around 4.3 million people by the time it ended in 2019. The project has become a key tool in the country’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

One WASH National Programme able to fight COVID-19

“The One WASH National Programme did not plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has prepared us to fight the pandemic better than we would have been without the programme, especially in the unserved rural communities,” says Mogesse, noting that the high patronage recorded means that many more Ethiopians are now able to observe the preventive measures of handwashing and general hygiene.

The Ethiopian government is working with the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID), Finland, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, to deliver greater access to the water-stressed East African country.

Osward Chanda, the African Development Bank’s Manager of the Water Security and Sanitation Division, says this financing model, more suitable for national systems and institutions, is being increasingly adopted across the continent.

“Many development partners have come to realise that working and planning together is more efficient, improves harmonisation and delivers better results for beneficiaries,” Chanda said.

The programme operates under a Consolidated WASH Account – a financing pool from the Ethiopian government and its partners.

It combines the efforts of key government ministries involved in the programme (Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development) with the WASH contributions of development partners into one coordinated programme.