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Ethiopia: staring into the abyss

Sarah Stack of the Press Association is blogging with us this week on the food crisis in Ethiopia. This is her fourth post.

Read her previous entries: part onepart two and three.

The seven-hour drive from the buzzing capital of Addis Ababa to the heart of rural Ethiopia is deceptive. The countryside is green, trees are in full bloom, soil is deep burgundy, and in some areas water still runs through river beds.

However, tens of thousands of Ethiopians are on the brink of starving to death as a result of a massive food shortage.

Frightening

Concern’s Abraham Asha, said “the figures are frightening”. Mr Asha, programme manager in the Wolayita district, is in charge of Concern’s biggest projects in three areas – Damot Woyde, Duguna Fango and Offa – which have a combined population of more than 350,000.

Lifesaving nutrition programme

Concern’s lifesaving nutrition programme targets the region's most hungry people. But funding can cover supplies only for the most vulnerable – the under-fives, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Mr Asha said volunteers in the community first screen children who, if malnourished, are sent to local health centres.

Moderately malnourished youngsters will be admitted to a supplementary feeding programme and the most severely affected treated as outpatients with a high protein food called plumpynut. "In the most severe cases, if a child is too weak for plumpy-nut, they are hospitalised," he said.

Numbers continuing to rise

"The child will often be suffering from an illness, including diarrhoea, malaria and have to be drip-fed. If these children were not put on a programme within three to four days, they would die.

“Up to 50 children are turning up for this help every day and these numbers are continuing to rise.”