Policies in the WASH sector

This section is about the policies designed by the Ethiopian government that have shaped the WASH sector and led to the OWNP. By policy we mean a high-level statement of overall purpose and principles that will guide plans and decisions.

The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (1995), Article 10, sub-articles 1 and 2, state that:

Human rights and freedoms, emanating from the nature of mankind, are inviolable and inalienable.


Human and democratic rights of citizens and peoples shall be respected.

These fundamental human rights form the foundation for the policies of the Ethiopian government – including those that relate to WASH. The Constitution also states in Article 90 that policies shall, to the extent that resources permit, aim to provide all Ethiopians with access to health and education, clean water, housing, food and social security.

In the WASH sector, there are three relevant policy areas that have underpinned the OWNP: water, health and environment. These are described in the following sections.

Water Resources Management Policy

The Ethiopian Water Resources Management Policy (WRMP) was issued in 1999. It deals with the overall water resources of the country, including both surface and groundwater. The Policy sets out how these water resources should be economically and sustainably used for different purposes, including water supply and sanitation, irrigation and hydropower.

The overall goal of the WRMP is ‘to enhance and promote all national efforts towards the efficient, equitable and optimum utilization of the available Water Resources of Ethiopia for significant socio-economic development on sustainable basis’ (MoWR, 1999). It establishes several fundamental principles to guide the management of water resources, including statements that ‘water is a natural endowment commonly owned by all the people of Ethiopia’, and ‘as far as conditions permit, every Ethiopian citizen shall have access to sufficient water of acceptable quality to satisfy their basic needs’ (MoWR, 1999). The Policy recognises the need for an integrated and comprehensive approach to management of water resources that is compatible with the goals of other sectors, including health. It also promotes the participation of all stakeholders, including user communities and particularly women. On water pricing and tariff setting, the Policy recognises water as a natural resource with an economic value that should be paid for, but the price for water should not be so high that it discourages water use, nor too low, which could encourage over-use and wasting of water.

Health Policy

The national Health Policy deals with overall health aspects of the Ethiopian citizen and how health services should be provided to them. The current policy on health in Ethiopia dates from 1993 and is titled Health Policy of the Transitional Government (TGE, 1993). (‘Transitional Government’ refers to the first few years of the current system of government in Ethiopia, from 1991 to 1995.)

The Health Policy was the result of a critical examination of the prevailing and newly emerging health problems of the country. It acknowledged that, based on conventional measures such as morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) from communicable diseases, infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition and average life expectancy, Ethiopia was among the least-privileged nations in the world. To address the problems a strategic approach was needed that did not consider health in isolation, but recognised and integrated the links with other policies on population dynamics, food availability, acceptable living conditions and other requirements essential for health improvement. This included water supply and sanitation.

Environmental Policy

The Environmental Policy of Ethiopia (EPE), issued in 1997, goes beyond the statement of high-level policy to include implementation and regulatory aspects. Its overall goal (FDRE, 1997) is:

to improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians and to promote sustainable social and economic development through the sound management and use of natural, human-made and cultural resources and the environment as a whole so as to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To support this goal, the EPE sets out 19 key principles, which include the following:

  • Every person has the right to live in a healthy environment.
  • The development, use and management of renewable resources shall be based on sustainability.
  • The use of non-renewable resources shall be minimised and where possible their availability extended (e.g. through recycling).
  • Appropriate and affordable technologies which use renewable and non-renewable resources efficiently shall be adopted, adapted, developed and disseminated.

The EPE also defines policies for ten separate environmental sectors covering soil and agriculture, forest and woodland, biodiversity, water, energy, minerals, human settlement, industrial waste, climate change and cultural heritage.

Last modified: Wednesday, 24 August 2016, 12:25 AM