UNICEF makes huge contributions to Tigray’s development: What is behind UN agencies’ focus on that region?

24 Mar

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

UNICEF today is celebrating something special in Ethiopia – reaching the water Goal 7c of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is not clear why this has become story now, since the TPLF/EPRDF regime has been saying this for that last three years!

UNDP also added its voice to this, in its 2012 document, stating:

    “With respect to access to safe drinking water, the review shows that the percentage of households with access to improved and safe drinking water has more than doubled over the last five years and reached 58.25% in 2011/12 (GTP APR MoFED, 2011/12). Rural and urban sanitation coverage improved from 60% and 80% in 2010/11 to 64% and 86% in 2011/12, respectively. Likewise, the national sanitation coverage has increased from 63% in 2010/11 to 67% in 2011/12. Though the country is on track to meet the MDG targets, existing evidence suggests that the country should do a lot more to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation services in the remaining years. Similar improvements have been made in construction of housing units in urban areas of the country. The review of country progress against set targets suggests that the country has the lowest carbon emission rates per capita in the world at less than 2t in 2011. Overall, total emissions of around 150 Mt CO2 represent less than 0.3% of global emissions target.”

Let UNICEF explain it.

Put simply, it means 57 percent of the country’s population now is drinking water from an improved water supply such as a tap or hand pump, rather than from an open stream. By drinking water from an improved water supply, Ethiopia has greatly improved the health of many women and children and has managed to cut under 5 child mortality by two-thirds and significantly reduce child stunting.

And why is it such a big achievement? Well in the base year of the MDGs (1990), only 6.9 million Ethiopians used an improved water supply. However, in the last 25 years, Ethiopia has managed to supply water to 55 million people, which is twice, or even thrice the population of most other African countries.

The key to Ethiopia’s success during these years has been a combination of strong government leadership, persistent donor investment and the development of strong periodic policy instruments. In the year 2000, Ethiopia developed a Water Sector Strategy and Water Sector Development Programme, which paved the way for the progress. Government committed funds to the water supply sector and encouraged donors to invest in lower cost technologies to boost coverage levels. A total of US$ 2 billion has been invested by the Government, development partners, NGOs and the private sector in water supply since 1990.

Over the last 25 years, UNICEF has “concept proofed” a number of key innovations that have helped the Government of Ethiopia and its development partners reach the goal of MDG 7c. These have included the introduction of India-made hand pumps; importation of deep-well drilling machines from the UK; and more recently the exploration of high-end scientific remote sensing technologies to identify extremely deep groundwater in water insecure districts, followed by the building piped water supplies which interconnect towns and villages and benefit women, children, households, institutions, small-scale agriculture and livestock.

The Ebo clean water project benefits 27, 000 people in seven villages including 15,000 school children, with clean water in their school and households. Young girls now can attend school regularly without spending more time looking for water. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Bizuwerk

Such innovations help mitigate the potential impact of water and food insecurity and reduce the drivers of undernutrition and stunting. A good example of this is the Ebo multi-village scheme built and commissioned with UNICEF support in the Tigray region between 2013 and 2015. The Ebo village scheme is a long term solution in water-stressed areas of the country that have been prone to drought and have been reliant on emergency water trucking as their sole means of water supply.

The UNICEF Ethiopia Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme is UNICEF’s largest WASH programme in the world. UNICEF has provided technical leadership to not only build water supplies for 10 million Ethiopians in villages, towns and cities but also advised the government on the development of all the key WASH policy decisions over the last 25 years. Since 1990, the MDG baseline, UNICEF has contributed over US$ 300 million from its core resources and in partnership with other key donors to ensure that Ethiopian women and children received life-saving water and sanitation support in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

Going forward, Ethiopia has developed a ONEWASH programme to ensure that all the remaining people in the country receive access to water supply by 2020. The plan has a budget of US$ 2.4 billion and involves the collective contribution of public, private, NGO and donor investments. It will involve the scaling up of innovative interventions such as Ebo to ensure resilient water supplies in remote, water scarce areas of the country. UNICEF will focus on ensuring that the hardest to reach populations and water-scarce and emerging unplanned urban settlements are a priority for water supply investment, so that no child is left behind and unable to access safe and clean water.


© UNICEF/NYHQ2005-0560/Boris Heger

In a related story, during the World Immunisation Week in April 2014, Photo of the Week by photographer Boris Heger, where in several children are seen watching a male health worker in Tigray giving from a mobile vaccination team a dose of oral polio vaccine to a baby, cradled by his mother, during the door-to-door polio National Immunisation Days in the town of Shire in Tigray Region in Ethiopia.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011

UNCIEF’s work in Tigray also gets close supervision by the Fund’s management. The picture below shows Executive Director Anthony Lake visiting Wembertawit village’s alternative basic education centre in 2011.

This is also followed by a delegation of 22 members representing 20 Member States of the Executive Boards of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNICEF, WFP and UN-Women in March 2012, also visiting Tigray region. In Tigray, the delegation learned about the UNDP-supported Local Economic Development projects, which aim to promote economic growth and generate livelihoods through capacity development.

Also in Tigray, the delegation learned about the UNDP-supported Local Economic Development projects, which aim to promote economic growth and generate livelihoods through capacity development.

The Tigray team part of the delegation also visited a site of the MERET. It is a model for sustainable natural resource management programme, launched by the WFP.

UNICEF sponsors study on Tigray. It is entitled: Where does the water flow? The study is part of the UpGro project. Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro). Based on fieldwork conducted in 2014 in the semi‐arid region of Tigray, Ethiopia, this report explores the physical and socio‐economic impacts of road related surface and groundwater flows – and how people cope with and adapt to them. We argue that two distinctive objectives of improving road connectivity and improving water availability for irrigation – are linked and could be served by the same infrastructure, which we call multifunctional roads.

An interesting point for reflection is the what Martin Plaut wrote in his blog yesterday as his response to the dramatic fall in poverty in Ethiopia, as reported by the World Bank. The Bank has reported, “In 2000 Ethiopia had one of the highest poverty rates in the world, with 56% of the population living on less than US$1.25 PPP a day. Ethiopian households experienced a decade of remarkable progress in wellbeing since then and by the start of this decade less than 30% of the population was counted as poor.”

In a January 2015 article: Ethiopia’s poverty reduction – who benefits? Mr. Plaut reacts as follows: “But in Ethiopia, where Ethnic Federalism has been the primary driver of government policy one cannot ignore the ethnic dimension”. In that context, he lives readers with the following graph, which he calcualted using HICES 1996 and HICES 2000 and HCES 2005 and 2011:

Courtesy of martinplaut

Courtesy of martinplaut


%d bloggers like this: