Demonstrating a multisectoral response to climate change’s threats to water, sanitation, and hygiene in Ethiopia


6 July 2018

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

If not sufficiently addressed, climate change will directly threaten drinking water supplies, and sanitation and hygiene (WASH), putting the lives of millions of Ethiopians at risk for infections and disease. Issues of WASH pose a distinct threat to Ethiopia, a country who remains highly susceptible to both reoccurring droughts, and flash and seasonal flooding. These disasters are occurring with increased frequency as a result of changes in climate.

A reliable and clean source of water is necessary to maintain proper health and sanitation, yet many Ethiopians face a future where water may become more difficult to find, and when it is found, more likely to be contaminated. WASH issues pose significant health risks and have contributed to recent life-threatening outbreaks of scabies and diarrhea in Ethiopia.

Addressing these challenges can be complex and require multifaceted initiatives. Water is a resource that spans many sectors and falls under the jurisdiction of various ministries on its journey from source to households. Water plays a vital role not only in the health of Ethiopians, but also their way of life and means of work.  Appropriate management of water requires cross sectional collaboration. Therefore climate change sensitive policies must be prioritized across all sectors and developed in harmony.

Relevant climate change policies on WASH and public health in Ethiopia

  • National Environmental Policy
  • National climate change Adaptation Program Action (NAPA)
  • Ethiopia Programe of Adaption to Climate Change (EPACC)
  • Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Vision and Strategy
  • Nation Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA)
  • ONE Wash National Programme (OWNP)

Ethiopia exhibits a strong commitment to climate resilience through WASH policies spanning six sectors of governance. In response to the expansive issue of WASH Ethiopia has implemented a significant number of policy initiatives, including the Climate Change National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), EPACC, Climate Resilient Green Economy strategies (CRGE), National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) and the Sector Reduction Mechanism (SRM). This unique multi-sectoral approach engages many sectors through high-level national policy. These include six sectors vulnerable to climate change: agriculture, energy, industry, transport, construction, and forest.

Climate change affects every facet of life and every sector of governance. Comprehensive policies are necessary to safeguard lives and livelihoods. In Ethiopia, the creation of a multi-sectoral approach to issues of WASH provides a brilliant example of the breadth of scope required to battle climate change.