Ethiopia's conflict undermines water and sanitation services for millions

11 Jan 2023 by The Water Diplomat

CONFLICT in northern Ethiopia's Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions have resulted in millions of people- - men, women and children - internally displaced. According to the UNICEF report on Humanitarian Action for Children 2023, the fluid conflict in the northern regions threatens new and secondary displacements of up to 7.8 million people and poses a grave threat to the rights and welfare of 3.9 million children.

 In addition, in the southern, southeastern and eastern regions of the country, ongoing severe drought has caused the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) to rise to phase 4 (representing emergency levels), because it has eroded all means of community resilience and caused the complete destruction of the livelihoods of more than 24.1 million people.

 "This severely compromised food and nutrition security situation has been aggravated by the global domino effects of the war in Ukraine: increased food, agricultural input and fuel prices," the report stated. The report also highlights that more households will risk being unable to afford nutritious food, and the next harvest will be compromised.

 UNICEF is appealing for US$674.3 million to enable it to respond multiple and overlapping hazards which include drought, flooding events, and the outbreak of diseases including cholera. The funds requested are intended to ensure amongst others that children who are undernourished or dehydrated receive quality treatment, to ensure that mobile health and nutrition teams can access hard-to-reach populations, water sources are rehabilitated and climate-resilient water systems are built.

The UNICEF Report estimates that 20.5 million people lack access to safe water. The programme aims to ensure that 8,078,358 people are provided with access to  a sufficient quantity and quality of water for drinking and domestic needs. In addition it aims to ensure that about 1,462,249 people can access appropriate sanitation services and ,098,620 women and girls can access menstrual hygiene management services.

 According to Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2022, the country has been experiencing one of the most severe La NiƱa- induced droughts in the last decade following the fifth consecutive failed rainy season since late 2020. The areas most affected are Afar, Oromia, SNNP, Somali, and Southwest regions. This prolonged drought, which commenced in 2020, has severely compromised the already fragile livelihoods.

 To make matters worse, poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH)-related services have also negatively contributed to the challenges, including a lack of safe and adequate water supply, widespread open defecation and poor personal hygiene practices. In some drought-affected regions, people have also been displaced in search of water, pasture, and assistance.

 On 2 December,2022 the President of the Amhara Region officially launched a Post-Conflict Recovery and Rehabilitation Project in Werke Kebele of Raya Kobo Woreda, North Wollo Zone  aimed to  provide basic needs including building houses, schools, health centers , hospitals, and  clean water schemes.

 It is reported that during the first phase of the project, the regional Government aims to build 3,000 houses, 21 schools, 10 health centers and one hospital, 31 clean water schemes, three livestock markets, 10 irrigation canals, and 17 youth development centers. Some 12 billion birr is currently allocated for the project, but much more is needed.