The following is a post from Gail Gorfe, the AAI staff member who manages Layla House and raises her own wonderful family of 4 children in Ethiopia. The electricity situation is becoming increasingly dire.
Power rationing and life in Ethiopia
Around the end of the February power rationing was started again in Ethiopia. Power rationing is done by the Ethiopian government to meet the energy demands of the country. Due to a shortage of power, the electricity is turned off to save energy. Most electricity is generated through dams and without enough water (and dams being built taking longer then scheduled) the problem continues to grow.
Back in February everyone was very annoyed with the rationing but as it continues annoyance is a very minor issue. We went from losing power for 8 hours twice a week, to 12 hours then to 16 hours every two days. As of this week it is now 24 hours every second day. This is no longer simply an annoyance, but a catastrophe for the economy and for many people. And it is not over. Rumors around town are suggesting it will be as high as 48 hours of no power and 12 hours with.
Losing power in your home is no fun, especially when you are used to the luxuries of life, like hot water in the house, a fridge and washing machine. Without power those of us with the luxuries are reminded of what the majority of Ethiopians live without every day. This does not make it any easier of course. Planning meals is harder, shopping for groceries because a daily job and even taking hot showers (especially with a large family) becomes a job of scheduling.
But the impact on the country is so much bigger. There are many small business that operate in Addis Ababa and throughout the cities where that small business provides the income for the owner and/or employees and supports a large household. Income is shared within families as unemployment is high. As power rationing continues, business close down and more people will lose their jobs, with little prospect of another one.
Small business like coffee shops, translation offices, secretarial services and so many more are dependent on power to operate and on days without power they cannot work, which is a big loss for a business that needs to bring in a specific amount of income to stay operational.
Larger business like restaurant suffer greatly too of course. A lot more time and effort is needed to prepare food and keep it fresh and many need to spend money on purchasing generators.
Government offices, banks and others also suffer great slowdowns with the power cuts. The work of one week is forced into a few days and people wait longer for things that otherwise take only a few hours.
Large factories, which provide needed items for the society, or sent products for export, and bring in the needed foreign currency, are struggling to stay operational and every day you read in the papers of another one shut down. Without sufficient power the large machines cannot operate and many hours of work are lost when the power is shut off. The government is even requiring some factories to purchase generators for their power needs or to be cut off completely.
Specific factories are currently still exempt from the rationing, such as Pharmaceutical factories, but if the power shortage continues even they will need to be included in the rationing, forcing them to become dependent on generator power in order to keep the power properly regulated.
From mid to late June until the of September is when Ethiopia has its large rains. It is the “Krempt” season. Over the past few years the rains have come as early as late May, but so far this year there have been only a few showers here and there. Rain is very much needed and once the rainy season it is fully underway the power issue will be alleviated.
Of course rain for power is not the only issue. Ethiopia has faced drought many many times in the past and if this years’ rainy season is late, there will be many other problems besides the issue of power rationing.
We can only hope and pray that the rains will come very quickly and life can return to normal.