Pandemic Response Blog

Water is Life for Addis Ababa’s Internally Displaced Residents

In 2018, Ethiopia recorded the third highest number of new displacements worldwide, with over 3.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, also hosts over 71,000 refugees alone — about 8.5% of the total refugee population in the country. A significant portion of these IDPs and refugees have been forced to move from their homes due to conflict, largely related to ethnic and border-based disputes.

When the Covid-19 pandemic first swept the world in 2020, migrant, refugee, and displaced residents in Addis Ababa were among the hardest hit. Movement restrictions and measures imposed by the Ethiopian government as a response to the pandemic pushed members of these communities — many of whom had already lost their jobs to displacement conflicts — deeper into poverty at a time when food assistance was limited, social distancing was infeasible, and essential sanitation and public health supplies were lacking.

In response, the Addis Ababa City Administration applied to the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees and ultimately launched a Conrad N. Hilton Foundation-funded project that ensured access to critical water and sanitation infrastructure for over 600 IDP households to address their immediate public health needs. The City Administration also used funding from the grant to improve the livelihoods of 40 vulnerable community members through entrepreneurship training, seed capital, and business registration support to help IDPs start their own small businesses.

We spoke with Moges Tadesse, Addis Ababa’s Chief Resilience Officer, about the project and how the city intends to build on its success.

Addis Ababa City Administration staff with internally displaced and refugee community members in Koyefeche, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mayors Migration Council: Tell us a bit about your role in executing Addis Ababa’s Global Cities Fund project.

Moges: I’m the facilitator of the project within the Addis Ababa Resilience Office and I oversee the project implementers, which are departments in the city government of Addis Ababa, such as the Addis Ababa City Water and Sanitation Authority and the Addis Ababa City Fire and Disaster Risk Management Commission, which is the owner of the project. Lastly, I collaborate with the City Job Enterprise and Industrial Development Bureau, which is fully in charge of implementing the livelihood-related component of the project.

Mayors Migration Council: Why did Addis Ababa apply for a grant through the Global Cities Fund?

Moges: A lot of people are migrating into the city and you can find several refugees from across different regions. We also have many IDPs who are residing within Addis Ababa. And the city, of course, is doing its level best to provide basic services to all these communities; all these people who are migrating from different places. But our city’s capacity to deliver essential services is very limited and we needed support to address the basic needs of all people here, especially IDPs. The Global Cities Fund grant was instrumental in helping us to do just that.

Mayors Migration Council: How did the Global Cities Fund help Addis Ababa make a positive impact in the lives of urban IDPs?

Moges: There were a lot of people in these communities who lacked access to clean water for different purposes — for drinking, for washing their clothes, for providing for their crops like cotton, and for sanitation. We focused on ensuring that IDP households in an IDP area managed by the city called Koyefeche — which were not connected to clean water lines previously — gained access to the proper infrastructure to receive clean water services reliably, benefitting 600 households, or about 3,000 people, living in the vicinity. 

The livelihood component of the project also benefited 40 individuals, 50% of whom were women, through entrepreneurship training and seed money to start up their own small businesses in the horticulture, craft, and trade sectors. This has improved beneficiaries’ livelihoods tremendously; they have started to send their children to schools, for example, and they have started to save money, so these trainings have had multiple positive impacts for displaced people in Addis Ababa.

Mayors Migration Council: Where does Addis Ababa go from here? How can the city build on the success of its Global Cities Fund project?

Moges: Through the Global Cities Fund project, we developed ten water points where community members can collect water and bring it home, but in order to more deeply address the needs and priorities of IDPs residing within the area, I think water has to be connected to the individual houses. The demand for water is still there, and many of these households still don’t have sanitation infrastructure. The majority of IDPs in the city are very poor; they are not able to send their children to school, let alone purchase school supplies, clothing, or even food to eat. We have many challenges to overcome in the city of Addis Ababa.

Supported by the Global Cities Fund, the Addis Ababa City Administration developed ten water points where internally displaced community members can collect water and bring it home.

Mayors Migration Council:
What needs to be done in order for the city to meet these challenges?

Moges: I’m very proud of providing access to clean water to those who had been denied it. Water is life. The support of the Global Cities Fund helped saved the lives of many IDPs and refugees by improving target groups’ livelihoods, by enhancing their access to clean water, and by establishing greater food security. The city is doing its best to address additional challenges, but to solve these issues, we need a concerted effort from different development partners and more support — financial and technical — from international partners as well. 

The Addis Ababa City Administration, supported by the Global Cities Fund, provided improved access to water via new water mains and the coverage of water bills for internally displaced residents in the Koyefeche area for a period of up to 12 months.

Clean water has been essential for displaced and marginalized community members to establish their own small businesses, including cafés and coffee shops.


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