Transforming lives in Afar region, Ethiopia

A young woman in the inhospitable landscape of Afar, Ethiopia

In 2016, donations by CARE supporters to the Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign (March-June 2016) were doubled by the UK government – with the extra funds going directly to a water, sanitation and women’s rights project that aims to reduce the extreme vulnerability of very poor and marginalised people in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

Graphic showing impact of CARE's water project in Ethiopia
The target impact of the project in Afar, Ethiopia

Afar is one of the most geographically remote and inhospitable, and politically and economically marginalised, areas in Africa. A drought-prone region with a limited and unreliable period of rainfall each year, temperatures in Afar can average over 40 degrees. Ensuring access to safe water in these conditions is particularly difficult.

More than 40,000 people in the target district of Dalifage need both immediate emergency water support, and a long-term response through the rehabilitation of non-functional water points and the construction and expansion of new water services. In addition, sanitation practices are in need of improvement: CARE’s survey of Dalifage in May 2015 found that 91% of the community practice open defecation, 91% threw solid waste into open fields, and 100% don’t treat water and use unprotected water sources during the wet season.

Society places a particular burden on women and girls, leaving them particularly vulnerable and exposed. In some areas, women and girls travel more than 4 hours per day to fetch water. Additionally, Afaris have strong patriarchal traditions, including early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.

Woman walking in the arid landscape in Ethiopia
A woman carrying a water can across the arid landscape of Afar, Ethiopia


The anticipated direct impact will be transformed lives, particularly in terms of health and livelihoods, within Dalifage woreda (district), through increased and improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, and changes in social norms to empower women and girls and reduce gender inequalities, especially those related to WASH-related work such as fetching water.

The anticipated indirect impact will be the greater capacity of the Afari government to plan, implement and monitor improved WASH programming with a girls’ and women’s empowerment approach, both within Dalifage and more widely within the region as a whole.

The two-year project includes:

Improved safe water supplies

  • Construction of 2 new deep wells; rehabilitation of 1 currently non-functional scheme; and expansion of 1 existing scheme.
  • Construction of washing basins and public showers (serving 12,500 people) and cattle troughs (serving 5,000 livestock).
  • Training in the operation and maintenance of water supplies for 20 government staff and 13 community members, and training in water resources management for 20 members of the community water management committee.

Increased access to sanitation facilities and improved hygiene

  • Training and communication materials on community-led sanitation and hygiene approaches for 12 Health Extension Workers and for 30 local government staff and community representatives, with measurable targets for sanitation and hygiene improvements (eg, 40% increase in people using soap for handwashing, 60% increase in number of households constructing and using pit latrines).
  • Construction of separate latrines for girls and boys in 4 schools (in partnership with government health and education departments).

Improved protection and sustainable management of water resources

  • Training on climate change adaptation and the use of Climate Change Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (to build capacity to anticipate and respond to the impacts of climate change) for 12 local and regional  government staff, plus training for 60 community members of natural resource management committees (50% women) who will undertake community awareness-raising. 

Focus on women and girls’ empowerment

  • WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and gender transformation clubs will be formed in schools with both joint and separate sessions for boys and girls. The clubs will be managed by a female and male teacher, reporting to the head of the school and with links to the parent-teacher associations (particularly for awareness-raising events).
  • Separate latrines for girls will be constructed in 4 schools, with one cubicle adapted for menstrual hygiene needs of the older girls. Sanitary products (particularly reusable pads) will be purchased and distributed to raise girls’ awareness of options.
  • Set up, and support with training and advice, 4 women’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs); provide training on business, leadership and life skills to 20 women members of WASH committees and VSLA groups.

Strengthened government and community capacities and engagement

  • CARE will ensure that community leaders and representatives are centrally involved to avoid conflict during the expansion of services, including adaptation to approaches that are more gender-sensitive.
  • CARE’s Community Score Card process will be used to monitor the quality of WASH services provided to communities and the level that they themselves are involved in and contribute to the efficient and sustainable use of facilities. CARE will train 8 facilitators and directly apply the CSC approach in 4 villages.