Life on hold in Ethiopia

on
2 June 2020
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

In Ethiopia, COVID-19 has the potential to become a serious crisis, and we are supporting the Government in its responses. So far, a range of measures like travel bans and lockdowns seem to be stopping the spread of coronavirus.

In the fifth entry of our Lockdown Diaries, Frehiwot Gebrewold, our Voices from the Field Officer in Ethiopia, tells us about the strange quiet that has descended on Addis Ababa as life is put on hold.

Power up

My job usually requires a lot of travel to different parts of the country, talking to different communities. The change to working from home was a bit confusing for me, but I think I am getting used to it now.

The most challenging things for me are power interruptions and weak internet signal where I live. It’s frustrating regularly losing connection and not being able to leave the house much either.

"How working from home feels." Covid-19 response. Lockdown Diaries - Frehiwot Gebrewold. Ethiopia. May 2020
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

I have an antique black and white television and a stereo. I usually know when we get the power back by the stereo’s clicking noise and its red light coming on.

A rich blend

One of the things Ethiopians are known for is our social life. We drink freshly made coffee almost every day and it is very common to invite neighbours round to share and enjoy it.

We brew coffee in a ceremony; roasting the beans, grinding them, then boiling them in a clay pot called a jebena. The whole process takes around an hour and a half across three rounds, with people drinking up to four cups each.

“Here in Ethiopia, coffee is brewed with all its ceremony; starting from roasting the beans to grinding it and then boiling it using a clay pot called “Jebena”. We drink freshly roasted and ground coffee almost every day”. Covid-19 response. Lockdown  ...
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

However, the pandemic doesn’t allow for gatherings with neighbours. I am sure there are many women who feel very lonely because of this – the ceremony is an opportunity for women and mothers to chat and give advice on personal issues.

Due to my early office hours, I don’t usually have time to make coffee this way. But now, since working from home, brewing coffee with a jebena is becoming one of my morning routines. The smell of coffee from the pot gives my house an amazing aroma.

Covid-19 response. Lockdown Diaries – Frehiwot Gebrewold, Ethiopia. June 2020.“Here in Ethiopia, coffee is brewed with all its ceremony; starting from roasting the beans to grinding it and then boiling it using a clay pot called “Jebena”.
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

Everything paused

Addis is currently in a construction boom. But I have noticed that many of the new buildings and apartments where I live are not progressing. Work has stopped.

"Corona’s effect on the society of my neighbourhood." Covid-19 response. Lockdown Diaries - Frehiwot Gebrewold. Ethiopia. May 2020
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

Usually when it’s sunny and schools are closed, children from the neighbourhood play noisy games of football on the front yard of our condo. But now parents and guardians are afraid of the pandemic, and most children stay inside.

The front yard is empty for most of the day. It made me realise that even the children’s loud voices are something I miss.

Hygiene conscious

One of the things I have noticed while staying at home is that people are developing good hygiene habits. Seeing handwashing facilities in almost every block of my neighbourhood makes me very happy.

People are washing their hands more often, using hand sanitizers and paying attention to the things they touch. As a person working in water, toilets and hygiene, this feels so great.

Keeping green and healthy

Everyone seems to be planting things in every space they have. Trees in the front yard and crops in the backyard. Flowers and herbs in the walkways and verandas.

"Developing good habits and healthy living." Covid-19 response. Lockdown Diaries - Frehiwot Gebrewold. Ethiopia. May 2020
WaterAid/ Frehiwot Gebrewold

Since the lockdown, my fiancé and I started walking around our neighbourhood. It is located some way from the city centre and gets a refreshing breeze, especially when the sun sets.

We see others taking walks and jogging with their partners and children. People are practising healthy living, and hopefully this will continue even after the lockdown ends.

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