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Green famine in Ethiopia

Guardian: The rains have come, the land is lush but Ethiopians still go hungry

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Story Transcript

Courtesy: The Guardian

VOICEOVER: Rain is falling on the green hills of West Badawacho in the southwest of Ethiopia. With its lush, fertile land and waving fields of maize, Badawacho looks a million miles away from the barren, drought-ridden plains of Ethiopia’s northern provinces and is the last place you’d expect to find hunger. But here, months of acute food shortages mean that many people are facing near-starvation, and severe malnourishment can be found in practically every village in the district. UK charity Save the Children is now giving emergency assistance to 900 of the most severely malnourished children in this district. The worst cases are brought here to this stabilization clinic for medical treatment, where ["AS-fa-fatch"] is nursing her emaciated baby, who was brought here on the brink of death a week ago.

ASFAFATCH (VOICEOVER TRANSLATION): I came here because my child is sick, because his body was swollen. We have a shortage of food in our home. We had a small amount of false banana in our garden, but now these are finished. My baby had fever, diarrhea, and was vomiting. It made me very scared to see my child so sick. Before, when we were in our home, I don’t have enough money to take him to the health center. But now he’s here. He is improving.

VOICEOVER: West Badawacho is currently in the grip of the worst green famine it has faced for decades. For three consecutive seasons, no rain has led to an almost total crop failure across this region. I talked to ["OH-chay-HYO-med"], a farmer and father of six, who says his family now have practically nothing to survive on.

OHCHAYHYOMED (VOICEOVER TRANSLATION): We have already eaten the little corn that we had, and we only have enough for one meal a day. As for the future, I don’t know what will happen. We are in God’s hands.

VOICEOVER: While this district has faced food shortage before, the critical situation seen this year is partly to do with a sharp rise in food prices across the country. With no crops coming from the fields, families are now unable to afford the staple foods they need to keep going. In a West Badawacho market, ["A-sek-al-FET-cho"], a market trader, says that prices have increased 100 to 300 percent since last December.

ASEKALFETCHO: This glass of maize cost 12 cents before; now it costs $2. The price has gone up because the production of maize has dropped so much. If the price of piece has gone up from 50 cents to $3 but the number of buyers have dropped away because nobody has enough money to buy food anymore.

VOICEOVER: The Ethiopian government says that 4.6 million people in drought-affected areas across Ethiopia need immediate assistance. But unofficial estimates from donor agencies put the figure close to 8 to 10 million. In West Badawacho, there is hope that a late harvest in September will bring some respite to those who have already endured months of hunger. But for farmers like ["shi-RAY-kay-fa-REN-jay"], who has no maize plants swaying in the green fields, the January rains are still a very long way off.

SHIRAYKAYFARENJAY (VOICEOVER TRANSLATION): The reason for the shortage of food is there is no rain. Normally by this time of the year we would have harvested our maize crop and people would be eating maize. But this year there has been no harvest, and we have not been able to cultivate sweet potato either. Due to the shortage of rain, many cattle died, and children also have died too.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.