Transforming lives in Ethiopia with a new kindergarten

New kindergarten in Woreda 1 It’s always exciting to hear from our colleagues overseas how the projects you support are transforming lives and this week, we’re able to share about our slum development project in Ethiopia.

We’ve been working with our partner organisation Life in Abundance Ethiopia to transform lives in the Woreda 1 slum area of Addis Ababa, home to a community of people affected by leprosy. The project is making a difference through a combination of improved housing and sanitation, employment and micro-credit opportunities, as well as self-care training to prevent disability. One key aspect of our work there has been the building of a new kindergarten for the community – helping ensure that the poorest of the poor have access to education.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Until recently, the only state-run (i.e. non fee-paying) school in the area didn’t have the capacity to accommodate all the local children, meaning that many were forced to stay at home, missing out on learning and play and facing the dangers of being left alone while their parents went out to work. Some children were also being taken out on to the streets to beg.

Previously, with no childcare available for the youngest children in Woreda 1, many women have had to stay at home to care for them, meaning that they cannot work. For families living in such abject poverty, a parent not working frequently means the family must go hungry, increasing their risk of malnutrition and illness.

The kindergarten is now open and already having a huge impact on the lives of people affected by leprosy and their families.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Parents are happy to have a state pre-school facility near to their homes – for them, there are now no more worries about choosing between paying for school or simply not going. Their children are safe there, no longer deprived of early years education and enjoying modern facilities and equipment. Importantly for children so young, the focus is on learning through play and age appropriate activities.

And it’s not just the pupils who are experiencing the benefits of the kindergarten. Parents of younger children are now free to work and earn a living to support their families, and they no longer have to worry about the safety of children left at home or taken out onto the streets to work.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Staff and parents now have plenty of plans for the kindergarten’s future, including securing support so that the most vulnerable children will be provided with uniforms and school materials, and working with parents to improve opportunities for employment.

Ann Widdecombe and Peter Waddup pray with a couple in Ethiopia.

Ann Widdecombe’s visit to Ethiopia

Ann Widdecombe and Peter Waddup pray with a couple in Ethiopia.This week, one of our Vice-Presidents has gained new, first-hand insight into the struggles faced by people affected by leprosy. Ann Widdecombe is best known as a retired politician, writer, broadcaster, and contestant on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. But she’s also a committed supporter of our work and has been a Vice-President of The Leprosy Mission since 2006. She’s been spending the week visiting our projects in Ethiopia and talking to some of the people we help about their lives.

Along with Head of Marketing and Communications Rosalyn Palmer and one of our board members, Peter Waddup, Ann has visited the Woreda 1 slum in Addis Ababa, which is situated near the ALERT leprosy hospital. When we visited the community in 2012, we found there were just 150 toilets shared between 24,000 residents, which is why much of our project work there will focus on providing improved sanitation in the form of toilets, showers and water points.

The three-year project will also help people affected by leprosy and other disabilities to start their own businesses, develop employment opportunities, train people in health and hygiene awareness, leprosy awareness and self care.

Pictured above are Ann and Peter praying with Tesfaye and Bayoush, a couple who are benefiting from our work in Addis Ababa.

Peter said: “It has been humbling to represent The Leprosy Mission in Ethiopia and meet those affected by leprosy who, even in these awful living conditions, are marginalised by their own community.

“I am thrilled that Ann has given up a week of her valuable time to raise awareness of the injustices of this world and highlight the difficult job of survival for people affected by leprosy and living in slums.”

Sanitation matters! Why toilets are a global development priority.

World Toilet Day

Yesterday the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to make access to sanitation for all a global development priority, designating 19 November as World Toilet Day.

The Assembly encouraged member states to implement policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, and called for an end to people being forced to defecate in public, which it deemed “extremely harmful” to public health. In a statement, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said:

“This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.”

Only 4.5 billion out of 7 billion people worldwide have access to toilets or latrines – meaning that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation. In addition, 1.1 billion people still have to defecate in the open, and it is in the countries where this is the norm that child mortality is high and that there are high levels of malnutrition and poverty.

Lack of sanitation facilities therefore impacts many wider issues. In addition to the burden of disease and an assault on dignity, women and girls often risk rape or abuse when they have to use areas that are unsafe or unsheltered.

A woman affected by leprosy living in the slum in Ethiopia.
A woman affected by leprosy living in the slum in Ethiopia.

As part of our work in Ethiopia, Leprosy Mission staff have seen first-hand the impact that lack of access to sanitation facilities has on some of the world’s poorest people. Visiting Addis Ababa in 2012, we visited one slum with a population of 24,000 – with 500 people affected by disabilities including those caused by leprosy, where there was just one toilet for every 120 people. With no access to showers and waste disposal facilities,  people living there are severely affected by disease and child mortality is high.

Another view of the slum showing stagnant water - a breeding ground for disease.
Another view of the slum showing stagnant water – a breeding ground for disease.

Our new Slum Development project there will build new toilet blocks and renovate old ones, build new shower blocks, provide waste disposal systems, renovate houses, and provide health and hygiene training. Some of this work will also provide livelihood opportunities for residents. With enthusiastic support from the community, it’s hoped that the project will have a major, lasting impact and transform many lives.

Between 1990 and 2011, over 240,000 people a day gained access to improved sanitation facilities worldwide. But with 2.5 billion people still lacking facilities that we take for granted, the resolution adopted by the UN yesterday is an important step forward and one that we’re pleased to be supporting through our work.