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Zinash’s story: struggling to survive drought in Ethiopia

A child's thin hand holds its mother's thumb© InfoZinash Goya is three years old but you would never be able to tell by looking at her. Her weak, emaciated body looks like it belongs to a newborn baby instead of a child who should be running around and playing. 

Zinash arrived at a stabilising centre for severely malnourished children a week ago. Nurse Tarekegn, who takes care of the children at the centre, said: “When she arrived here a week ago, she was hardly alive. Now we see improvement, though it will take her a few weeks to gain strength.”

Severe drought

Damot Pulasa and its neighbouring districts have been severely affected by unusual weather patterns recently. In 2007 heavy rainfall destroyed crops. A drought in 2008 has again left people with empty bellies. They were so hungry this summer that they had to eat the seeds they normally would have planted, leaving no hope for a future harvest.

Ato Mengistu Godana, vice-administrator of Damot Pulasa, said: “This district is usually known for producing surplus crops but this year we are facing unprecedented drought. All 23 villages in the district are affected by the drought.

Women and children sit on beds in a feeding centre© Info“Mothers and their children are most affected. Since April [2008], 11 children are reported to have died from hunger and more than 2,220 students have dropped out of school due to lack of food.”

Red Cross support

The Red Cross is providing immediate food relief to 40,000 people in Damot Pulasa.

Ato Mengistu, who is also a member of the Red Cross, said: “The Red Cross’ contribution is paramount because it is not just providing immediate relief but long-term support as well. The Red Cross has given people seeds, including 500 quintals of maize and nine million sweet potato cuttings that have now been planted."

Zinash’s thankful mother

A woman and child sit behind a blue net curtain at a feeding centre© InfoIt’s the kind of support that Zinash’s mother Tewabech is thankful for. Not only is her daughter being cared for in the stabilising centre, but the family has also received food relief which will continue until November 2008 when the seeds the Red Cross gave them will be ready to harvest.

She explained: “Before the drought, we had enough food from our farms. But since April this year we have consumed what we had in reserve and even lost two cows because of the drought.

“We had a serious problem until we got food rations from the Red Cross. They also gave us seeds to plant. We thank the Red Cross for saving our lives.”

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