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Let’s face it; Addis Ababa is, by no means, a clean city. I can’t remember a time where I have not smelled something awful, usually urine and other human waste along with decomposing garbage, while walking through narrow alleys and passages as well as some major streets in the city.
It’s true though that Addis is much cleaner than it was a decade ago. Then, it was the site of overflowing big trash containers, which was common at almost every corner of the city. We have yet to develop the culture of cleanliness, cleanliness beyond our house and our yards. We are used to not caring once we step out of our own limited space and into our environs or beyond. We litter like it’s nobody’s business, but it should be one of our major concerns. One of the reasons that Addis is showing progress in the area of cleanliness is the assignment of street cleaners. We all see them in the morning, with their faces and bodies covered, swiping away at what was left behind from previous days.
Most of the time, street cleaners go about their jobs, around the same time most of us go to work. If you happen to be walking to work and you are suddenly enveloped with a swirl of dust, there usually is a street cleaner around the corner. Most countries have people who clean the streets every day, but the difference is they usually do it way before the world wakes up to a new day. We sincerely hope that, maybe, we in this country too would someday wake up to the sights and smell of clean streets. Then, again maybe, we will get used to the idea of a clean environment so much that we will not be able to take nothing less.
The truth is that these people who clean our streets work hard; it is not easy to keep up with our slovenly nature and utter negligence. Every day they have to wake up to deal with our compulsive ways of just throwing out used phone cards, tissue papers, plastic bags and so on, on the streets.
I see these people, who are usually older women, doing what I think is one of the most tiring jobs out there and can’t help but feel sorry for them for all they have to deal with, but it is a job after all; that is how they support themselves and their family.
I have learned, in my own way that keeping yourself and the area around you clean is a learned habit, but it can also be forgotten easily. If you live around and in dirty places, dirt becomes a part of you and you don’t mind it; you even might not easily get used to a cleaner area.
Most people think that dirt is the by-product of poverty. Is it? I think attitude is the core problem in most cases. I have actually seen a person who stepped out of his house, walked less than a meter and realized he had to use the bathroom; but instead of going back to his house which is right there, he just goes ahead and takes a leak on somebody else’s wall. I mean really? It’s quite absurd.
Obviously, people who live on the streets don’t have options and no ‘so called’ decent café or any other establishment would probably let them use their bathroom.
Saying that though, most people I have seen peeing and littering on the streets are not homeless; they are just ordinary people like you and me. Even homeless people have the decency to use plastic bags!
The people who clean the streets certainly can’t handle the amount of garbage we generate and throw out in just a day. That is why the streets don’t look tidy, even after being cleaned, because we are right there to mess it up again.
Yes, I wrote earlier that to clean is their job; but it should also be our duty to consciously refrain from exacerbating the problem and go one step further by helping keep our environs neat. We need to start taking responsibility for our actions. Yes, our streets are smelly, but we certainly are the ones that made it that way.
Here is a challenge for those of you that might come across this article: I challenge you to actually make use of the trash cans that are placed in most areas around Addis!, Just hang on to your used scratch cards or tissue papers long enough until you come across a trash can and toss it where it belongs. This might seem simple, but apparently, it is not. You have to get used to doing that and make it a habit. Then, and only then, it becomes a part of you.
Let’s make the tasks of our street cleaners a little bit easier. It really takes little effort and a major attitude adjustment. Wouldn’t you love to wake up to a clean Addis Ababa?