Water for Wukro
The ONE WASH Plus Programme, which is fully funded by UK’s DFID, is implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, regional sector bureaus, and the Water Resource Development Fund. And this time around beneficiary of the Programme is Wukro town, Tigray Regional State, writes Senait Feseha.
The air was hot and parching as the afternoon temperature rose in the city of Wukro, Tigray Regional State. After many years of suffering from the lack of water, Birhan Tsega, a biology teacher at Kisanet School, smiled warmly as she talked about how life has become easier of late.
Birhan said that not long ago, most women were at the risk of developing back problems, they drank contaminated water, and little ones were vulnerable of acquiring diarrhea and several skin infections.
“My students, especially the girls spent most of their time carrying water manually or with carriages. They had to walk to a nearby river or water wells located throughout the city ones or twice a day. Each trip took 40 to 60 minutes; it was difficult carrying up to 20 liters of water back to their homes,” Birhan told The Reporter.
She said that the world they are living in in unfamiliar to most city dwellers, to say the least. However, it is the reality for more than 60 million people suffering from lack of access to clean, safe water in Ethiopia.
The services in many towns and hamlets across the country suffer from limited coverage, poor water quality, and frequent breakdowns with gaps in supply. Aiming to both speed up infrastructure development and improve sustainability, the UNICEF/DFID – ONE WASH Plus Programme has developed an innovative contracting arrangement to bring together in one contract the development of infrastructure for water supply and sanitation with capacity building support to utilities.
The Programme piloted in eight towns in four regional states of Ethiopia, one of which is the Wukro town in the Tigray Regional State.
On the day the Wukro town inaugurated its Model Water Supply and Waste Management Project –May 26, 2018 – the town men and women celebrated and children were the most excited.
Attending the inauguration were Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Country Representative in Ethiopia, Christian Rogg (PhD), Head of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Ethiopia, Negash Wagasho (PhD), State Minister of Water Irrigation and Electricity, officials from the Tigray Regional State, and the Wukro Town Administration officials.
For many, what makes this project unique is that, in addition to expanding the capacity of the town’s existing system to supply water to the town and five satellite villages, it integrated the town of Wukro with a “full chain” system for: managing liquid sludge and waste (from containment of recycling); improving water and sanitation in institutions such as schools and health facilities; and establishing a business model for managing the facility comprising the local administration and private operators.
As water now runs from the tap, Birhan said that there is no longer a need to spend hours a day fetching water from far away. “Attaining safe water at our doorsteps will save travel time in our community, particularly for women and children. My students will instead put their efforts on learning and succeeding in their lives.”
According to the UNICEF, the project’s total cost is about 108.5 million birr, out of which 70 percent is financed by the DFID (UK’s Department for International Development) and 30 percent of the matching fund contributed by the Tigray RWB. And the Programme is said to have reached around 73,300 people with improved water supply, liquid and solid waste services, out of which around 34,450 are children under the age of 15.
UNICEF Country Representative to Ethiopia Gillian Mellsop said that the project was one of the greatest achievements of the ONE WASH Plus Programme and stands as a testament to the tremendous good that can be achieved when everyone pools their resources together towards one common purpose that will benefit the community.
The Programme, which began in 2013, is said to benefit 250,000 people in eight small towns surrounding rural villages in the Amhara, Oromia, Somali, and Tigray regional states with a total investment of some USD 36 million by targeting communities living in towns and in pre-urban areas. Models such as the one in Wukro, some large and others medium sized, are now a key component of the ONE WASH Plus Programme across more than 1,000 towns in the four regions of Ethiopia.
Samuel Godfrey (PhD) said that 9,000 school children have access to safe water and an improved environment. “But the value of the project goes beyond Wukro and extends to the entire WASH sector. For example, in Gambella Regional State, UNICEF is working with partners on utility models for WASH services to refugees and host communities using the Build-Capacity-Build and Transfer approach. We are also developing multi-village water schemes using the Wukro model in other towns covered by ONE WASH Plus. In addition, we are establishing rural water utilities based on the business models of ONE WASH Plus.”
Godfrey also stated that construction works in Wukro and Addishihu in Tigray Regional State have been completed and similar projects will be inaugurated in the coming months. These projects are the Maksegnit town in the Amhara Regional State and the Kebredehar and Jigjjga towns in the Somali Regional State. Shortly thereafter, construction in the remaining three towns in the Oromia Regional State will also be completed.
“All these towns, all these interventions tell their own stories, their own successes and lessons learnt. The common denominator however is that the WASH services have been conceived and developed to bring about socio-economic change and to improve health conditions in a more equitable and inclusive way. UNICEF has been guided by the principle of value-for-money. Across the eight towns, the average per capita cost for construction of these facilities is USD 26. This cost is well below the sector standards and it has been achieved largely because of the innovative approaches undertaken in this Programme.” Godfrey said at the inauguration ceremony.
Christian Rogg (PhD) from UK’s DFID said that he hopes this success continues amongst other parts of Ethiopia.
“The ONE WASH Plus project will not only benefit the town of Wukro, it will be exemplary to other towns across Ethiopia facing similar situations,” Rogg said.