A workshop to familiarise CSOs with the roll out of the National WASH Inventory

On Friday, 19th March 2010, the Water and Sanitation Forum of CRDA organised a workshop  to familiarise CSOs with the schedule and activities of the roll-out of the national Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Inventory, and to discuss possible CSO contributions to the exercise.

Ato Yohannes Gebre Medhin, Director, Water Supply and Sanitation, at the Ministry of Water Resources gave a keynote speech on recent developments on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) at the ministry. He highlighted the increased attention the water sector has recently received in Ethiopia evidenced by increased financing and a number of coordination structures that have been put in place. At the same time, he also raised concerns about current data on access to water supply and sanitation in Ethiopia and stressed the need to strengthen sector M&E to accurately measure progress towards the Universal Access Programme, which sets out the main sector targets until 2012.

Ato Tesfaye Woldemichael, the ministry’s M&E consultant, gave a detailed account of recent developments to roll out the national WASH inventory: importantly, the ministry set up a steering committee for the inventory which is chaired by the minister himself. This shows the weight the government attaches to making the inventory a success. He then set out a detailed timetable and put forward suggestions of how NGOs could contribute to the inventory.

NGOs raised questions on the plan to carry out the inventory in two phases – would that not distort the data set and make analysis more difficult?  The MoWR argued that the schedule was due to the upcoming elections and the rainy season. For this reason, data collection would first be carried out in emerging regions that are not affected by the rainy season during the month of July. The ministry also assured CSOs that the data of the inventory would be made available to them.

Discussions on possible CSO contributions centred on three topics: their added value in the inventory exercise, and the level and activities at which their contributions would be most effective.

There was a consensus that the added value of CSO was their presence on the ground including in remote areas. They also felt that they could contribute to capacity building and act as independent evaluators of the process.

The level at which CSO contribution is most effective depended on the type of organisation. International NGOs thought that they could contribute at all levels while indigenous CSOs felt that their contribution was most effective at the local level.

In terms of activities, CSOs suggested a whole range of activities along the inventory process like support with logistics, training and capacity building and providing links to local structures they set up such as hygiene promoters and WASH committees.

As a way forward, a suggestion was made to circulate a document in which individual CSOs would put down their geographic areas of operation and the contributions they could make to the inventory.

After a year’s break, the Ethiopian Ministry of Water Resources convened the 3rd Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) on 15-16th October 2009 in Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) Region in Ethiopia. One of this year’s big topics at the forum was the draft monitoring framework for WASH integrating reporting in the water, health and education sectors.

Right now, knowledge about water supply coverage in Ethiopia is poor. Ato Tesfaye of the Ministry of Water Resources, who presented this year’s sector performance review, acknowledged that “nobody can tell water coverage at this point in time”. Officially, 54% of Ethiopians have access to water supply but the real figure might be different and probably lower. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Universal Access Programme (UAP) intends to achieve 98% access to safe water by 2012 – in three years time. In order to achieve this target, the Ministry of Water Resources recently reviewed the UAP to focus efforts on promoting self-supply and low-cost technologies at the community level such as the rope pump. This strategy has a number of implications, including for monitoring.

Focusing on self-supply is the most feasible strategy for increasing access in a short period of time but it also poses new challenges for water supply delivery. Open hand-dug wells fitted, for example, with a rope pump, are more prone to contamination. Ropes are exposed and this can impact negatively on water quality. This means that a lot more emphasis needs to be put on sanitation and hygiene education. The promotion of self-supply also coincides with promotion of latrine construction at household level in line with the national sanitation and hygiene protocol. Latrines and wells may be constructed in or around a compound thereby increasing the possibility of contaminating groundwater – a risk that is not yet very well understood in Ethiopia.  However, high and repeated incidences of acute watery diarrhoea over the last years in parts of Ethiopia mean that this is an issue that needs urgent attention.

How will low-cost technologies be captured by the government WASH monitoring framework? According to the draft monitoring guideline presented at the MSF in Hawassa, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCos) are responsible for monitoring their water supplies. However, self-supply schemes at household level do not have WASHCos and reporting of these types of supplies needs to be integrated into the draft monitoring strategy. As self-supply schemes are dug at household level, government agents who are in close contact with households – such as Health Extension Workers or Development Agents of the agricultural sector – may be the first port of call in terms of monitoring. Water officers, on the contrary are based at woreda level and may therefore not be able to closely monitor household self-supply schemes. Maybe, therefore, the new strategy presents an opportunity for closer collaboration between health, education and water at the local level? The need for greater attention to water quality with regard to self-supply could be another entry point for increased inter-sectoral cooperation on monitoring.

Furthermore, the current emphasis in the UAP is on increasing access at the expense of sustainability aspects. According to the revised Universal Access Plan for rural water supply of February 2009, water supplies are counted as ‘access’ regardless of their functionality as long as schemes are deemed repairable. This definition supports an emphasis on building new schemes at the expense of maintaining the functionality of existing schemes. However, anecdotal evidence e.g. from research carried out by RiPPLE in Alaba and Mierab Abaya in SNNP region suggests that approximately a third of all water points may be non-functional at any point in time. Sustainability is thus a big issue when it comes to increasing access to functional water points – but will this be reflected in the monitoring activities of the government? In theory it could be as functionality is one of the proposed indicators of the new M&E guideline. It remains to be seen which indicators monitoring will focus on in practice.

The Ministry of Water Resources plans to roll out the national monitoring inventory starting from November 2009. Of course, not all aspects can be dealt with at any point in time and implementing the inventory at national scale is, in itself, an immense undertaking. The next months thus offer a great opportunity for learning on how to use monitoring to maximise existing resources to achieve universal access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene in Ethiopia at the earliest possible.

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