Toilet Shortage in the Slums of Addis Ababa

Simple yet desperate needs

For us, sharing a toilet with hundreds of people is a far cry from reality. But in Addis Ababa, where more than 80% of the city’s 2.74 million residents live in slum areas, this is normality.

In these areas, large communities share make-shift kitchens and toilets, which are extremely unhygienic and dangerous to be around. Already structurally unsafe and made worse by daily use, these communal facilities contribute to the spread of diseases and other health problems.

“Shelter is life; without shelter, there is no life.” (Abrehat Solomon, beneficiary in Ethiopia)

Ethiopia beneficiary house

Abrehat Solomon is one of the thousands of beneficiaries we’ve supported in Ethiopia, and whose house was barely standing. Made from decaying wood and sheets of corrugated metal, her home was exposed to all weather conditions and disease.

Slum dwellings in Ethiopia

At risk of respiratory diseases and cholera

Like most families in Addis Ababa, Abrehat cooks with a wood burning stove. This can be extremely detrimental to health and wellbeing because of excessive smoke inhalation.

But there is no alternative. This is the cramped space in which the family must cook, live and sleep. What’s more, the shared toilet is situated right outside their front door, so there really is no escaping this uncomfortable life.

wood burning stove ethiopia

Residents of the Addis Abba slums have faced problems with toilets, washing facilities, clean water, and so on, their whole lives. As a result, many have been inflicted with disease and illness, such as cholera.

As we know, having access to basic sanitation and clean water are simple needs, but they are often overlooked.

 “We need the same things that everyone else in the world needs.”

It is for these reasons that we are working with families in the slums to construct new kitchens and toilet spaces that are safe and healthy. This is part of our larger ‘WaSH’ initiative, which aims to alleviate extreme poverty in Ethiopia for thousands of people by helping them meet their most basic needs.

Abrehat was thrilled by the news we were going to help her build a new life :

 “For me, my family and neighbourhood – this will be a big change… All the families believe that these new facilities will bring them a new healthier life.”

New toilets in Ethiopia


Transforming lives in the slums of Addis Ababa

We believe these improved facilities will totally transform many slum dwellers’ lives, including Talegegn’s another resident, who told us –  “we can now see the sunrise and are opening our eyes. All the adults, children, everyone is really excited. We cannot explain the joy.”

Initially, our goal for the water and sanitation project was to meet the needs of 50 families in the slums of Addis Ababa. But due to the success of these partnerships and the immediate positive impact they had on the communities, the project has been expanded to a new goal of meeting the simple needs of more than 120,000 individuals.

Slum residents Addis Ababa

Sadly, there are still millions of people across the globe who feel trapped in the poverty cycle because of various factors. Families believe they can do no better as there seems to be no money, no choice, and so on. There is no get out.

Success stories like this one bring us and those families hope. They prove that if we can work together we will get closer to meeting everyone’s needs.

This post was produced with the financial support of the European  Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity GB and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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