Information and stories about Ethiopia

Poverty and International Adoption in Ethiopia: 8 Questions Answered
Due to decades of poverty and other factors, Ethiopia has one of the largest orphan populations in the world. In the past decade, Ethiopia has become one of the most common countries from which U.S. citizens can adopt children. However, Ethiopia’s ban on international adoption in 2018 has affected thousands of Ethiopian children living in poverty. International adoption in Ethiopia is an extremely complex process. Netsanet Waal, an international adoptee, explained to The Borgen Project that after she lost both her parents to AIDS, she and her little sister Mekdelawit lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Their adoptive parents, Rhonda and Tracy Waal, adopted Netsanet and Mekdelawit in 2007. Here are eight questions and answers about international adoption.

8 Questions and Answers About International Adoption

  1. How did international adoption become so common in the United States? As Europe’s refugees fled to the United States after World War II due to post-war developments, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 helped introduce international adoption and migration into Western culture. During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of international adoptions surged, notably among families compelled to adopt for religious reasons. Media coverage of global crises in impoverished countries increased in the 1980s. As a result, adoption became a more promoted practice in American culture and society.
  2. What are the benefits of international adoption? Every child deserves to have a family and international adoption provides a way for children to feel loved, safe and supported. When middle-class and upper-class families adopt children from impoverished countries, a child’s quality of life typically increases. Even more, international adoption improves foreign relations by facilitating dialogue between countries. International adoption also has a meaningful impact on those who come in contact with adoptees. In small towns with little diversity, adoptees can reshape many U.S. citizens’ perspectives on different cultures. 
  3. What are the negatives of international adoption? The cost of international adoption is extremely high. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, international adoption can cost between $20,000 and $50,000. The high price of international adoption makes it inaccessible to many families, suggesting that many capable families cannot adopt for financial reasons. Additionally, as immigrants, children adopted from other countries often enter communities that do not resemble their own. Therefore, adoptees can struggle with discovering their identity and personhood until later on in their lives, if they ever do. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Waal spoke about how her upbringing in the small rural town of Mount Vernon, Ohio affected the way she perceived herself as a black woman. Waal explained that she did not have any Ethiopian influences around her, and she struggled to connect with the culture of her home country because she grew up in a predominantly white town.
  4. How did Ethiopia become a country known for orphan adoption? Ethiopia’s food shortage from 1983-85 caused an estimated 1 million deaths and forced millions more into extreme poverty. The AIDS epidemic devastated Ethiopia as well. AIDS started spreading in Ethiopia in 1984; about 12% of women and 8% of men in Ethiopia were HIV positive by 2000. Children and youth also became more likely to contract HIV during the early 2000s through mother-to-child transmission. When BBC reporter Michael Buerk traveled with World Vision in 1984 and reported on famine and poverty in Ethiopia, it inspired Americans to aid the country. Waal explained how her adoptive parents had witnessed the famine on television as children. The parents felt that God was calling them to adopt later in 2007. At the time, Ethiopia was the fourth poorest country in the world. The Waal family wished to help by adopting two of the 4.9 million orphans in Africa at the time, and they were not the only family considering such a decision.
  5. How does poverty affect Ethiopian children today? Ethiopia had a 24% poverty rate in 2016, which means that thousands of kids grow up without access to education and resources. Less than 20% of children living in poverty can finish elementary school, while less than 25% have received basic vaccinations.
  6. Why did the Ethiopian government ban international adoption recently? The Ethiopian government banned international adoption in Ethiopia in 2018. Ethiopian officials pursued this course of action as they believed it would protect orphans; officials were worried about the psychological problems and physical abuse that adoptees could suffer. When asked about the benefits of international adoption, orphanage administrator Abebayehu Fikad explained, “Even if we are poor, it’s better to be with our society,” in an interview with NPR.
  7. How did the ban of international adoption in Ethiopia affect orphaned children? Ethiopia continues to face an orphan crisis. Today, 800,000 of Ethiopia’s 4.5 million orphans have lost their parents to AIDs, and there are specific orphanages aiding children in such situations. Many of the children will likely live in orphanages until they age out of the system.
  8. Who is aiding Ethiopian orphans? NGOs including Save The Children are advocating for Ethiopian orphans and children. Save the Children has touched millions of lives through its work on the ground and its child sponsorship program. Save The Children has also assisted more than 1 million parents in helping their children and provided protection for more than 800,00 children experiencing crises. In addition, Save the Children has established programs to enhance education, literacy and career-building skills for unprivileged children.

Looking Ahead

Although international adoption in Ethiopia does have negative aspects, millions of children in Ethiopia do not have basic access to family, shelter or food. Although the international public cannot adopt in Ethiopia, individuals can still support Ethiopian children living in poverty by donating to the Save the Children cause.

– Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

How These 3 NGOs Are Helping Eritrean Refugees
The ongoing conflict in the Tigray province of Ethiopia has wreaked devastation. In November 2020, after months of political turmoil, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against Tigray regional forces. As a result, an estimated 353,000 people are in the worst classification for food security and thousands more have died. U.N.-backed data also show that 1.7 million are near maximum risk of food insecurity. Because of the crisis, several NGOs are taking on the fight in helping Eritrean Refugees. Here is how three NGOs are helping Eritrean refugees.

The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE)

John Stauffer founded The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE) in 2010, which is an organization that provides aid to Eritrean refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and around the globe. TATDE works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by providing refugees in the U.S. and globally with adequate housing and resettlement support. This includes a new apartment checklist and a picture dictionary that translates Tigrinya, a prominent language that Eritrean people speak, to English.

In collaboration with other NGOs, TATDE assists in fielding emergency calls from Eritrean refugees on the run, defecting Eritrean individuals officials and those facing deportation. Some noteworthy work includes a scholarship program designed to provide nursing and other medical training to refugees living in camps.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides clean water, education, medical aid and shelter to those who have had to flee or have experienced displacement. Operating in more than 30 countries and with about 15,000 humanitarians, NRC aims to rebuild futures and save lives. Working with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, NRC helps provide Eritrean refugees with educational and economic programs. The main goals include:

  • Offering training in hairdressing, electrical installation, masonry, plumbing and irrigation skills and fishery.
  • Providing business starter kits to recent graduates of business management, thus incentivizing them to start their own businesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive hands-on training and classrooms have the proper tools and supplies.
  • Maintaining and supporting the training curriculum helping Eritrean refugees.

To date, about 6.6 million people have benefited from the WASH program in Eritrea. The WASH program focuses on providing sanitary water to displaced people in refugee camps and shelters. The program helps use safe water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, solid waste management and public restrooms.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

In the first six months of 2020, UNHCR responded to the crisis by providing food and sanitary assistance to refugee camps on a monthly basis. Due to the current conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the work helping Eritrean refugees significantly slowed down. Access to the refugee camps remained suspended from July 13, 2020 to August 4, 2021, after violent clashes in the region prevented staff from reaching the refugee camps. UNHCR plans to allow for 200 refugees to receive regular cash assistance and 400 to receive protection assistance.

Progress is slow and while the Eritrean refugees still face hardships, efforts by NGOs like the UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council and The American Team for Displaced Eritreans continue to show the good in humanity.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Elderly Poverty in EthiopiaThough Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in its region, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $883 in 2019. Along with many inevitable health and wellness concerns that come with old age, a rising concern for seniors is deepening poverty.

Elderly poverty in Ethiopia poses a major threat to the well-being of older people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity in countries without social protection systems that offer high coverage and adequate benefits. However, important developments have been made in Ethiopia to support the aging population and combat elderly poverty.

Gender Dynamics within Elderly Poverty

Gender inequality manifests in elderly poverty, with older women being at much greater risk to experience poor living conditions than older men. The U.N. outlines multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, arguing “women’s lower labor force participation, the large number of women who are self-employed, and the fact that women often have shorter and interrupted careers due to childbearing and rearing” contribute to older women being particularly vulnerable to poverty.

Pension coverage is also often significantly lower for women because there is a gender-pension gap. The gender pension gap refers to several factors that contribute to fewer women receiving pensions than men. This is indirectly impacted by gender discrimination built into the pension system itself, “including the disproportionate exclusion of women from being automatically enrolled into a pension scheme.” In comparison to the 287,666 men who received civil servant pensions in Ethiopia in 2018, only 31,222 women received the same pension.

Policy Progress

In 2018, only 15% of Ethiopia’s older population received any kind of social protection. As stated by HelpAge, “Older persons have virtually no access to either formal or informal savings and loans opportunities. Unless supported by civil society, poor older Ethiopians are unable to engage in regular saving activities.” Given the large coverage gap in social protection for the elderly, many argue that the nation should explore a dedicated social pension to combat elderly poverty in Ethiopia.

Despite its flaws, Ethiopia has made notable progress in the world of social protection interventions in the last few years. Two World Bank-funded projects have been instrumental in laying the groundwork to support seniors: the Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program, which launched in 2005, and the Urban Productive Safety Net Program (UPSNP), which launched in 2016.

The Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program is designed to support the Government of Ethiopia in improving its rural safety net systems. There is a specific focus on nutrition and food security, flood and drought risk management, and rural infrastructure and service delivery. Expanding the safety net in rural Ethiopia is central to supporting the lives of the thousands of seniors who live outside a city center and need social programs and systems to maintain a liveable quality of life. The UPSNP is designed with similar features but targeted towards poor households in urban centers.

Moving Forward

HelpAge outlines a few key recommendations to improve elderly poverty in Ethiopia, including increased advocacy from citizens toward local government and more awareness around the issue itself. Moreover, the organization argues an increased focus on older women is necessary, especially widows, in social protection interventions.

There is a long road to dismantling elderly poverty in Ethiopia, but the creation of necessary systems to support the aging population has proven to be a viable start. Knowledge, advocacy and cooperation with the government to address systemic issues within pension plans can definitely move the needle forward to alleviate poverty within the elderly community.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

The WeekndThe Weeknd is famous for his singing, songwriting and producing career. He performed at the halftime show in the 2021 Super Bowl and even won an Oscar for his song “Earned It,” which was featured in the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What many don’t know about The Weeknd is that he is a philanthropist who quietly donates to several organizations that help global poverty relief.

The Weeknd’s Background

Much of The Weeknd’s philanthropy ties back to his cultural roots. Born as Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd’s parents are Ethiopian immigrants. Although Tesfaye grew up in Toronto, Canada, his first language was Amharic. Amharic is one of the two main languages of Ethiopia, further showing his connection to the region.

Ethiopian Philanthropy

A significant portion of The Weeknd’s philanthropy goes toward his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. In April 2021, he donated $1 million to World Food Program USA, which is the U.S. affiliate of the United Nations World Food Programme. This donation will fund two million meals in Ethiopia. Specifically, these meals will benefit people who do not have access to food in the northern Tigray region where there is an ongoing ethnic conflict with Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Eritrea. Civilians suffer the most from the conflict. They are often in danger, living in poor conditions and risk rape, violence and death.

When announcing his donation to World Food Program USA, The Weeknd stated in an Instagram post that, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.”

Prior to The Weeknd’s donation, the World Food Programme provided corn, rice and vegetable oil to 60,000 people in the northern Tigray region. The program also began an initiative to support pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as children in the region, with the goal of reaching 875,000 people. The program also has two refugee camps in Tigray, open to people seeking safety and help.

Donations to Beirut

The Weeknd’s philanthropy extends beyond Ethiopia, as he donated to COVID-19 relief as well as relief for Beirut, Lebanon. Following an explosion at the Port of Beirut, The Weeknd donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon. The explosion damaged homes, infrastructure and hospitals. It injured 6,000 people and killed 180. The detonation also damaged the city’s main hospital and other clinics, making it difficult to treat victims. The explosion was also at the city’s port, which drastically affected their ability to trade and receive imports. Additionally, the poverty rate in Lebanon jumped from 33% to 45%. It came mainly as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion. Global Aid for Lebanon raised more than $1.2 million to provide food, treatment and infrastructure aid to those impacted by the explosion.

The Weeknd’s philanthropy has benefitted many lives and helped many get the assistance they needed following unsafe conditions. While he is a quiet philanthropist, he has been instrumental in helping vulnerable people in global poverty.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Water scarcity in EthiopiaEthiopia’s water supply is scarce — only 42% of the population has access to clean water. For those that don’t have access to clean water, women bear the brunt of the work to get it for their families. Therefore, water scarcity in Ethiopia is, though some might not realize it, a women’s issue.

While men work and try to earn money, mothers, wives, and young girls carry the water burden, both physically and metaphorically. These women walk long distances, often three hours or more to get clean water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and more. These long distances take away valuable time from these women’s lives. Mothers often have to bring their young children on these long journeys or risk leaving them by themselves. Instead of spending time taking care of their children or working, many take six to eight hours every day collecting water and returning home. As for young girls, many sacrifice their education to get water, causing their chances of escaping poverty to dwindle. Women also have to carry heavy jerry cans for long distances, which could lead to physical strain or other health issues.

The Economics of Water Scarcity in Ethiopia

Water scarcity in Ethiopia affects 61 million people who do not have access to safe water. Although the water that they have access to may not be safe, many Ethiopians have no choice but to pay for their dangerous water supply. Water from sources like unprotected ponds and shallow wells can cost some Ethiopians around 20% of their total income.

Since this water is not safe, many people also get sick from water-borne illnesses like cholera and diarrhea, which takes time, money and energy away from working or finding a way to earn money, catapulting Ethiopians further into poverty.

Organizations Helping Supply Water

There are several organizations with a mission to supply water to people in countries that face water scarcity, including Ethiopia. WaterAid UK is one of these organizations. The organization supplies areas with a scarce water supply, like remote villages, with access to clean water. For example, WaterAid UK installed a 400-meter pipe from a spring which pipes water down to the center of the village of Ferenji in Ethiopia. The organization has supplied 26.4 million people with clean water since its establishment in 1981.

Another organization bringing clean water to Ethiopia is charity:water. Founded in 2006, charity:water uses different methods including piped systems, hand-dug wells, drilled wells, gravity-fed systems, spring protections and latrines to provide Ethiopians with clean water. Their efforts so far have helped 3,025,007 Ethiopians gain access to safe water.

A Progressive Future

Water scarcity in Ethiopia proves to be a burden for women, causing them to sacrifice work, education, money and providing for their families. Many do not have a choice but to make the long treks to retrieve clean water, but several organizations use their resources and funds to build water sources for Ethiopians. These efforts will help lessen the water burden for women across Ethiopia and allow them to focus on progress for themselves and their families.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Ethiopia 
As of August 2021, Ethiopia had 292,731 documented COVID-19 cases and 4,518 deaths in a population of more than 118 million. However, COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is far more complicatedAside from the clear health (medical and mental) implications of COVID-19, the pandemic affected other areas significantly, including poverty, nutrition and sanitation. The United Nation’s Ethiopia Assessment explored the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ethiopia.

Health and Nutrition

Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, 26% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line. In April 2021, there were studies on maternal and child nutrition and health during the early days of the pandemic compared to 2019. The studies showed a decline in these services in March and April 2020. The COVID-19 surge redirected nearly all resources and services. Therefore, there were few resources and services for other programs.

Healthcare workers, government and non-governmental organizations alike helped restore the services. A major factor in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s health and nutrition was an awareness campaign. The campaign aimed to teach COVID-19 prevention utilizing volunteers in the community, including frontline workers and university students.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

A major factor in winning the battle against COVID-19 is appropriate hygiene, such as handwashing. However, people in Ethiopia do not always have adequate access to water. This places further strain on the community. In Ethiopia, “60-80% of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services.” For example, people in Ethiopia do not always wash their hands after using the latrine. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the many areas in which lower-income countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping their citizens protected.

However, UNICEF partnered with the ONEWASH National Programme in 2013. This partnership established projects to guarantee access to a safely managed water supply, specifically to vulnerable groups like children and women. UNICEF and the ONEWASH National Programme aim to increase not only equitable and sustainable clean water supplies and sanitation services but also proper hygiene practices in rural and urban areas.

Government and Human Rights

The U.N. assessment on Ethiopia reported that the human rights situation in Ethiopia was improving. Due to government reforms and restructuring, opposition parties, women and different factions had a newfound voice in the government. However, human rights abuses remained. The pandemic exacerbated these abuses resulting in a state of emergency followed by delayed elections.

When the government postponed elections, the Tigray region chose to defy these orders and hold them anyway. This caused tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. Prime Minister Ahmed ordered military action against the Tigray region in retaliation for an attack on the federal government purportedly from the Tigray region. Additionally, in the western and southern parts of the Oromia region, “government counterinsurgency campaigns against armed rebel groups resulted in serious human rights and abuses against local communities by all sides.”

There are long-reaching implications of postponed elections. However, Ethiopia finally held elections in June 2021 with the ruling party winning a second term.

Looking Forward

COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is evolving as the vaccine rollout continues and the country implements information campaigns on COVID-19 prevention and hygiene and sanitation programs. The World Health Organization (WHO) through COVAX and the ACT accelerator shipped 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide, providing vaccines to more than 100 countries. The efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia are not in vain and continue to positively impact countries around the globe.

– Tiffany Pate
Photo: Flickr

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance DamThe Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will allow over 65 million Ethiopians access to electricity. Many estimate it to cost as high as $5 billion. Using two large turbines, the dam will bring more than 6,450MW worth of power to the country.

Project Background

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began in April of 2011 and finished in July of 2020. The dam can hold up to 74 billion cubic meters of water, which makes it the largest hydropower project in Africa.

Located in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, about 30 km upstream from Sudan, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation identified the site between 1956 and 1964. But, construction only actually began after surveys in 2009 and 2010.

Funds from local taxes, donations and government bonds raised the necessary $4.8 billion to cover construction costs. Ethiopian’s at home and abroad provided the first $350 million. Then, the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation invested some of its own revenue, as well as money borrowed from state-owned banks.

Controversy

Despite the benefits some say the dam will have, the project is not without controversy. Over the last decade, the governments of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are working to come to an official agreement on how the GERD will operate.

The Egyptian government voiced strong opposition to the GERD stating that it will cause major disruptions to the Nile. Egypt depends on more than 90% of its water from the river. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt is facing “an existential threat” because of this project.

For Egypt, the main concern lies in the impact on the water supply of previous dams on the Nile. They worry GERD will do the same. The annual flooding of the Nile is one of the most important natural events that occur throughout Egypt’s history. Egypt relies heavily on this annual event for its agriculture. Additionally, there is concern that the GERD could alter this flooding and/or interfere with the flow of sediments that are vital for growing food in the region.

Furthermore, the Sudanese government expressed concern over the effect of the dam on its people and their water rights. In June 2021, Sudan and Egypt released a joint statement. They urged for a legally binding agreement between the countries before Ethiopia began its second filling of the dam.

Water Rights

The Nile Waters Agreements of 1929 and 1959 gave Egypt and Sudan the right to all the water in the Nile. These agreements also gave Egypt the right to veto any upstream construction, such as the GERD. However, The agreements did not include Ethiopia. Therefore, Ethiopia does not recognize the agreements as legitimate.

Since Ethiopia does not recognize the Nile Waters agreements, Egypt and Sudan pushed to get a legally binding agreement. The new agreement would place restrictions on the amount of water Ethiopia may hold in the dam. However, Ethiopia refused to agree to any of these restrictions, instead favoring looser guidelines that are not legally binding.

However, the international community supports Egypt’s calls for a formal agreement. The United States warns that filling the dam without an agreement in place would lead to heightened tensions in the region. In July 2021, the United Nations Security Council made another attempt at mediating the conflict, the latest in the decade-long struggle to reach an agreement. These talks also failed and Ethiopia proceeded to fill the dam.

Looking Ahead

Despite the controversy and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s effect on Egypt and Sudan, it appears that the Ethiopian government will continue to move forward with filling the dam. In July of 2021, the second filling of the dam was completed. Even with the controversy, the project will provide electricity to millions in the region who previously did not have access. This is sure to have a positive impact on the citizens of the region.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Charity: Water Access in EthiopiaMillions of people in Ethiopia do not have access to clean water, which causes serious health and economic problems. The severity of the water crisis inspired international organizations to engage with local communities and provide technology and resources to improve  Ethiopia’s access to clean water. One of those organizations is charity: water, which has served more than three million Ethiopians during the past four years.

Water Crisis in Ethiopia

Millions of Ethiopians, like many in the region, suffer from a lack of access to clean water. A global database of water, sanitation and hygiene data, the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) published a report on the matter. According to the report, 31% of the Ethiopian population consumes unprotected water for daily use. Furthermore, another 28% of the population has limited access to clean water. Together, these figures account for 62 million people. The situation is particularly severe in rural parts of the country, where water shortages create serious health problems for villagers and their livestock.

Health Consequences of Inaccessible Clean Water

The lack of access to clean water has significant consequences on people’s health. During times of drought, when springs, ponds and other surface waters dry up, people are forced to look for alternative water sources. As a result, they often end up consuming water that is heavily contaminated with human and animal excrement and other environmental waste.

The consequence of consuming the contaminated water is widespread water-borne illnesses, particularly cholera and diarrhea. According to UNICEF, between 60-80% of communicable diseases in Ethiopia are caused by lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation. Moreover, approximately 50% of undernutrition cases are related to environmental factors, including inadequate hygiene. Open defecation and other sanitation-related issues cause fecal-oral diseases like diarrhea, which kills more than 70,000 children under the age of five every year.

Progress on Clean Water and Sanitation

Limited access to clean water and the consequences of inaccessibility have claimed countless Ethiopian lives. Due to the urgency of the crisis, the Ethiopian government and international organizations have been working tirelessly to improve the situation. As a result of their work, significant progress has been made. For example, in 2000, 75% of Ethiopians consumed unsafe drinking water. By 2015, that percentage had been reduced by 50% and continues to fall.

There has been notable progress in the sanitation facilities as well. In 2000, approximately 80% of the population was using the restroom outside and in the open. By 2017, the number was reduced to 22.35%. This was mainly achieved by developing constructions called “pit latrines.” “Pit latrines” are toilets usually built outside a house. They have four walls, a roof and a door to keep insects and flies out and reduce the spread of diseases.

Charity: Water and Gasi Spring Project

One organization’s work has had a massive impact on Ethiopia’s access to clean water — charity: water. The organization started working in Ethiopia in 2017. Since then, it has invested $99,120,769 and funded 10,425 projects that have served more than three million people.

One of the projects implemented by charity: water dealt with installing a protection system for Gasi spring. Gasi spring was a mud pit contaminated by excrement and was used by locals to gather water. Now, an installed concrete box protects Gasi’s pure water and sends it to water points where villagers can collect it. After installing the protection system, Gasi spring produced so much water that it was possible to establish a community shower, a washing station for clothes and a cattle trough for animals.

Founder and CEO of charity: water Scott Harrison recalled one instance of the organization’s impact. At the opening ceremony of Gasi’s new spring protection tank, a local health extension worker named Gedey told him that for the first time, villagers started building dish racks because they had a reason to keep dishes off the floor.

– Aleksandre Jgarkava
Photo: Flickr

USAID in Ethiopia
USAID is concerned about Ethiopia’s civil war as the severity of humanitarian assistance needed continues to rise in Tigray, Ethiopia. Millions of civilians are displaced, and health access is critically disrupted across the region. In response to these conditions, USAID in Ethiopia officially launched the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). This team intends to mediate assistance and data analysis to provide much-needed humanitarian aid. Tigrayans continue to endure a civil war that has left millions shackled to poverty, terror and a lack of proper assistance.

Tensions Create a Civil War

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) governs Tigray, the populous region in Northern Ethiopia. TPLF is a large political party that has militarily enforced the autonomy of Tigray for 46 years, as it seeks to make Tigray a separate kingdom. In 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overtook the election and proceeded to minimize the TPLF’s influence in ruling coalitions. However, federal troops met him with opposition in Tigray. In response, the prime minister launched a domestic law and order operation on TPLF on November 4, 2020. The operation was only set to last for five days. Yet, as tension grew, Ahmed joined military forces with Eritrea to disarm the TPLF troops. Eritrean forces committed the majority of the human rights violations that followed during the five-day operation that turned into a five-month war.

Disaster Assistance Response Team in Ethiopia

USAID in Ethiopia launched DART to assess conditions within the country. The organization reported, “[DART is] identifying priority needs for the scale-up of relief efforts and working with partners to provide urgently-needed assistance to conflict-affected populations across the region.” The population in Tigray is roughly six million. Approximately one million civilians require assistance amid the civil conflict, and four million require urgent food aid. As conditions and access allow, DART conducts humanitarian health programs around the regions. Red Cross assists by distributing medical supplies and essential medicines.

The Stance of Ethiopia’s Government

Some Ethiopians feel deceived by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Since the declaration of war on Tigrayans on November 4, 2020, Ahmed has used Twitter to state his stance against any mediation offers from neutral parties and the international pressure for an inclusive dialogue with all parties involved.

On November 28, 2020, Ahmed tweeted the victory of Ethiopia against the TPLF forces. He stated, “I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region.” The Ahmed administration is reportedly rebuilding the region. However, the war has yet to cease. The following are current predicaments since November 4, 2020:

  • Reports of ethnic cleansing and sexual crimes have killed more than 52,000 Tigrayans.
  • Eritrean troops raped and killed in extrajudicial massacres. They also failed to exit Ethiopia following Ahmed’s victory announcement on November 28, 2019.
  • More than 61,300 Tigrayans have fled to Sudan as refugees. Of these refugees, 28% are children, and 4% are elderly.
  • As a result, women and girls reported rape cases and gang rape by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.
  • More than two million children remain cut off from emergency federal humanitarian assistance due to families suspected of TPLF ties.
  • The government concentrates resources on warfare; thus, food, water, electricity and other health benefits are extremely limited.
  • Civilians have limited media access. Reporters and journalists are killed or arrested if they do not abide by laws set by the nation.

Progress of USAID

DART has monitored the conditions in Tigray with uplifting progress. The U.N. reports that 16% of Tigray’s hospitals are functioning. Of those functioning, 22% offer vaccination services. Thus, by increasing analysis and focus on critical areas, DART has successfully secured numerous smaller regions in Tigray. Prime Minister Ahmed requested that the Eritrean troops evacuate Tigray due to increased rates of gender-based violence which generated concern for USAID relief workers. Food also remains a critical issue. Other relief organizations, such as the Catholic Relief Services, contribute food and other commodities, in addition to assistance from USAID in Ethiopia.

Ayesha Swaray
Photo: Flickr