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Battling Drought and Famine in Ethiopia

Kedija strugges to support her family though a devestating famine in Ethiopia.

Kedija lives in a mountainous area in Ethiopia.

Like the thousands of other women in her community, she is struggling to get by because of the El Niño weather phenomenon in Ethiopia, which has led to a ravaging drought and hunger crisis.

The 38-year-old lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, her husband has been bedridden for the last three years and she is now the head of the household.

Before El Niño took hold, Kedija and her family survived by growing crops on their one small area of land. The harvest was enough to meet their year-round food needs.

Today, it’s a different story.

“While the [spring] rains started normally, they became uneven with dry spells in between and then stopped about 20 days earlier than normal,” said Kedija. “This resulted in crop failure and shortages of feed for livestock. It has become harder to provide for my family, especially for my sick husband.”

Because of the ravaging drought, there has been a sharp increase in both severe and moderate acute malnutrition in Kedija’s district. The government has classified it as an area where urgent life-saving and livelihoods protection assistance is required.

The Ethiopian Government, supported by organizations like Plan International, has acted quickly.

Kedija’s household now receives 15kg of food per person per month. While this food is essential life-saving relief, she is struggling to afford other basic family needs such as clothing, spices, medical supplies, and school supplies for her daughter.

“I am trying a number of things to help make ends meet,” said Kedija. “I collect firewood from the mountain and sell it to the nearby town where I also wash clothes and earn a little money.”

To make more money, Kedija began going to town early in the morning to work. She bakes injera, a local bread that is a staple in Ethiopia.

“They pay me [about $1] and give me some injera to take home,” she said.

In preparation for the next planting season, Plan, in collaboration with the START FUND-UK, is providing emergency seed to the most vulnerable households.

Kedija has welcomed the help.

As she smiled through tears, she recalled the moment she got the news.

“The moment I learned I had been selected to receive 20 kilograms of haricot bean seeds, I ran to the [village] office to confirm this for myself,” she said. “And true, I saw my name on the beneficiary list.”

“This seed will cover only one quarter of the cultivable land,” she said. “When the rains come, I will beg for additional seeds from those that may have it and will do everything possible to increase the planted area. If it means exchanging the food we get for seed from those that may be willing to trade, I will do it, though this means having even less to live on.”

Needs still remain enormous, and Plan is appealing for increased life-saving support to help severely affected households like Kedija’s get back on their feet.

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