Day 2: the Ethiopian Highlands
We got up at 4.00 am so that we could leave at 4.30. We didn’t have time for breakfast, as we had to check in at the airport two hours before, even though we were catching an internal flight.
We had to get on a bus to cross the tarmac to board the plane, and we literally walked from the ground right onto the small plane, which is something I hadn’t done before.
When the plane stopped, Nick the photographer got off the plane, and we almost did too, until we realised that we were not in Lalibela, and that we still had two more stops to go. It was more like a bus than a plane.
We flew over some huge mountains and lakes, and the view was amazing for the entire journey. When we walked off the plan in Lalibela, we noticed that the temperature was much hotter than it had been before.
From there we headed to Meket, which was three hours away. The journey was incredible. We passed huts made of mud, and others made from sticks and straw.
All the children we passed were running after the car and waving and smiling at us. I was amazed at how far the children were walking. They were in charge of huge cattle – the animals were at least double their height. Some were working in the fields, while others tended to their goats and sheep.
When we arrived in Meket we walked down a dusty lane into a lush, green field. A Save the Children Nutritional Centre was located at the side of the field.
Mothers bring their malnourished children to the centre. Some of them had walked for miles and miles just to get there.
The nurses fed the children a special paste called Plumpy’Nut, which is a bit like peanut butter, except it has lots of added nutrition to make them healthy. The children were very silent and had very little energy. The nurses put a special armband around the top of the children’s arms. They had different colours, which helped the nurses understand how badly malnourished the babies were. Red meant that they were severely malnourished; every child that I saw had red armbands on.
The children’s siblings were there too, and they were waiting patiently. I took some pictures and then showed them – they were ecstatic. They were running around and laughing. When it was time to leave the elder children followed us up the road and waved us off.
In the afternoon we visited Sankaa, a village that Save the Children had helped. They had layered the land to stop soil sliding down the mountain when the rains came. Many locals had been paid to do the job, which was also a bonus. In two years the hillside had turned from unusable soil to green and lush plants.
The following morning we were scheduled to get up at 5 am so we went to bed as early as possible. What I wasn’t expecting was to be woken at 3.00 and then 4.00 in the morning for the call to prayer from the street.