The motorcycle serves as the family taxi, transporting the kids to school. Early in the morning, he rides through the streets of Shashemene where he works and lives with his wife and four children.

He does not take education for granted. His parents gave up theirs to give him a chance.

Learning lit a fire in him.

“I came from an uneducated family. So, I feel very happy when I support such people. This is what motivates me.”

When COVID came to Ethiopia in August 2020, containment was weak. Many people were infected quickly through lack of information and disbelief.

As a health worker, he was taking samples from the sick and dying. He could not offer these patients much in terms of treatment or even comfort.

It was a difficult and fearful time. And the severely limited supply of safe water only made the job harder.

“People travel about 50 km to fetch water. They asked us: why do you teach us about COVID and washing? There is no water.”

Can you imagine the possible backlash against encouraging handwashing when there is no water to drink? When basic needs are not met, health needs almost become irrelevant.

But he would not be held back. Along with his fellow health workers, he used local radio to reach rural communities and spread information. He often walked for hours on end, even facing wild animals at night.

They did not stop there and provided food, protective equipment, soap and jerrycans for washing to over 4,000 of the poorest households.

Health and water go hand in hand. As he will tell you, investing in water means investing in health. You cannot work on health unless you work on water.

“My name is Hussien.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, I stand up for clean water and personal hygiene in my community.
I create change.”


is a public health emergency management officer in Ethiopia and works in the Shashemene district health office. By ensuring his children receive a good education, he continues to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. Just like his parents did for him.


people infected

‘Index patient’ is the term used for the first patient to contract and spread an infectious disease. In Hussien’s community, the index patient was a 29-year-old mother who died in hospital after infecting 17 people in a single day.


per cent

In the communities where Hussein works, safe water or house-to-house piped supply is about 0.25%.


life-threatening diseases

In addition to COVID, there are 23 life-threatening diseases being dealt with by the district health office where Hussien works, including cholera, malaria, diarrhoea and tuberculosis. With adequate access to clean and safe water, most of these diseases can be prevented.


The story continues