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Newsweek: Building Loyalty, One Toilet at a Time

Author: Jason McLure
September 12, 2007



The U.S. military is hoping that soft projects like drilling wells and building schools will help it win friends in a volatile part of Africa.


In Dire Dawa, shantytown residents used to relieve themselves in a dry riverbed. Lacking bathrooms, they rose early or stayed up late to perform their ablutions under cover of darkness, recalls Jilelu Shemsu, a 23-year-old who lives in a small metal-roof shack in the Ethiopian city. These days, though, things are better. Sixty families now share a new five-pit concrete-floor latrine—all paid for by Washington. The reason: the U.S. military hopes that funding such projects will help it fight terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

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