Hygiene and the attainment of development goals


Sanitation and hygiene may be one aspect of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) often overlooked by many, but the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) WaterAid is working on it to contribute to this often underreported, but important, multifaceted issue.The Ministry of Health (MoH), under its Universal Access Plan II (UAP II), has ambitious plans to provide 98.5 percent of the population access to safe water and 100 percent access to sanitation by 2015.     
With this in mind, the country has allocated USD 414 million, as part of larger programs on enhancing health, to improve sanitation and hygiene in its five-year GTP that will conclude by the end of 2015, which is also the year when the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets is also expected to be met.  However, Ethiopia has not directly allocated a budget for the advancement of sanitation and hygiene. As part of this aim, which WaterAid supports, it is currently involved in sanitation and hygiene projects in the western region of Benishangul Gumuz Regional state, which has a population of about 939,000.
The region is home to three woredas: Metekel, Kemashi and Assosa, with WaterAid assisting in projects in Assosa. Assosa woreda has a population of more than 87,000. 
The NGO is involved in eight of the 24 kebeles located in the woreda, which had previously been found to have critical hygiene and sanitation issues, after an assessment on their needs were done.
The places were found to be affected by high occurrences of diarrhea; therefore, it embarked on a program of providing hand-washing facilities, traditional pit latrines and education in the proper practice of hygiene.
“Community participation is the key”
WaterAid stated that its work is part of its guiding principles of community participation, equity and inclusion, partnership, sustainability and accountability.
This means, for every project, the community will chip in 15 percent of the estimated cost of a project, provided by a combination of labour and cash.
Temesgen Geremew, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Project officer at WaterAid in Benishangul Gumuz, said the project in this region is one year old and has reduced the prevalence of waterborne diseases in areas the NGO has worked in by almost zero.
One of the visit sites was the Selga 22 kebele in Assosa woreda with a population mainly composed of people who were resettled in the region from South Wollo, Amhara Regional state, due to the 1984 famine.
Residents of the kebele said that they are the beneficiaries of potable water projects, which has freed them of waterborne diseases and provided their livestock with a supply of clean water.
The project also helped them to water various fruits that they planted as well as the increasingly all too common Khat trees.
However, the project isn’t only tied to potable water projects; it also encompasses pit latrines for households, who used to defecate out in the open previously, due to the lack of such rudimentary facilities. The area has now been declared free from such practices.
The MoH estimates that defecation in the open was practiced by as much as 38 million people (46 percent of the total population) in 2012. The figure is down by about 11 million from just two years ago.
Another facet of the program is turning the human faeces into compost, encouraging hand washing practices and building a road to market the products of the Kebele.
Ayalew Degu, who currently is in charge of the affairs of Selga 22 Kebele, said the project isn’t restricted to the construction of facilities, but also with the training of locals on health issues.
As part of this package, Yeshi Fantaw, a health extension worker, said that she has been trained on how to properly utilize and preserve the practices which make the sanitation and hygiene projects sustainable. .
“Local practices interspersed with contemporary hygiene”
WaterAid is also currently carrying out sanitation projects in Alubo kebele, where it says it is combining hygiene with local customs.
The kebele is mainly composed of the indigenous Berta population, who are engaged in activities like tending livestock, gold mining and agriculture.
WaterAid stated that the population, which are Muslim have their own hygienic practices named “Kelewa” that conforms with their daily prayer rituals; they are utilizing contemporary hygiene in conjunction with their own practices.
Education on individual and community hygiene, utilization of human faeces as compost and the provision of a variety of improved seeds for the raising of crops, to enhance food security, is available to them.
Sophia Yusuf, a resident of the kebele, who was trained as a health extension worker, remarked that she had received additional trainings on proper family planning, food and water hygiene.
Alubo Kebele was reportedly chosen because of its vulnerability to drought and its effects despite the green and lush vegetation surrounding the area.
“Not just about sanitation and hygienic practices, but also building livelihood”
WaterAid is also involved in a Biogas project, as part of the effort to counter global climate change, with the view to spawning a hygienic and healthy way of living.
This project differs from the rest, because it is centred in the town of Assosa and focuses on providing a living for poor women with large families.
The intention is to use human and animal waste as a source of energy, rather than wood, which had subjected some of the women to eye infections and breathing problems.
The energy produced is expected to be used by a cafeteria frequented by the residents in a cost-effective way.
Momina Ali, a mother of five and one of the beneficiaries of the Biogas project, claimed that, once the project is fully finalized in March 20113, a range of food and hot beverage services will be available.
“Opportunities and challenges beckon” 
However, officials of WaterAid caution that their project isn’t just about execution, but about creating a feeling of ownership, and as such, needs assistance and participation from a wide cross-section of the population.
They also stated that they’re facing the challenges of “resource duplication” in areas where other NGOs or governmental organizations operate.
WaterAid said the key test of the projects long-term viability is through creating awareness by way of capacity building and sustainability as well as making it an income generation scheme.