Antidote to Poverty Hidden in Plain Sight

Most of the time, we urbanites are too caught up in our busy and inconvenient lives to notice what is going on outside our city limits. The Addis Abeba that dominates our newspaper contents and TV programs, for all its shortcomings, masks an even harsher reality in rural towns. I feel it is not discussed how much crippling poverty there still is in some parts of our country.

For anyone who explores these towns, where most Ethiopians live, it is remarkable to witness their strength and will to keep going.

During my travels to rural towns, I had the opportunity to visit hospitals where medical professionals and health centres are expected to deliver beyond their capacity. Hospitals such as Goba Referral Hospital, operational for over half a century, has five beds in its maternity ward forcing medical practitioners to deliver babies on the floor.

It does not require a medical doctor to figure out how likely an infection is in this case, as well as an infant or maternal death at the hospital because of the lack of resources. Goba is not the only hospital though. There are similar problems in hospitals located in Assosa, Gonder and Assela.

Human resource is not adequate, and there is often a lack of medical equipment at town hospitals and health centres which the medical professionals claim only works for a month and takes up space after that.

Poverty does not only mean bad healthcare. Parents often have too many children, well over the three or four times that is evident in Addis Abeba. Thus, only a handful of the children are sent to school, leaving the rest to fend for themselves. It is the females that get the short end of the stick here more often than not. Although seeing universities in remote areas of the towns should give us a glimpse of hope, it is arguable how many can afford to send their children there.

Creating a sustainable and equitable economic development should be at the heart of the government’s agenda. Leaders should inspire the public to support one another to drive local solutions to our massive social problems. Improvement will not come by ignoring problems. It requires active and thoughtful remoulding of the attitudes of leaders and the general public.

Hiding failures and problems have never gotten us anywhere. Instead, creating awareness will allow citizens to tap into their resources to take the country out of the deep poverty it is in.

Undeniably the government has the biggest part to play, in setting agendas, designing strategies and getting the funds to bring opportunity to these towns. The top-down initiative must be carried out to ensure that the public, business leaders and charity organisations contribute.

Often the best ideas are grassroots though. Creating opportunities from experience sharing between skilled professionals in the capital and the youth in rural towns through volunteerism can help enhance the skilled human power shortage. The potential to transfer relevant skills and support from locals to locals has rarely been tapped.

Encouraging the public and firms to exercise social responsibility by sharing know-how and finance can be another means. Towns like Bale have the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) to thank for supplying female students with school materials at the university level. Such a profound cultural change will strengthen the role and influence of the Ethiopian society.

The effort needs to be comprehensive. Charities or the government alone cannot make a difference, give either limited range of financial or implementation capacity. It must incorporate active participation from the government, the public and private players.

Employer-supported volunteering is unheard of in Ethiopia; its benefit is vast though. It allows knowledge and expertise sharing in areas where support can be expensive and in short supply.

In addition to supporting and contributing to a wide range of charities that can allow individuals to work harder to change their lives, it may also bring many positive business returns for companies. It highly promotes an organisation as a socially responsible business entity. The company can stand out as a good employer with a broad impact on reinforcing a culture of teamwork.

Giving back to the community brings different people and departments together and allows senior managers and directors with all sorts of skill sets to connect and share experiences. A supportive and solution-focused culture is one in which all of us should strive to achieve.

One way to help maintain and develop a culture like this is to bring everyone together through the common willingness to contribute at an individual capacity and address one of Ethiopia’s most stubborn problems: poverty.

By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied Law and International Economic Law. She can be reached at

Published on Jun 16,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 946]



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