Ethiopia’s ‘One’ model, under which the government runs its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene ( WASH ) National Program, has steadily improved the well-being of the country’s rural and urban communities, top local officials say.

“The ‘One’ here means we have one account, one budget and one report in one consolidated WASH Account,” says Tadesse Masresha, Coordinator for the Regional WASH Coordination Office in Oromia Region.

The scheme combines the construction of infrastructure to extend access to water and sanitation to new areas and the revamping of disused equipment such as pumping stations and pipelines. The program also provides technical training to maintenance personnel and users to ensure the sustainability of the infrastructure.

Ethiopia has 12 river basins with an annual runoff volume of 122 billion m3 of water and an estimated 2.6 – 6.5 billion m3 of groundwater potential. This translates to an average of 1,575 m3 of available water per person per year, a relatively large volume. But due to erratic rainfall and lack of storage, water is often unavailable where and when it is most needed. Only about 3% of its vast water resources are used, of which only about 11% (0.3% of the total) is used for domestic water supply.

“The ‘One’ element has helped to improve implementation by eliminating duplication of roles among partners. It fosters transparency and facilitates active participation of beneficiary communities more seamlessly,” says Beshah Mogesse, head of Ethiopia’s Water Development Commission and chair of the National WASH Technical Committee. 

The country launched the 5-year first phase of the One WASH National Program in 2014, and it had benefitted around 4.3 million people by the time it ended in 2019. The project has become a key tool in the country’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“The One WASH National Program did not plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has prepared us to fight the pandemic better than we would have been without the program, especially in the unserved rural communities,” says Mogesse, noting that the high patronage recorded means that many more Ethiopians are now able to observe the preventive measures of handwashing and general hygiene.

The Ethiopian government is working with the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID), Finland, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, to deliver greater access to the water-stressed East African country.

Osward Chanda, the African Development Bank’s Manager of the Water Security and Sanitation Division, says this financing model, more suitable for national systems and institutions, is being increasingly adopted across the continent. “Many development partners have come to realize that working and planning together is more efficient, improves harmonization and delivers better results for beneficiaries,” he said.

The program operates under a Consolidated WASH(link is external) Account(link is external) – a financing pool from the Ethiopian government and its partners. It combines the efforts of key government ministries involved in the program (Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development) with the WASH contributions of development partners into one coordinated program.

The African Development Bank contributed $178 million to the first phase of One WASH, out of the total $463 million budget. The Bank-hosted Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative Trust Fund also provided up to $7 million in grants toward the One WASH projects. The program gives priority to rural communities that regularly experience droughts, malnutrition, and waterborne diseases.

The Bank’s Ethiopia country office also noted that the ‘One’ model enhances transparency in the program’s management.

“The focus on good governance lays a solid foundation for promoting infrastructure development, with a strong emphasis on energy, transport, and water and sanitation, which are now key accelerators of Ethiopia’s economic transformation,” said Country Manager Abdul Kamara.


This article is part of a series on Ethiopia’s One WASH National Program. To learn more about how the Bank’s interventions are keeping rural communities safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, click here