More than 10, 000 street cleaners are scrambling to clean a city that produces 200,000 tons of waste annually; but their job is a Sisyphean task
In one uncharacteristically dry late morning in July of this year, three women with straw hats, waterproof safety jackets and plastic boots walk at their own speed alongside Roosevelt Avenue at the heart of Addis Abeba. They are wearing the thick latex gloves they use while sweeping the streets; the empty pushcarts and the idle broomsticks, however, are being pushed, thankfully, by their colleagues who are a little ahead of them. The three women look slightly fatigued, but they seem to be enjoying the less demanding hours and less daunting weather. When they arrived at the place around 5:00 am, leaving their houses an hour earlier, it was drizzling. As it is the rainy season this time of year, sometimes the day breaks with a downpour, making it unbearable to move, let alone deal with the garbage thrown overnight on the streets of a city, which six years ago was dubbed “the sixth filthiest in the entire world” by a Forbes Magazine rating. But they can’t afford to be late. They have to grapple with the most arduous parts of their tasks before the hustle and bustle of life seizes the day.