The elderly are eating every other day so that they can save children’s lives

The elderly are eating every other day so that they can save children’s lives

A long drought in the Horn of Africa is threatening the lives of 17 million people. They don’t have water and wait in vain for harvest. In this large humanitarian catastrophe, Czechs are helping pastoral tribes in the south of Ethiopia. 

Every year, the Bodi tribe from the zone of South Omo in Ethiopia chooses a man from each family for him to drink during half a year litres of a cocktail from cow milk and blood. Soon the chosen ones literally puff up. Everything ends with a ceremony of the men showing off their newly acquired corpulence to the others. And precisely nowadays they lose their only possession and livelihood source. Ethiopia, part of the so-called Horn of Africa alongside Somalia, South Sudan or Kenya, is afflicted by deadly drought. The cows die of thirst and drinking water is already lacking for people, too. They wait in vain for the rain to pour over their fields and for the pasture for their cattle to grow.

According to the World Food Programme, as a consequence of this crisis 8.5 million people in Ethiopia do not have sufficient food. “By saving cattle, we save people. They are dependent on meat and milk, which are now lacking, and undernutrition is getting worse. I witnessed how the elderly are leaving their food for the younger. For example, they were eating once every other day, in order to save the lives of their children and grandchildren. This is how bad the situation is,“ says Michal Przedlacki, a humanitarian worker from Poland, who was at the beginning in the charge of the whole People in Need operation.

“Our main task is now to ensure feed for cattle and water to villages. In some places, we repair the water wells that are broken. In other places though we have to deliver water in tanks, or even by donkey, because there are no roads, “ he recounts. “For example in Jinka, the main city of the region, there is only one hospital with a catchment area of over a million people and this hospital is now getting water from the river,“ he adds. Women and children spend many hours a day walking for the life-giving liquid. Now the sources of water are getting farther. “We do not only give people again water, but also free time. Instead of walking with a container they can instead, for instance, sit in a school bench or take care of their family,“ adds Przedlacki. The Czech organisation is supported by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

A big challenge is the language barrier. Individual tribes in South Omo speak their own languages, which are often not used by anybody else. This is why there always has to be a competent interpreter in People in Need’s team. “Not even 5% of the local population here speak Amharic, Ethiopia‘s official language. We even work in a village, where there are the last 91 people who speak their own language,“ says Michal Przedlacki. He spent a few months in South Omo. “The villages where we work are very remote. Often there are no roads leading there, so humanitarian workers spend hours on the road. Temperatures here regularly reach over 40 Celsium degrees. It is a very stressful job. But as a humanitarian worker, I am there where it is necessary,“ adds Michal Przedlacki from People in Need.

Author: Tereza Hronová