Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability

WaterWater and sanitation

Targets include the need to protect the environment, to reduce by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and to significantly improve the lives of slum dwellers.

2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. Over one billion people are without access to safe drinking water. Five million people, mostly children under the age of five, die every year from waterborne diseases caused by inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. Damage to the environment increases each year, mainly through unsustainable agriculture, removal of forests and loss of soil fertility.

Creating cleaner cities

Sileshi Demissie began the Gashe Abera Molla Association in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to clean up the environment, create jobs and mobilise the community.

Sileshi, an Ethiopian by birth, returned to Addis Ababa after 20 years as a successful singer in the USA and decided to do something about the social and environmental problems in his home city.

Sileshi visited schools and used music, dance, poems, drama and paintings to encourage students to look at the city’s environmental problems. They considered how they could deal with the issues. With a team of homeless children and local residents, Sileshi targeted the worst areas of the city. They transformed waste areas full of rubbish and pollution into parks that were clean, green, painted and fenced. Coughing, respiratory disease and allergies were reduced as a result. Unemployed youths were trained in wood and metal work, recycling and environmental management.

However, there was still urine in the new green areas. When asked why, the community replied, ‘Give us toilets and we will use them.’ In response, Sileshi and his team came up with a new approach – mobile toilets with kiosks. These can be wheeled away, emptied into latrines and locked up at night. Users are charged a small fee and homeless children have jobs as attendants, keeping the area clean and earning extra money by selling goods from the kiosk.

It has made a big difference for Eskender Tadesse. ‘Before, I was homeless and I didn’t have an income to support myself. Now, with the toilet, I have an income and am able to save.’

Fasika, who was once a homeless child, is another mobile toilet attendant. She sells women’s accessories at her kiosk and keeps her area clean. ‘My child can go to school, I can rent my own house and I am living comfortably. I never want my children to have to go out begging.’

The scheme benefits other local residents. As one customer remarked, ‘It is very important to have mobile toilets, we need them all over the city to keep the environment clean. They help youths to get jobs in the city too.’

The Gashe Abera Molla Association works in partnership with WaterAid.
Website: www.wateraid.org

Discussion questions

Tearfund encourages advocacy work promoting access to safe water and sanitation…

  • How can we facilitate change in attitudes and practice towards good hygiene and sanitation?
  • What policies and practices affect the lack of provision of water and sanitation in our communities?
  • How can we work towards changing these policies and practices?

Other ideas to meet Goal 7

  • Plant more trees to protect the soil and water supplies and provide shade, fuel wood and windbreaks.
  • Build contour barriers of earth, stone or plant waste to prevent rain washing the soil away from fields.
  • Use SODIS to purify water (Footsteps 51).
  • Build hand dug latrines.
  • Collect rainwater for drinking.
  • Use more efficient stoves to save fuel.

Progress for Goal 7 

Without much greater effort, it is unlikely that the targets for improving access to clean water and sanitation will be met. The number of people living in slums is likely to double to almost two billion by 2015 and the targets to improve their lives are highly unlikely to be met.