Ethiopian Red Cross Association (ERCS) Harari Regional Branch is one of the Skybird micro project implementer entitled “Harari Skybird II Integrated Urban WASH Response Project” in Shenkor and Aboker districts of Harar city, aiming to contribute to the multifaced WASH challenges of Harar targeting four kebeles (kebele 08, 09, 11 and 12) located in Shenkor and Aboker woredas at the periphery of Harar city, to address challenges of the low-income level community group with poor access to water, sanitation facility and lower level of awareness for hygienic practices.


ERCS Harari branch Skybird micro project activities in Harar town has the following four components:

  1. Improved the sanitation and hygiene facilities through construction of communal latrine and provision of water storage tank.
  2. Improved access to water condition of the community through private yard tap connection.
  3. Awareness creation to improve hygienic practices both at household and community level
  4. Developed a pro poor oriented microfinance linked WASH credit system guideline/manual.

The micro project was implemented from November 1st 2021 till October 31st 2022. The project launching workshop was held in January 2022.

A team from Austrian Red Cross Association (AutRC) and Ethiopian Red Cross Association (ERCS) conducted a visit to ERCS Harari Branch and the micro project sites and the beneficiaries on June 30, 2023 to document the learnings with a focus on the two activities of the micro project, the communal latrine and private yard tap connection. Below is the learnings and challenges documented from the visit.

Construction of communal latrine

The ERCS Harari Branch together with the local government offices and the community  identified communal latrines in Harar city that are in poor conditions and selected one communal latrine shared by 21 households living in an old compound house locally known as “Tawila Bet” (wooden house) which is located in Kebele 09,  Shenkor woreda.

The households shared a communal latrine that is extremely unhygienic and that reached to a level of already structurally unsafe and made worse by daily use. The picture below illustrates the communal latrines that the households were using.

The branch began construction of communal latrine for the households in July 2022 and completed in October 2022. The communal latrine was inaugurated and handed over to the households on November 16, 2022 in the presence of Heads of Harar Regional Health Bureau and Water and Sewerage Authority, and the woreda administration. The new communal latrine has 2 shower rooms and 6 toilet rooms, one toilet having accessible features for people with physical disabilities, all in a single block of 4.5m by 3m, connected to a 3000liter water storage tank. The households have selected a committee with 5 members to manage and maintain the toilet block.

The frequency of water supply interruptions in Harar town is very high. Most areas of the city get water once in two weeks or three weeks or sometimes one month’s time. Considering that lack of water availability would be a barrier for the communal latrine users, ERCS Harari branch, through the Skybird programme, provided 500liter water storage tank to 17 households of the communal latrine users.

Private yard tap pipe line connection

Access to piped water supply on premises, available when needed and free of fecal contamination is essential to prevent water borne diseases. It also addresses the gender inequity of the burden of water collection responsibilities on women and girls. Piped water supply on premises is also the cheapest for the consumer. Currently, Harari Region Water and Sewerage Authority tariff for piped drinking water for households is  ETB 5 birr per m3 (USS /m3), whereas it costs up to ETB 20 to purchase  20 liter water from water vendors.   

Not able to afford the one-time upfront connection fee payments and costs of pipework, poor households end up paying a relatively higher price for drinking water as they have to either use shared yard taps or purchase water from water vendors.

To increase the coverage of safe water supply at an affordable price in Harar town, ERCS Harari branch, through the Skybird programme, financed the up-front connection costs of private yard tap connection for 92 low-income households (95% women headed households) in four kebeles (kebele 08, 09, 11 and 12) located in Shenkor and Aboker woredas of Harar city, by working closely with Harari Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (HWSSA).

The branch covered the cost of extension of the distribution main pipe network supply to each household, which reached 5 to 15m depending on the location of the houses. The branch purchased service pipes, tap stands and meters and distributed it to the households. HWSSA made installation of the water supply pipes and meters.


Communal latrine

All the interviewed households believe that the communal latrine facility has brought them a new healthier life.

Bekalu Tamirat, one of the communal latrine user and member of the committee said “We have greatly improved our sanitation and hygiene practices using the communal latrine that the Red Cross constructed for us under the Skybird  programme.”

Hanna Gebreselam, a disabled and member of the committee, describes the challenge she had before the communal latrine was built saying “I used to bring my own toilet seat with me when I had to use toilet. I don’t need to do that now as one of the toilet rooms in the new communal latrine has accessible features for people with disability.” Hanna is also earning some income by selling water that she stores using the 500ml water storage tank provided to them.

Ferdosa Mohamed, another user of the communal toilet,  said “We are human beings; hygiene is important to us. I had feelings of shame about the condition of the latrine especially when relatives and friends come to visit me. For me, my family and neighborhood, this is a big change. We cannot explain the joy. We thank Red Cross and the Skybird programme.

Private yard tap connection

Kebebush Bekele, one of the beneficiaries for private yard tap connection, used to access water from a shared yard connection 20 meters away from her house sharing it with other 7 households and paying the bill collectively. She couldn’t afford having her own yard tap due to the high cost of the infrastructure extension to connect a household to the distribution pipe network, and costs for service pipe, tap and water meter. 

Water supply in Harer is intermittent and unreliable. There could be no water in the tap for more than a week, two weeks or sometimes for a month. When using the shared yard connection, it was not convenient for Kebebush to collect water at night as it is not in her premises. Having the tap in her yard have made it easier to access it anytime when water is available.

Design limitations

The communal latrine built in Harar, the toilets are direct-drop toilets, users defecate directly through a hole into the pit under the 6 toilet rooms. A combination of faces, urine, and any water used for anal cleansing and to clean the toilet floor (the black water) goes in to the pit. However, the communal latrine is not a dry sanitation that only generate black water. Bathing water (grey water) from the 2 shower rooms is also discharged in to the same pit, as all the 6 toilet and 2 shower rooms of the communal latrine share one pit underneath the superstructure of the communal latrine block. Although the ground is perforated to facilitate water of the excreta infiltrate into the soil, the pit wall doesn’t allow infiltration of the water that enter from the toilets and shower rooms as it has fully sealed lining.

This will have a drawback that as there is limited infiltration, the water could cause the pit to fill up quick and has to be emptied too often which will be costly for the user. Increased odor can also be a problem, as urine cannot escape from the pit, although there is a vent to let the air out. One might even argue that this is no longer a “pit” toilet as it is unable to drain and act more as a cesspit.

Management of the shared latrine

Cleaning the shared latrine requires collective action from all households rather than an individual. The committee need to organize the households to work together towards keeping the facilities clean by creating cleaning schedules to keep the quality and utilization of the latrine in good condition and to avoid the risk of contaminating household water supplies as the latrine is closer to the crowded neighborhoods.

By working closely with Harar Regional Health Bureau, regular monitoring of the larine by health extension workers in Harar is important to keep the hygienic and sanitation condition of the communal latrine.

During our visit, there was no soap at the hand washing facility. The committee and health bureau can do more awareness creation activities regarding this.  

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