Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ethiopia and Somaliland, May 2017

Part of my preparations for project travel is to spend as many hours possible researching the lay-of-the-land in those nations and regions where I will be serving. I want to begin formulating a sense of place and circumstances before I hit the ground.

  • ·      What is the poverty rate? Are people poor … or destitute? In other words…
  • ·      Are people struggling to make ends meet … or are they experiencing severe sufferings with no resources to bring to bear?
  • ·      What is the mortality rate, especially among children 5 yrs old, and younger?
  • ·      What are the medical conditions: malnutrition, diseases, etc.?
  • ·      What are the environmental challenges: drought, food distress, access to clean water ...
  • ·      What are the people doing to make a living, where possible?
  • ·      What is the average person’s level of education?
  • ·      Are there any reports from other Government Agencies and NGOs regarding this area in the last 2 years? (The charities I represent pretty much only go where no other charities or NGOs have been.)
  • ·      What are the political conditions? Are we welcome or seen as threats? Are there particular sensitivities to which I must pay attention while working? 

Another reason for the research is that, while I learned long ago that I can never fully prepare myself for what I am going to witness, such research does give me points of reference to keep my nauseous-self focused on “why we are here” and “what will be useful knowledge and pics for our donors.” 

I also spend a few weeks before each trip, making sure my mindset is conducive for being effective while on the ground. I don’t care how seasoned an aid worker is, my experience is that we are always a nanosecond from losing sight of all the good we are doing by allowing our minds to focus on what is being left undone.

What if we had had more food and water: we could have helped so many more people.

What if we had been here only a month earlier … then this child would have survived, that pregnant mother wouldn’t have lost her baby …

Such questions are best resisted by focusing on the people whom we are helping: we have brought in x-tons of food, so many meds, so much water, that results in helping x-amount of people. It also helps, of course, if you remind yourself that you aren’t a savior much less a god: we are humans doing our absolute best with what we have, for as many people as we are able, wherever and whenever possible.

Daka, Ethiopia

I had hoped to post pics on Facebook of our work here on a daily basis, but the government has shut it down. I was told that part of the reason for this is it doesn’t want pics of malnourished babies going viral. There is a concentrated effort to discourage or delete any mention of the word “malnourished.”

The government there is also making it difficult to distribute food to villages where people from the opposing political party – the majority of people - reside. Charities who do so have to pay over $5,000 for a special audit of its distribution.

You guessed it: the villages where we served were on the audit list.

Ethiopia is the second poorest country in the world, after Niger. In the best of circumstances, the average family makes around $50 a month.

Our team was able to distribute bushels of flour and salt, along with cooking oil, to 400 families. 

Typical home 

Sool, Somaliland 

When the camels are dying, how in the world are humans going to survive?

We are the only charity that has ever been to this region. Why?

“Too difficult to get to…too dangerous to be here.”

This area  - Sool – has not seen rain for almost 3 years. 

Only 3 decades ago, this area was covered with forests … there were actually herds of horses running wild. People began chopping the trees down for firewood and not replanting what was cut down. Denuded the land. 

  • ·      80% of people in this region make their living via livestock. Because of this drought, 90% of livestock has died.  
  • ·      Starvation and malnutrition have spread across this region with a vengeance.
  • ·      People here are suffering acute water crisis, which is sorely affecting pregnant women, children, and the elderly.
  • ·      Even in those villages where there is water, it is unsafe to drink.
  • ·      Without water, there is a huge problem with sanitation and personal hygiene, resulting in cholera and UTIs, and other diseases. 

                                   Those trucks are filled with 16,000+ gallons of clean water!


Note the tennis ball in the boy’s hands. We bring along around 100 of these on most every trip to pass along to the children – who go nuts, laughing, kicking it around like a soccer ball, throwing them at each other. Their mother’s smiles are priceless 

If it were not for this team of soldiers and police, we would not have been able to deliver aid, here. 

Maintaining rapport with the soldier who chose to give me close protection: he is from Atlanta!

I am so grateful to be serving the suffering in Ethiopia and Somaliland, as well as for all the supportive prayers and emails sent my way while there. (Lake Awasa, Ethiopia)

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2017

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