In the heart of Ethiopia’s Oromia region, East Shewa zone, Abebech Hawasi, a 30-year-old mother of three, shares the transformative impact that FINISH Mondial Ethiopia and its local partner, Bole Bible Baptist Church, have had on her family. Three years ago, the program helped Abebech and her husband Birhanu Urgesa in constructing their first improved toilet. “Before building this toilet, the only option we had was to defecate in our backyard, which was neither comfortable, clean, nor private. My children frequently suffered from diarrhoea, necessitating numerous trips to the nearby health post.”

Abebech Hawasi with Seada Menza

The catalyst for change came through Seada Menza, the local health extension worker trained by FINISH Mondial, who recommended the construction of an improved toilet to the Hawasi-Urgesa family. Menza’s tireless efforts in raising awareness and generating demand for sanitation have been instrumental in the community: “The work undertaken by FINISH Mondial in our rural Kebele is very important. Prior to our intervention, a staggering 70% of households lacked access to toilets. However, we are steadily diminishing this figure,” affirms Menza. “Already, we are witnessing tangible results; instances of water-borne diseases in the sub-districts have seen a remarkable decline.”

Women becoming advocates for the whole community

The sanitation systems (i.e. toilets) facilitated by FINISH Mondial Ethiopia can be constructed within a mere three days using locally available and affordable materials. Households have the opportunity to contribute materials such as sand, stone, corrugated iron sheets, and doors, or even undertake tasks like pit digging, effectively reducing the overall cost – a practice embraced by the Hawasi-Urgesa family. 

Abebech Hawasi, now a fervent advocate for safe sanitation within her community, is enthusiastic about her improved toilet: “Our family’s well-being has significantly improved, our health is better, and we couldn’t be happier. I’ve encouraged several of my neighbour’s to adopt safe sanitation, emphasising its vital importance. In fact, four of them have also taken the initiative to construct their own improved toilets.” 

Toilets in a plastic bag

In Adama, another district where FINISH Mondial actively advocates for safer sanitation, a similar story unfolds. Bedhatu sub-district is an area well-known for its “flying toilets”, due to households in slum areas having no other choice than to resort to plastic bags to dispose of faeces. 

Tsion Angilo

Tsion Angilo, a 26-year-old mother to a daughter, recounts her family’s struggles: “Before having our own toilet, we had to trek to my husband’s family house just to access their toilet, which was not only distant but also quite embarrassing. Life was very difficult, especially when I was on my period, when frequent access to sanitation facilities is essential.” 

Safe sanitation for cramped spaces 

Space constraints pose a significant hurdle to toilet construction and usage in Bedhathu slums, with most households confined to cramped living quarters. Recognising this challenge, FINISH Mondial devised innovative design solutions for sanitation systems in limited spaces, notably repurposing Angilo’s changing veranda into an improved toilet space. 

Financial constraints further exacerbate the situation in Bedhatu, but through collaboration with Bole Bible Baptist Church and financial institutions, FINISH Mondial has empowered families to overcome these financial barriers. “Bole Baptist facilitated a 13,000 birr loan from OCSICO Microfinance for constructing the improved toilets three years ago. We have since built the toilet and repaid the loan,” shares Angilo. 

The stories of Abebech Hawasi and Tsion Angilo serve as poignant examples of how improved sanitation can uplift entire families, laying the groundwork for enhanced health, dignity, and overall well-being. Throughout Ethiopia, FINISH Mondial has paved the way for a more dignified and healthier life for numerous families, both in rural and urban settings. If you want to learn more about FINISH Mondial’s impact in Ethiopia, click here!

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