Twelve-year-old Favor lives in Lideta, an informal settlement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Her mother works as a waitress, earning around 1,000 birr a month – about £3.
Favor’s situation is a telling reminder of just how poor are millions of people living in Ethiopia, even when they are in full time work.
Favor was part of a group of orphans and vulnerable children I met at a World Vision project in Lideta. For a number of the teenagers, both parents have died, so they are now the head of the family.
World Vision has helped some of these young people with equipment to enable them to support their families. One teenager owns a ping pong table which he hires out for games, giving him an income of around 10 or 20 birr a day – pence in UK terms, but money that makes a considerable difference for himself and the brothers and sisters he looks after.
A new kind of poverty
Families living in Lideta have often migrated from the countryside – where dependence on the land is a struggle – in search of a better life in the city. But there they find a new kind of poverty.
Around 200,000 people have made the settlement their home. There is no running water and poor sanitation is a substantial threat to the health of both children and adults. Housing is basic (homes are made from wood or mud with iron roofs); there is limited access to healthcare and education; HIV and AIDS are prevalent; unemployment is high.
Many women in Lideta make a small living selling injera – traditional bread eaten daily with meat. But the firewood needed to cook the bread is expensive.
World Vision has supported some of Lideta’s women with fuel-efficient stoves.
Watching the injera makers at work, I was struck by the success of this community enterprise. The bread is giving women a more secure source of income and helping them towards self-sufficiency. The money earned enables women to send their children to school and to save a little for the future.
Cooking has also inspired another activity in the community. Spices are used in most Ethiopian cookery, so World Vision has helped to build several small shops in Lideta where women sell local spices in convenient quantities for people to use when preparing a meal.
I met a number of women living with HIV or AIDS whom World Vision has come alongside. They told me that the Global Fund for Health means that they now have much better access to anti-retroviral drugs, but their overall health is still incredibly poor. World Vision is running HIV and AIDS awareness training in the community and offering practical help to affected families.
Families in Lideta often face a daily struggle for survival. But local trades – whether they involve a ping pong table, a stove for baking bread or a booth selling spices – are helping to improve the lives of many adults and children in the community.
Tony Baldry is MP for Banbury, North Oxfordshire, where members of a local church sponsor 16 children in Lideta, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia