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Families Forced to Scavenge at Koshe Landfill Receive Lelt Assistance

Updated: Mar 29

Adanech is no stranger to struggle. Born in the south of Ethiopia in 1985, she never attended school, as is common for many girls from this impoverished region. Without an education or any employment skills training, she left her home when she was only 14 to search for work opportunities in the north. She couldn’t afford rent in the capital of Addis Ababa, so Adanech settled in Koshe, an acutely impoverished neighborhood in the southern outskirts of the city. Koshe is the site of a massive garbage landfill where hundreds of thousands of civilians reside to scavenge in the rubbish for sustenance and pay low rent in nearby dwellings. Adanech scavenged at the dump from first light to nightfall, looking for food and recyclables up to 11 hours each day. She said, "Life at Koshe was harder than I imagined it would be. Every waking hour was spent searching through garbage for anything of value. With all the hardship for all of us, abuse was rampant. Women face sexual and physical abuse daily. We have to be on guard all the time from frustrated men in the neighborhood, and other dangers. I remember watching a woman get hit by a garbage truck because she ran out first to get the most valuable waste.” In 2017, the dangers at the Koshe landfill made international news when disastrous landslides buried hundreds of civilians who lived and scavenged at the site.

In 2010, Adanech met Abraham, and they fell in love. When they married, she envisioned their escape from Koshe; having children and raising a family in a safe neighborhood far from the city dump. Abraham worked as a carpenter, building new homes in the nearby neighborhoods of Addis Ababa. One tragic morning five years ago, Abraham had a misstep at his job site and fell from the fifth floor landing. Adanech was left widowed and unsupported, raising their three children at the landfill by herself.

Grieving while struggling to feed her daughter and two sons, Adanech continued to forage for recyclables and food scraps in the Koshe garbage dump. She was injured by glass shards and sharp objects in trash bags, and her family got ill from contaminated foods. She said, “at one point, my friend was scavenging for food and found a dead baby in the garbage. It was terrifying. The men who were sorting through the rubbish took the baby away to bury it. This has traumatized me for a long time. I cannot stop thinking about that poor child. I want my children to live in a safer environment, where they won’t be exposed to horrible things like this."

Women at Koshe Landfill

In May 2023, Adanech’s family applied for assistance in Lelt Foundation programs. They began receiving nutritional rations so Adanech wouldn’t have to scavenge anymore. Her daughter, Tigist, joined Lelt’s educational programs and is now attending elementary school and an after school computer class. Despite having no electricity at home, she is learning technology skills at Lelt’s Klein Computer Lab, while enhancing her literacy skills through educational games. Adanech will join Lelt’s business creation program to learn trade skills, money management, and eventually have access to a micro-loan so she can start her own small business. 

Adanech and her family are determined to utilize the assistance they receive through Lelt's programs and create a better future for themselves.

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