Announcement Healthy Village Ethiopia

Date: 16.02.2021
Subject: Announcement Max Foundation and Plan International embark on an innovative programme to reduce stunting in Ethiopia

Max Foundation and Plan International developed an innovative five-year (2020 – 2025) integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), food and nutrition security programme. The ‘Healthy Village Programme’ aims to reduce stunting and water- and faecal-borne diseases in a sustainable manner and works with the Government of Ethiopia.

The Programme is focused on reaching approximately 400,000 people living in poverty, (pregnant and lactating) women, children with a focus on under two, and adolescents as parents of tomorrow who do not have sufficient access to clean water and sanitation, are food insecure and/or have poor nutritional status.

Through learning, evidence and engagement with Government, the Healthy Village Programme is an innovative ‘speedboat’ that supports ongoing and emerging ‘tanker’ programmes, e.g. large-scale government programmes. While we aim for national impact, field implementation will be in four selected woredas in Amhara and Tigray in the Government of Ethiopia’s Seqota Declaration programme.


Ethiopia has high rates of childhood undernutrition, stunting, under-five child mortality, and insufficient WASH coverage and nutrition intake. The national stunting rate is 37%, and even higher in Amhara (46%), which also lags behind on hygiene, sanitation, nutrition coverage and sufficient dietary supply. Water coverage, while relatively good, is vulnerable due to seasonal fluctuations and climate change. These factors combined with poverty, food insecurity, and low status of girls and women all negatively impact children’s growth and health.

The Consortium consists of Max Foundation and Plan International and believes child mortality, morbidity and impaired growth (stunting) are best tackled by combining improved food and nutrition security with better water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The two organisations joined forces to develop this Programme concept for Ethiopia, based on learnings from the Healthy Village approach implemented by Max in Bangladesh, and Plan’s WASH and food & nutrition security experience in Ethiopia.

Joke Le Poole, Director Max Foundation Netherlands:

“We aim to break sector silos of food and nutrition security and WASH to tackle stunting and improve under-two child health from more than one angle. We believe it will lead to better results in reducing stunting.”

The Healthy Village Programme is characterized by a strong ‘Evidence & Learning’ and ‘Engagement’ approach, whereby information on what works (evidence) will be actively shared with the Government of Ethiopia and other major stakeholders (engagement). This component will include research to measure the impact of the Programme on stunting and to create best practices for scaling up.

To create a healthy living environment for children, we aim for community-wide behaviour change from a WASH and food & nutrition nexus lens. This means facilitating access to nutritious food and make sure that people have a diverse diet, improved sanitation, safe drinking water, and good hygiene practices and products. Many Programme elements link to maternal and child health, such as exclusive and complementary breastfeeding, ensuring pre- and post-natal care for mothers, and promoting medical attention for infants and children in cases of severe undernutrition.

The Programmes works with a Gender Transformative Approach based on the assumption that addressing root causes of inequality and discrimination (norms, beliefs) will increase universal access and use of WASH and nutrition services and contribute to greater inclusion in society and benefits beyond WASH and food and nutrition. Including women in decision-making will improve Programme outcomes as well as empower them in the community and households. Current and prospective mothers (women and adolescent girls) and fathers are key to influencing practices that affect child health. Influential community members and traditional leaders will be engaged as well to address gender inequalities and ensure sustainable child health outcomes.

Garance Reus-Deelder, Director Plan International Netherlands:

“Plan International believes that WASH-Nutrition programmes can be an important ‘vehicle’ that can contribute to shifting discriminatory gender norms. The Healthy Village programme will create an environment that enables both girls and boys to thrive better in life.”

By working with a wide array of local stakeholders from the start, engaging the public sector, the private sector and communities themselves, the Healthy Village Programme ensures its practices and outcomes are sustainable. The Healthy Village Programme thus doesn’t merely trigger behaviour-change, it also triggers policy change and influences the local market. We believe we can add value to engage with and support the strong commitment and national programming of the Government of Ethiopia. The implementation model will be documented and based on evidence. Also, the Government of Ethiopia will be supported in de development of national guidelines to reduce stunting and reach WASH and nutrition targets.

Thus, the Programme engages at all levels from national down to local. For the greatest long-term impact, and based on best practices, we intend to create a movement by mainstreaming the Healthy Village approach across Ethiopia, working with the government as partners, building capacity, ensuring policies are carried out and supporting government objectives – such as zero stunting by 2030 in children under two (Seqota Declaration), starting with the Programme areas.

To achieve this, the Programme has received a grant of €12.9 million from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ethiopia, of the full budget of €14,4 million. The Programme will be implemented over the coming five years to 2025, in close cooperation with Ethiopian and international technical and implementing partners.

For more information please contact Colette Beukman, Communications Manager at Max Foundation (colette@maxfoundation.nl).

Download the full announcement here.

Photo credits: Plan International

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