The Ethiopian government’s efforts to reduce the amount of fluoride in water consumed by millions of Ethiopians have proven unsuccessful, according to a report by the Federal Auditor General.
The report found that highly fluorinated water severely impacts many areas in three rift valley regions: Oromia, Afar, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).
Excessive fluoride in drinking water poses serious health risks like dental and skeletal fluorosis, according to studies.
The Ministry of Water and Energy is tasked with ensuring that water provided to communities in 89 districts within the three regions is free from excessive fluoride levels. However, the Auditor General’s report claims the Ministry has been unsuccessful in its fluoride reduction efforts.
In a report to the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR), Auditor General Meseret Damtie said only eight districts are using fluoride removal technology, benefiting just 142,603 residents despite a population of 3.5 million are exposed.
While all 89 districts in the rift valley area face exposure to high fluoride levels in their drinking water, only nine kebeles in three districts of Oromia and eight kebeles in five districts of SNNPR use fluoride removal technology.
Nevertheless, groundwater in 27 of the 89 districts is extremely high in fluoride, as the audit discloses.
Auditors took water samples from a few places in Oromia and SNNPR, discovering fluoride levels ranging from 9.3mg to 18.3mg per liter – far above the mandated 1.5mg.
Communities have to travel over seven kilometers to access the high-fluoride water from areas sampled.
The Ministry failed to ensure all available fluoride removal technology was functioning properly – only 23 percent operated during the audit period.
“For unknown reasons, 22 of the 30 technologies we visited weren’t working,” Meseret told parliamentarians.
The 10-year development plan recognized high fluoride concentrations in the country and aimed to make water safe for all exposed communities by its end in seven years. Currently, 3.5 million people are exposed but the Ministry’s plan targets reducing this to 2.5 million – conflicting with the national development plan, the Auditor General said.