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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Ethiopia: A famine worse than 1984's?

Alimah, the eldest of 16 children, walks for miles in Ethiopia's Afar region, seeking food and water for 35 goats and four camels. They're all that's left since his family lost their 50 cattle to drought. "I have never gone to school," said the young herder, who doesn't know his age. "We spend all our time going through the land in search of water and green pastures for the animals."

Alimah's family survives on milk from their animals as well as handouts from relatives and neighbors who receive food aid, typically wheat for one meal per day for a family of eight.

Bodja Gelalcha, Lutheran World Federation/World Service coordinator in Ethiopia, said sharing food is customary. "A family cannot sleep on a full stomach when their neighbor does not have food," Gelalcha explained. "If some families suffer, the rest of the village has to suffer too — that has been their custom for generations."

But help is needed. "The food available so far will only last until June ... if food is not forthcoming then, we will see [a famine] reminiscent of the 1984 drought," he said.


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