The scene is Kechene, Addis Ababa - one the poorest slums in Ethiopia. Mena Suvari, one of Hollywood's eminent stars, strides across a trench of sewage. She approaches a mud-walled shack where a woman is selling charcoal and heaps of green grass for the Sunday coffee ceremonies, which characterise this eastern Africa city.
One of the first pieces of advice I received before leaving on this reporting project was from an Ethiopian diplomat in the States who requested that I "not be a typical journalist" in my coverage of Africa. What he meant, and what he went on to say more specifically, was that he didn't want to see any more stories about African poverty in the news.
"Why don't you write about positive things, like investment opportunities," he suggested cheerfully as we toasted with Ethiopian honey wine in his spacious suburban home.
For women in Dillo, Ethiopia, fetching water is a daily ritual, but also a daily danger. Jessica Partnow and Alex Stonehill follow Fadi Jilo on her journey to a disease infested pool that her village relies on for water.
All images by Alex Stonehill.
Chala Ahmed, 26, hit the jackpot eight years ago when he won the U.S. visa lottery in the bustling eastern Ethiopian town of Haramaya.
His first thought was that he would build his mother a big, beautiful house. His next thought was that the new home, painted a rosy pink behind a high white gate, should be erected on the shore of Lake Haramaya, the huge stretch of placid water that gave his hometown its name.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today is World Water Day. To mark the critical importance of water, the P-I is featuring two articles by Sarah Stuteville, a Seattle native and lead reporter for The Common Language Project, a Seattle-based media nonprofit. For more of Stuteville's reporting from Ethiopia, visit clpmag.org. Funding for these articles was provided by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
“Just breathe,” I tell myself as I slowly shuffle up the dusty gravel path. “One breath with each step.” I have a muddy yellow plastic can strapped to my back. It is filled with water and weighs 50 pounds, close to a third as much as I weigh. It is hard for me to walk, but I am trying to follow the cracked plastic sandals in front of me.
When Chala Ahmed won the U.S. visa lottery in the town of Haramaya in eastern Ethiopia, his first thought was to earn enough money in America to build his mother a home. The new house would be painted pink and sit behind a high white gate, and it would be built on the shores of Lake Haramaya, a nine-mile stretch of placid water that gave his hometown its name.
It took Ahmed, 26, almost eight years of long-haul trucking across the United States before his family's house was finished. He sent money home regularly, and relatives reported back on the progress.
We stood in the pre-dawn glow of the streetlamps, greeted by intoxicated heckles from the previous night’s most diligent drinkers. A battered, extended cab Toyota Hilux pickup pulled up, carrying a mound of mysterious goods under a green tarp and bearing faded Ethiopian Red Cross decals on its doors.
Some of my toughest times growing up in Kenya were those spent on my way to and from the village river. I call it the village river because it was by and large the only source of water for my village. Never mind the fact that the river was four miles away and was shared among scores of villages along its course.
5:30am and still dark. But the rooster knows the sun is coming and his crow trills up past the sulfurous street lamps into the still night sky.
He’s woken the dogs, and suddenly their frantic howling seems to come from the top of every hill in Addis, making the city seem surrounded by their feral packs.
The sharp barks are soon undercut by the rising moan of the muezzin. He sings the same words that have woken me around the world, but his melody here is unique, more of a monotonous chanting than the sung declaration I’ve heard before.