Water point mapping in Ethiopia with IRC and Unicef

During the prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa, in early 2017, Akvo and IRC were contracted by UNICEF Ethiopia to collect water point functionality data in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The data was collected using Akvo Flow and was visualised in custom maps and charts that showed a near real-time overview of water point functionality in the region, enabling the allocation of relief aid and immediate deployment of technical personnel to maintain the boreholes that were in need of repair.

Above: Data collectors learn how to use the Akvo Flow app during a training held at the Axum hotel in Mek’elle, Ethiopia, January 2016. Photo by Charles Kimani.



Ministry of Water






Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)


Tool training

Data visualisation

The challenge

In 2017, there was a severe drought in Ethiopia, causing many shallow water wells and hand dug wells to dry up and creating an acute shortage of clean drinking water. The Somali region was amongst the hardest struck by the drought. The last water point functionality mapping in that region was conducted in 2014, so there was a pressing need to collect up to date information on the status of water points that could be used to decision-making on which boreholes to repair and where to send disaster relief aid.

The partnership

UNICEF and the regional water bureau of the Somali region decided that there was a dire need for updated information on water point functionality in order to effectively target the areas that were most in need of drinking water. They invited IRC, in partnership with Akvo, to map the main water sources and water schemes in the region and their functionality. IRC was in charge of the methodology and coordination and Akvo provided the software tool Akvo Flow and trained local government staff and maintenance teams on data collection. When the data was collected, Akvo created custom data visualisations in an online decision-making dashboard, displaying the water points and their functionality on interactive maps.

IRC and Akvo have a track record in conducting national water point inventories together and could quickly set up an inventory in the Somali region. Akvo Flow had already been used in the Somali region during the water point mapping of 2014. Therefore, much of the local government staff had experience in using the system, facilitating quick implementation. The continuity of the system meant that the collected data was all in the same format, allowing the 2014 and 2017 data to be visualised and compared.


water points mapped




online dashboard

The change

Akvo Flow enabled accurate and geo-tagged data to be captured and immediately shared with local government, helping to make informed decisions as quickly as possible. However, there was a reliance on the Akvo team to analyse and visualise the incoming data. While the programme was running, Akvo’s data and visualisation platform, Akvo Lumen, had not yet been launched. For programmes like this in the future, Lumen has the potential to empower local staff with limited experience in data analysis and visualisation to do the analyses themselves. It would also allow for a real-time connection with Akvo Flow, making new water points appear on the decision-making dashboards instantly.