21 April 2017

Ethiopia: Stepping Up Basic Services in Gambella State

Gambella State is found at a remote corner of the country. It has rich and untapped natural resources. The inadequate availability of infrastructure coupled with the relatively lower number of well trained human resource put the state in a disadvantaged position.

Nevertheless, the on going effort the government mounted in collaboration with donors to expand infrastructural facilities has brought a glimmer of hope that foreshadows better days to the state. The construction of schools, health centres and roads has changed to the better the life style of dwellers. This move indicates progress in the aspect of human development.

Okello Obang is the Gambella State Women and Children Affairs Business Process Head. When he came to Addis recently this writer got a chance to talk to him. He said to upgrade the way of life of the community his office is working as a member of a string committee of the WASH programme at the state level. In line with this, to enhance the clean water coverage, water construction work is under way and the number of households that use pipe water has also been mounting from time to time.

With regard to reducing maternal and child mortality rate through establishing health extension army, much has been done. The structure is stretched down to the Woreda and Kebele level and in each Kebele two extension workers are deployed to teach the community regarding hygiene and sanitation and to reduce the malpractice of open defection, each household is taking its duty of constructing own toilet. According to the health professionals, open defection is one of the major polluter of water points and the environment at large.

Mothers also get lessons regarding pre and post delivery precaution. The children health issues are also incorporated in the health education. At the woreda level, health extension workers reach the community working hand in glove with the agricultural extension workers. A development push is an arduous task. It needs time, finance and human power. In this regard, side by side with the government's efforts, the involvement of donors and other UN agencies is essential.

The experience of other countries shows that the transition from natural resource leaning economy into self-sustaining industrial economy, mobilizing resources that can be used as an input from various sources, is a must. And fulfilling basic needs can be taken as a springboard for development. In Gambella State the support of the development partners in the provision of basic infrastructure, education and health is laudatory. According to Okello, the role of UNECEF with regard to the provision of education is immense.

On the other hand, organizations such as Rescue Victims and Oxfam America are playing crucial role in expanding educational institutions. As a result, school enrolment is growing each year. Some international None Governmental Organizations working in the state mainly focuses on supporting refugees that came from South Sudan. However, they have the rule to devote 25 per cent of their aid for the host community and this situation has created good opportunity to the state to advance its development scheme.

As it is known, climate change and global warming affect every part of the world and Ethiopia is not immune against its attendant ills. Gambella, which is located in the western part of the country, has hot climate. Sectors, such as agriculture, are vulnerable to climate change and asked whether the state government has sought ways to mitigate the problem Okello said, based on the central government's plan, climate adaptation and mitigation work is under way. All pertinent organs beginning from the state government up to the Woreda and Kebele level afforestation work is taking place. In addition to this, in order to protect the natural resource and the environment Sustainable Land Management Programme is implemented.

Though the state is located in the lowland areas it is flanked and bisected by several rivers coming from the highland parts of the south western part of Ethiopia. The river water can be utilized for advancing sanitation and stepping up hygienic precautions, to support irrigation and others. However, without protecting the natural resources and land, the water bodies might end up a swampy area due to silt accumulation. The natural resource management also helps to protect the water from pollution. In addition to balancing nature and ecosystem, the existence of vegetable cover in the most part of the area makes the place home of wild life and if better infrastructure is in the place, it could boost tourism which enhance the states' government revenue.

The excessive availability of surface water can also help to advance climate-resilient agriculture. Currently, many local and foreign investors are taking licenses to develop modern agriculture.

However, as to Okello, only few have begun working and such a situation has a detrimental effect on the states development endeavour. On the other hand, to meet its development goals, the state government is doing its level best to expand irrigated farms by its own. For that, it has invested finance, time and human resources. In Pachela in Angwa Zone, also in the Adrah in Nuer Zone farms are being irrigated. They are expected to begin production this Ethiopian year. In addition to this, in Gambela Woreda Obol area the irrigable farm project is coming close to completion.

Therefore, to achieve socio-economic progress in the state, the ongoing provision of basic infrastructure should be strengthened and donors will do good if they continue supporting the state government's developmental thrust.


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