Life on hold in Ethiopia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WaterAid’s global COVID-19 response
Right now, our teams in 26 countries around the world are working flat out to provide handwashing essentials to stop the spread of coronavirus.