Located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is one of the hottest and driest countries in the world, with annual rainfall at around 220 mm and an average temperature of 28.5°C. As climate change brings more extreme temperatures and increases the risk of water scarcity, ensuring sustainable access to water is a policy imperative. Given the added importance of clean water in decreasing the spread of diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, water and sanitation infrastructure has taken centre stage in the country’s ongoing efforts to improve health outcomes and promote economic development (see Health & Education chapter).

Infrastructure Focus

The National Office of Water and Sanitation (Office National de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement de Djibouti, ONEAD), the public utility responsible for water and sanitation, is working to cope with growing pressure from urbanisation and climate change by bridging existing infrastructure deficits. ONEAD is undertaking key projects both independently and in collaboration with foreign partners.

Critical water projects in the country include the reinforcement and rehabilitation of the Djibouti City water network, funded by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. It comprises 80 km of pipelines, three reservoirs and 2000 individual connections, and is targeted for completion in 2025. ONEAD is also planning to double capacity at the Doraleh desalination plant to 45,000 cu metres per day, with funding to be provided by the European Investment Bank.

In terms of sanitation, the Djibouti Sanitation Network Extension and Reinforcement Project (Programme d’Extension et de Réhabilitation du Réseau d’ Assainissement de Djibouti, PERRAD) is a three-phase programme supported the EU and the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement, AFD). Launched in 2019, it aims to achieve a 60% household connection rate in the medium term and 80% upon completion. Its €15m third phase is extending the sewerage network in five districts of the capital, benefitting 30,000 people.

In tandem, ONEAD is constructing a wastewater treatment facility in Balbala with a capacity of 30,000 units per capita, or population equivalent (PE), and plans to double the Douda wastewater treatment plant’s capacity to 80,000 PE. The former should be on-line in 2023 while the latter should be completed in late 2025. Other elements of the utilities network are also being built, including a 10-km wastewater collector and three pumping stations in Balbala.

A range of ONEAD-funded projects are looking to upgrade or repair the existing water and sanitation network by constructing pumping stations, replacing cover slabs, repairing manholes, and installing pumping stations and discharge lines. To fuel growth outside the capital, development has focused on rural water supply and sanitation projects, including pumping stations and reservoirs in secondary population centres in the Tadjoura, Arta and Ali Sabieh regions.

Knowledge Transfer

Cooperation with technical and financial partners has been critical for knowledge transfer, service continuity and funding. For example, a grant from the EU supported the recent Doraleh seawater desalination plant project. Inaugurated in 2021, it is the country’s first desalination plant and one of the only wind-powered water treatment plants in Africa, with an initial capacity of 22,500 cu metres of water per day. The plant’s output is conveyed through a 9-km pipeline to the 5000-cu-metre Farah Had reservoir, before being distributed to some 250,000 Djiboutians, or roughly 40% of the population of Djibouti City.

As financial supporters of PERRAD, the EU and the AFD have together contributed some €47.2m across the three phases of the project. In addition to the broader goal of upgrading the collection and treatment of wastewater, support from the EU and the AFD includes a capacity-building element: the €15m Strategic Performance Programme at ONEAD, better known by its French acronym PROPSERO, to improve the performance and operating conditions of ONEAD.