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How to Eat an Elephant

August 10th, 2009

foodstoreboricha1The scale of the human need in Ethopia is enormous. One wonders how such massive problems as hunger and HIV infection can be tackled and resolved. And yet today we saw how some progress is being made by taking it one bite at a time.

We visited a food distribution centre and met some people who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in our world. Initially the food distribution project in Boricha was designed to help 5000 people for four months. But the numbers in desperate need were so large that it has been changed to provide food for 10,000 people for two months.

The government official who accompanied us today did not permit us to take any photos of these hungry people. But the images will live forever in my mind. We talked to several of these hungry people. One woman who missed a meeting where people in need were being registered turned up for food today but was not able to receive any. Officials promised that her name and her family would be included for the next distribution. In the meantime she and her family will try to survive on the roots of false banana plants. Her body and her face bore all the marks of hunger and malnutrition. Another woman, because of the irregularities of the registration system, only received food for 3 people even though there are 6 people in her family. I asked her how she will manage for the next month. She said that she would just have to share it out in dryresevoir1small amounts as far as it would go. There was a note of despair on her voice and a look of hopelessness on het face.

It seems that her food needs could be met at a cost of around four pounds a month (per person). Christian Aid is working hard along with funding from the Irish government, but it is clear that the cuts in Irish Aid will mean that some of these very vulnerable people will simply starve. It is an awful tragedy.

One of the main causes of this crisis is drought. Yet again this year the rains have not come, and for the people of this region climate change is not just an interesting scientific phenomenon; it is a matter of life and death. No rain means no crops and no food.

Christian Aid and Tearfund are taking bites of the elephant. For that we give thanks. But it is a big animal and there is much that still needs to be done.

But that still leaves around 30,000 people in the region who are starving.

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