Without this, we’d have to eat dust

USAID is the largest donor to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Ethiopia. Its contributions are sustaining lives and keeping hope alive for the most vulnerable.

May 20, 2020 · 3 min read

Story by Edward Johnson

Sahra is the sole carer for her eight grandchildren. Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson

Sahra’s story is one of strength. She suffered beyond imagination over the past three years. Due to two separate tribal land grabs, she’s lost her home, her land, her husband, her daughter and her son-in-law. And now she’s the sole carer for eight grandchildren. They live together in a one-room home in the hills above Jijiga in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. The sixty-something-year-old spends her days as a cook, cleaner, carer and teacher for her children.

“I wake up with the birds, and there’s always one child crying,” Sahra explained, “but we laugh a lot too. I see my daughter in their eyes, and I’m doing everything I can to keep her memory alive.”

It seems like the world is against Sahra, but the generosity of one nation thousands of kilometres away is literally giving her the strength she needs. WFP provides food assistance for refugees and displaced Ethiopians in Somali Region every month. Thanks to generous contributions from USAID and the American people, that food is a stable lifeline for women like Sahra.

We met her during her monthly visit to Gabagaba Health Centre, about 500 metres from her home. It’s the furthest she ventures, and she spends as little time as possible there, scared of what might happen if she leaves the children alone too long.

(L) Sahra brings a tracking card for WFP to verify how much food she will receive. (R) She carries the food home in a scarf. Photos: WFP/Edward Johnson

Sahra is at the government-run health centre to collecting specialised nutritious food called Plumpy’Sup for the children. They are all malnourished.

“Look at all this,” she laughs, pointing at a pile of enriched peanut filled sachets on the floor. It is unusual to see so many nutrition products collected for one family. But it’s even more surprising to see a grandmother scoop them all up in a scarf, throw them over her shoulder and march back home to eight hungry children.

Each month, Sahra receives a ‘general food distribution’ from WFP containing a mixture of a corn soya blend product, pulses, salt and vegetable oil. That’s her diet month in month out.

“I had cows and goats before, but now I have nothing,” Sahra explained. “Without this, we’d have to eat dust.”

Health center staff give a cooking demonstration at the clinic. Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson

WFP is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions to provide this kind of life-saving support. Most of those contributions come from governments. In 2019, the United States of America provided WFP with over USD 3.3 billion for its operations around the world and in 2020, it already provided USD 100 million to Ethiopia.

Read more about WFP’s work in Ethiopia here.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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