Ethiopia: Home alone in Gode, a forgotten village
Gode, in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, is dusty and windy, and in the middle of the desert. It’s a forgotten village. There is no phone network and no internet. The roads are tracks.
The rains haven’t come here – locals tell me that there has been maybe a week of rain all year. I am the only ‘Ferenji’ (white person) here with Save the Children, and most of my days are characterised by crackly conversations over the radio with the our base and our teams in the field, all in the searing heat.
Camel milk is generally considered the best way to start a day, so I start by swallowing that down, swiftly followed by highly sweetened tea, before walking the short distance from my portacabin (which I’m sharing with a monk) to the office.
It’s mating season for the donkeys, so I keep a beady eye on them as I walk past.
Security is tight, and the team travel in convoy everywhere, so the first task of the day is to plan our movements. I meet with other organisations shortly after to co-ordinate who is doing what where.
An update on the situation here is given from OCHA (who co-ordinate humanitarian affairs) – there are many displaced persons in the area, and more expected to come.
We deliver programmes to the displaced people on the border with Somalia (about 50km away) as well as the local pastoralist populations.
We’re doing a wide range of work – water and sanitation (providing clean water, rehabilitating water sources, making sure school and health centres have a water supply and building latrines).
Child protection (putting in place a system for tracing unaccompanied children and family reunification) and livelihoods (feeding animals, vaccinating and some cash for work) are also priorities.
It’s great work – but exhausting.
I have lunch in the town (wearing a scarf to protect myself from the dust) and meet the owner, practise my Somali, and sit down to a meal of Injera and tibs (local kind of pancake and unidentified meat with a spicy sauce).
Full from lunch and suffering in the heat, I have a meeting with a water trucking owner to agree delivery of clean water to the villages.
I got my timings wrong as the Ethiopian clock here is confusingly 6 hours behind. So the guy thought I was meeting him at 4 pm Ethiopian time, which is 10pm European time.
Everyone has a good laugh about the time difference (this happens on a daily basis) and eventually we agree that actually I meant 10am Ethiopian time.
We show them how to chlorinate the water from the borehole, and finally the water trucking contract is signed and the truck is on its way.
At the end of the day I shower in river-water and scrub my feet again – they have been permanently dyed orange from the dust. I go to bed exhausted.