Ethiopia

Ethiopia: "They cry so much"

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The old men squat around me in the dust. In the lines that rumple their faces are experiences I cannot imagine. War. Drought. Hunger. Death.
Mohamed Ali has a splendid name. And his words have the power and impact of his namesake's fists.

"There are children who are sick because of hunger. Children and pregnant women have died because of hunger."

"The drought has hurt children and women and adults. We have a list of those who have died."

I have a copy of that list. What strikes you is the ages of those who have died. They come from all age groups. Even the young men you imagine would be strong. Worst of all are the children. Age 2. 3. 5.

There are 39 names on the list. These are the dead from hunger from this administrative area. There are more than 300 of these areas.

The graves lie off to the side of the main transport road. The semi trailers rush by. The graves are stacks of rocks. Row after row of them. Here and there a cross. I'd take a photo, but who'd do a thing like that?

Mohamed Ali gestures to the dust around us. Listen to what Ali has to say:

"This area was farmland before the drought. Now there is no crop. No maize. No cattle. Now it is degraded and bare. Nothing. It is very serious.

"Previously here was full of cattle. Now there are none but bones. There is massive loss of cattle, so many have died.

"In normal conditions, we would have milk daily, for all family members. Now there is no milk. So there is no food. And the children are exposed to hunger."

These Afari people have a very simple diet. Milk. And bread. Bread and milk. For every meal. The only variety is the source of the milk -- cow, sheep, goat or camel. So when stock die, there is nothing else.

Ali says the Ethiopian Government has provided a little help. But it only has a little it can give.

"There's not enough. It is extremely low. So we have so much hunger. There is strong starvation. There are no coping mechanisms."

The Afarrs are strong, hardworking, resilient people. They don't like asking for help, and you can sense Ali's reluctance in sharing so deeply with a stranger. But things are so bad, and there is a trust in World Vision. They are an organization that come so closely to the people. We bring water. Every day.

"If World Vision did not bring water, we would migrate. Already some have left for elsewhere. After the World Vision water started people came back.

"If there is no water trucking from World Vision, none of us will survive.

But the struggle to survive is getting harder and harder.

"The children cry.

"When we ask why, they say they are hungry. Then they begin shouting. 'Please give us milk. Please give us milk.

"They cry so much."

"As you can see, mothers are carrying their children. They cry. The children can't get enough milk their mother's breast, but there is no alternative.

"We are very starved. We cannot survive, even for a week."