This is not a ‘happily ever after’ story
As I lay on my mattress under the stars on my last night in Ayisha, I was struck by what a different world it was from Addis Ababa (capital city of Ethiopia), and certainly from London.
I was staying in a Save the Children compound with no electricity and one tap. It was so hot inside the building, I felt as if I was sleeping in an oven.
I was there to visit our emergency nutrition project in a town called Ayesha, near the border of Djibouti (a country in East Africa, bordered by Ethiopia and Somalia).
Driving up to Ayesha, I watched the landscape get flatter and drier until it turned into desert.
We passed by many mini-communities of pastoralists living in daso’s (white, egg-shaped tents that can be packed up and moved when their owners need to find new pastures for their animals).
A bumpy ride
On the journey we passed camel trains, donkeys and funny looking baboons, but what struck me most was the amount of people walking for miles between each village in the baking hot sun.
We crossed bridge after bridge of completely dried up river beds.
In the few rivers I did see with pools of water, the water was a murky green/brown colour and almost as thick as mud.
Next to each puddle there was a group of ladies and children doing their daily ablutions.
In Ayesha, I met nine-month-old Guled and his mother in a mobile health clinic, supported by Save the Children.
Guled’s family live only six kilometres from Djibouti in a one room, mud brick house.
Guled’s mother makes ends meet carrying goods from one truck to another at the border crossing into Ethiopia — back-breaking work for a mother of five.
She used to herd sheep and goats but the drought has killed most of them and she was forced to sell the rest for money to buy food.
Guled was severely malnourished when he came to Save the Children’s mobile clinic.
He had stopped breastfeeding when he was five days old, so by the time he got to the clinic he was incredibly thin and weak.
Making a recovery
I met Guled after he had been discharged from the centre and, although he still looked very small for his age, he was healthy.
He was very happily munching through a sachet of highly nutritious peanut paste, supplied by Save the Children, while bouncing on his mother’s lap.
Although Save the Children was there to give Guled the treatment he needed, this isn’t necessarily a ‘happily ever after’ story.
Now that Guled’s mother has lost her way of life as a pastoralist, work is sporadic and she is not guaranteed a regular income.
The family cannot afford to eat everyday and it’s hard to tell how long she can keep her family going like this.
An unclear future
It will take a long time for families like Guled’s to fully recover from the effect this drought has had on their lives.
The need here is still very much present and, depending on if the October rains actually do come, conditions could well get worse.
If Save the Chidren leaves, it’s desperately unclear who will be able to provide these health services to all the mothers and children in this area.
This blog was written by Patricia Kapolyo, Information and Communications Coordinator for Save the Children in Ethiopia, Ayisha, and Somalia regions.