UNICEF – UCL Summer School: Ethiopia a class for Water Sanitation and Hygiene

19 September 2016

A guest post by Ana Margarita Garfias Royo, Dua Zehra and Hippolyte Gavilan

In June 2016, we, students from the University College London (UCL), MSc in Engineering for International Development, had a unique opportunity to attend summer school at UNICEF Ethiopia. We had five days of working alongside professionals at UNICEF’s head office in Addis Ababa and one week of field work across Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

On the 6th of June 2016 we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city. When arriving at the United Nations Compound, we were introduced to the various Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) staff and had the opportunity to be introduced by Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.



UCL Students and Gillian Mellsop, Head of UNICEF Ethiopia discussing (Picture by Dr Samuel Godfrey taken in Ms Gillian Mellsop’s office on 07/06/2016 

We attended introductory presentations from team pillar leads, who are managing the, Urban, Rural, Emergency WASH and Sector Coordination teams. These meetings were insightful and gave us greater understanding about the projects and programmes UNICEF supports in Ethiopia; we were particularly impressed by the amount of funding and work generated by UNICEF supporting the Government of Ethiopia – at critical year of facing a potentially devastating drought.

After two days in Addis Ababa, we flew off to Bahir Dar in the northern region of Amhara. After spending one night in the beautiful city of Bahir Dar, we met with staff and students of the University of Bahir Dar, visited the incubation centre, laboratories on campus and the micro-enterprises that the university had established.



UCL students and Bahir Dar UNICEF Office staff

Our journey continued to Debre Markos, where we visited numerous villages and schools – a rewarding experience in our learning process. This was followed by visiting a health centre, menstrual pads producer and schools with Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) sites near latrines. The beneficiaries were eager to show us the water and sanitation infrastructure they had access to thanks to UNICEF’s support. We were inspired by the impact of the MHM programme on school attendance for young girls as well as the rapid shift in awareness in the community.


We then visited an urban water supply project aiming to provide drinking water to over 35,000 people, a borehole with a yield of 30 litres per second and two reservoirs of 100 m3 and 200 m3 nearing completion. The visit ended with the fantastic view from the top of the Blue Nile River Valley, where the project is to be extended to remote communities.



untitled2The 200 m3 Water Reservoir Construction Site (Picture by Hippolyte Gavilan taken near Debre Markos on 11/06/2016)


We then travelled to Gondar, a city filled with the history and culture that remained from centuries of being the home of Ethiopian emperors. We visited a rural water supply and sanitation project, two schools, a newly declared Open-Defecation Free (ODF) village and met a team of students working on solid waste management. These visits allowed us to learn about WASH interventions and the tremendous impact that the support of UNICEF has had on these communities. Overall, we were incredibly well received in all the communities we visited and it was always a great pleasure to share a meal with locals.



UCL Students, Water Supply Project Manager and Demissie Bubamo (Picture by Zewdu Aemero taken by the Blue Nile River Valley, near Debre Markos on 11/06/2016)


When returning to Addis Ababa, we met with Dr Seifu Kebede from the School of Earth Sciences at Addis Ababa University, Paul Handley, Head of UNOCHA Ethiopia, David Githiri Njoroge of UNHCR and a member of the World Health Organisation. This allowed us to get a broader understanding about how the various UN agencies collaborate.


This experience was a privilege and fantastic follow-up to our MSc, and we were able to dive into WASH projects supported by UNICEF and understand their actual impact on the ground. As postgraduate students, we feel this experience was a great way to step into the development world and an opportunity to collaborate with UNICEF. We also feel that exposure in the field was crucial to our learning process.


We are grateful to the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering who reviewed our funding application and granted funds for our travel. We also thank UNICEF team members for their time and support in field. We also would like to warmly thank everybody who made this trip possible at UCL and UNICEF, and we hope to return to Ethiopia in the near future.

untitled4Ali Regah, Hippolyte Gavilan, Ana Margarita Royo Garfias, David Josephs-Afoko, Dr Samuel Godfrey (Picture by UNICEF staff, taken by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on 16/06/2016)

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