Poverty in Ethiopia can be reduced when students receive an education. Lack of clean water and sanitation (clean bathrooms), particularly in rural parts of Ethiopia, are a significant roadblock for young boys and girls.
In fact, in the Bensa region where Lifewater serves, none of the 16 schools (a region comprised of 20,000+ students) have both a clean water source and safe bathrooms. When children are sick from unsafe water or when water and sanitation are not available at school, they miss out on their education, which keeps them in a devastating cycle of poverty. Girls are especially at risk of dropping out when they begin to menstruate.
But that cycle ended for Kamiso and her school this year when Lifewater helped install a safe water source and blocks of improved latrines. According to headmaster Morkamo Mude Ogeto at Borile Primary School, “Students used to leave class when they were thirsty and go to their homes or unsafe water sources. Now they get safe water in a bottle from the well at the school and can stay in class. There are no dropouts now. In the past we had 50-80 students drop out but now since September we have had none.”
From 50-80 students dropping out to 0. That is an earth-shifting change for a young woman whose path was blocked with poor health, indignity, and lack of education, and a significant step for reducing poverty in Ethiopia.
On a recent trip, we met Kamiso checking on the latrines to make sure they were clean. “Our old latrines didn’t have room for people with disabilities and they were not comfortable,” she said. “These are very safe and comfortable. The former latrines had no soap or water. Now we can wash our hands with soap.”
Children like Kamiso are often the first to adopt the behaviors of good sanitation and hygiene, the first to realize their benefits, and the quickest to share them with others. At each school where Lifewater serves, students form WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) clubs. These volunteers dedicate their time to teaching others about healthy habits, and take responsibility for the condition of the facilities at their schools.
“The girls are very happy with the latrines,” continues Ogeto. “[Students] teach each other about healthy practices.”
Another WASH club member, Chala, chimed in, “We got more knowledge, we are pioneering with regard to hygiene and sanitation, and we are glad.”
Kamiso’s WASH club at Borile Primary School