Sunday 15 September 2019

Drought in Ethiopia: 'Life is very difficult...I have lost everything'

Ciara Jordan

The unforgiving effect of El Nino has resulted in over 10.2 million people in Ethiopia in need of food aid. The country is experiencing the worst drought in three decades. Those who were already vulnerable before the climate change phenomenon are the worst affected. When crops failed last year, only those who could afford it had reserves. Leaving many people with nothing. Especially those who rely on working on farms for income.

I spoke to Danisto, a widow and mother of four, in a small rural village in Southern Ethiopia.

Danisto’s life was difficult before El Nino, but her situation has become dire because of the drought.

“My husband died six years ago. After his death, I could no longer afford to feed all four of my children. I had to send my older children away. For the past six years they have lived with other families, in another village 60 km away. I haven’t seen any of them in over a year. They work for the families they stay with so they can eat and go to school.”

Her husband was a labourer on a farm and died suddenly after a two day sickness. While it was a struggle when he was alive, their life has become increasingly difficult.

Danisto tells me this heart-breaking story with tears in her eyes in her small thatched home where she lives with her youngest son, Kitsea.

Both of them labour on neighbours’ farms in order to survive. Danisto works for a local farmer and is paid approximately 50c for eight hours work per day. Kitsea, who is seven years old, herds cattle.

“I have nothing. If I could afford to feed my children, I would bring them home. I would have them live with me and watch them grow up but I have nothing.”

The farm Danisto works on has been heavily affected by El Nino.

Droughts devastated food production in areas reliant on rain for crop production. Just over 80% of the working population in Ethiopia is employed in the agricultural sector.

“The farmer’s crops failed last year because the rain didn’t come. He didn’t have much work for me. It was a very difficult time. We had very little to survive on. My son and I were hungry. I hope the rains will come this year so I can get work and feed my son.”

Danisto’s children learned of the struggle their mother has endured and plan to come home and do some maintenance work on her home.

“They know of my situation and want to help me. But I am their mother, I am supposed to help them.

Life is very difficult. I miss my children. I won’t see them grow up. I have lost everything.”


Ciara Jordan is GOAL's Communication Officer.

GOAL has been working in Ethiopia since 1984. Since November 2015, GOAL Ethiopia has expanded its operations from 22 districts to 66 districts across Ethiopia to respond to the El Nino crisis. During 2015, the Irish charity reached circa 600,000 direct beneficiaries.

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