By Mekdim Hailu, Project Communication Manager, PSI Ethiopia and Fana Abay, Marketing and Communications Director, PSI Ethiopia
Access to sustainable sanitation is a basic human right and an important public health issue. Unfortunately, improved sanitation facilities are limited in countries like Ethiopia; only 9.3% of Ethiopians have access to basic sanitation (JMP, 2022). Therefore, improving access to sanitation and achieving universal access is a priority. Recognizing this urgent need, the Ministry of Health and USAID Transform WASH (T/WASH) have spent the last six years driving the sustainable transformation of Ethiopia’s sanitation sector through market-based sanitation. T/WASH recently achieved a major milestone by launching a short course, “Sanitation Product Manufacturing and Latrine Construction,” offered at Ethiopia’s technical and vocational training institutions. This initiative will allow us to invest in future sanitation workers to ensure Ethiopia has enough skilled personnel for sanitation sales, production, installation, and maintenance.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INVESTING IN SANITATION WORKERS
The first phase of the T/WASH focused on creating demand and providing affordable sanitation products such as the SATO pan. However, T/WASH encountered a major obstacle: a need for qualified personnel to properly sell, install, and maintain these sanitation products in communities. Creating demand and providing a range of sanitation products without proper installation and support proved ineffective in creating sustainable sanitation conditions.
Thus, T/WASH took a comprehensive approach by collaborating with local masons (sanitation workers) to address the shortage of qualified personnel. This innovative strategy led to a self-sustaining model, equipping sanitation workers with crucial skills and knowledge. The training program covers key areas like hygiene practices, construction, ethics, and entrepreneurship. This approach prepares sanitation workers to meet community sanitation needs, boosts employment, and supports communities to enhance and uphold sanitation facilities.
A TRANSFORMATIVE COLLABORATION
The partnership between T/WASH and sanitation workers has been a game-changer; in the first two years of T/WASH implementation (2017/18), 3,430 sanitation units were sold. However, after local masons’ participation in the T/WASH program, sanitation sales increased to 39,410 in 2019/20. Over the past six years, sanitation workers have used their newfound expertise to sell more than 155,000 sanitation products, significantly improving toilets in more than 100,000 households.
SCALING FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Now, T/WASH has expanded its collaboration efforts to include new partners, such as the Ministry of Labor and Skills and the Institute of Technical and Vocational Education, to replicate and scale these successes throughout Ethiopia. Drawing on T/WASH’s expertise, educational resources and training modules have been developed to provide comprehensive knowledge and skills in business development, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of sanitation products and facilities.
On July 14, 2023, T/WASH officially launched the “Sanitation Product Manufacturing and Latrine Construction” educational resource in an event attended by representatives from various government agencies, market-based sanitation (MBS) partners, and honored guests, including Israel Ataro, Lead Executive Officer for Community Engagement and Primary Health Care, Ministry of Health, and Azmeraw Kebede, Lead Executive Officer, Ministry of Labor, and Skills. In his opening remarks, Azmeraw Kebede emphasized the importance of these efforts, saying, “Our joint efforts today are a milestone for Ethiopia’s sanitation sector. We are equipping our workforce with standardized training modules, paving the way for a future where accessible and clean sanitation is a reality for all.”
These training resources will fit seamlessly into the national health system and improve the quality of sanitation services. The Ministry of Labor and Skills will oversee the distribution of these materials, reaffirming its commitment to investing in a sanitation workforce that will drive sustainable change and improves access to sanitation for all Ethiopians. With the official launch of these educational resources, Ethiopia is poised to make a profound change in sanitation and work toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically universal access to sanitation and clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene by 2030.
By institutionalizing market-based sanitation methods and building capacity to create a skilled workforce and robust businesses, T/WASH is making substantial progress toward making WASH services accessible for all.