Almost a quarter of Addis Ababa residents have no access to toilets, says a new report by the Addis Ababa city authorities.
"We estimate that some three million people live in Addis Ababa. Out of this nearly 25 percent of the population have no access to toilets and defecate in rivers crossing the city" the report says.
"We cannot tolerate any more waste in rivers and roads. We should be ashamed. We want to make sure that the city is clean and a better place to live," said Mekuria Haile, a senior local government official, at the launch of the report entitled Cleaning and Beautifying Addis Ababa: Intensifying Environmental and Health Issues with Public Participation.
"Addis Ababa is one of the biggest cities in sub-Saharan Africa… but is still fighting against solid waste management and health problems posed by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation," said Haile.
The outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) which hit most parts of the city in August 2009 "was the result of poor sanitation and hygiene, coupled with solid waste from the city" the report said.
"I cannot trust the water that comes through a pipeline since that outbreak. I boil my water every day before serving my family," said Senait Habte, a resident of the city's Kolfe Keraniyo slum.
"My relatives in rural Ethiopia live a better life than us in the city. They have good toilets and access to safe drinking water. Seems like the government has forgotten us," she told IRIN, adding: "There are continuous electricity blackouts. Sometimes we don't have water for five days. Life is becoming difficult in Addis nowadays."
Public relations chief at the Water Resources Ministry Bizuneh Tolcha told IRIN nearly 66 percent of the Ethiopian population has access to safe drinking water and 56 percent has access to a latrine.
"According to our water tests, the water in Addis is very clean but the problem is contamination due to its unsafe use," Tolcha told IRIN.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says 60-80 percent of the current disease burden in Ethiopia is attributable to environmental health risks, which include poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation.
US-based NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its partners have been promoting an ecological toilet called the ArborLoo, designed by Zimbabwean Peter Morgan specifically for African conditions. It serves both as a basic toilet and makes use of excreta for growing fruit trees.
The AborLoo is a single pit shallow compost toilet 1.0-1.5m deep comprising a ring beam, slab and structure.
"Each concrete toilet slab costs US$7-20 and anyone can use it. It best suits the elderly and disabled people. You can dig it in half a day and can also plant trees on it," says Bekele Abaire, programme manager at the CRS office in Ethiopia.
During use, fly and odour problems are reduced by regularly adding soil, wood ash and leaves to the excreta in the pit. Once full, the old toilet site is covered with soil and left to compost with the parts of the toilet being moved to another place, rebuilt and used in the same way again.
A tree is planted on the old site, preferably at the start of the rainy season, after the old pit contents have composted for a while.
"All of my family used to defecate at the back of our house or in an open field. This is the case everywhere in our `kebele' [district]; it is normal. We now understand that latrines are important for our hygiene and health. ArborLoo has helped us a lot. We plant fruits, vegetables, trees and above all we are safe from acute watery diarrhoea and other diseases," said Seid Abdo who is now using ArborLoo in Arsi Zone, Oromiya Regional State.
"Many communities achieved 100 percent sanitation coverage in areas that had 1 percent or less [coverage] before the project. And surprisingly none of these areas were affected by AWD, while others suffered from it," Bekele told IRIN.
"We are trying to implement more eco toilet projects in Addis Ababa. We want to scale it up in urban areas like Addis Ababa and Adama but we are challenged by lack of adequate policy and lack of funding," Bekele told IRIN.
Source: the humanitarian news and analysis service, IRIN, http://www.irinnews.org