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The beauty and struggles of rural Ethiopia

Travelling along the bumpy dirt road out to the villages of Siraro district in Ethiopia, the first thing you notice is how beautiful the landscape is – rolling fields dotted with grass-roofed mud huts, pairs of oxen moving slowly side by side ploughing fields and passing donkeys transporting bundles of firewood and jerry cans of water.

This is one of Ethiopia’s most drought-prone areas, yet there has been some rain in the weeks before our visit so it’s greener than I expect. I’m also surprised at how peaceful it is – just like being in the countryside at home.

The other massive challenge here is the changing weather patterns. In Siraro, families are struggling to survive in a vicious cycle of flood and drought. Drought once came every 10 years, now it’s more like every one to two years. When the rains do come, they are erratic or too late. This is causing havoc for farming communities who survive on what they grow – when nothing grows, people don’t survive.

This is why ChildFund has been providing emergency food aid, water and medical care in Siraro, as part of our response to last year’s drought across the Horn of Africa. While the situation has stabilised, ChildFund’s support continues to ensure children are nourished and cared for during this critical time in their development. Rations of Famix (a nutritious porridge mix) and edible oil are being distributed to the most vulnerable families on a monthly basis.

However, while food aid supports you to survive, it can’t save your assets or livelihood. Longer-term solutions, such as drilling wells, installing rainwater cisterns, constructing grain storage tanks, diversifying people’s skills and incomes, and encouraging a savings culture, are also necessary to reduce the impact of future droughts. With ChildFund supporting all of these activities in Siraro, I left feeling hopeful that things are heading in the right direction.

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