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Africa

2003-07-10

AFRICA/ETHOPIA - “THESE PEOPLE NEED SOMEONE TO TAKE THEIR SIDE”: DESPERATE APPEAL FROM SALESIAN SISTERS IN ZWAY

Zway (Fides Service) – For the people of Zway it is normal to see their children die. In this year of hunger, the only thing that is different is the number of those who die: it is higher. We found one father who had lost three children in the same month…”
Fides Service received a desperate appeal from the community of Salesian Sisters in Zway, in Ethiopia a country afflicted by severe food shortage where the situation is now desperate. Sister Elisa tells Fides about the situation. More than 8,200 people have been enrolled for the UN Feeding Programme and the number increases as the situation deteriorates. A team from Medecines sans Frontieres trained personnel to work at Therapeutic Feeding Centres set up in various Ethiopian towns. These Centres treat severely undernourished babies and children whose weight is 70% less that the weight/height ratio. A survey taken among 121,000 people in Woreda showed an increase in children whose internal organs suffer from general malnutrition: the body becomes bloated because the kidneys do not function properly.
But the worst is still to come, according to Sister Elisa. “The situation is deteriorating. The maize which people sowed near Zway has been burnt in the sun. They will have to sow it again as soon as the rains arrive. But the people have no more seed and the local authorities say they have no more to distribute. The long rainy season has not started yet, and it is very late. We wait and hope. But we known that the rains stop in mid September, so how will the corn grow. If it does not rain the food shortage will last another year”.
Sister Ines another Salesian in Zway tells Fides Service about a visit made by UNICEF expert Mr Michael Gordon who worked on the new protocol for treating acute hunger. On seeing the children at the local Therapeutic Feeding Centres Mr Gordan told Sister Ines that he had never seen such serious cases in Ethiopia before. “After visiting a number of villages Mr Gordon said we need a bigger Therapeutic Feeding Centre able to care for 35-400 children at a time. The situation is already desperate. We have 150 severely undernourished children and this number could double in a matter of days. If the government cannot distribute 25 kg of grain per month per family of 6/8 persons, if it does not rain, if the harvest does not grow…I do not know what will happen” Sister Ines said.
Another problem is deforestation. The villagers cut down thousands of trees. Their livelihood is felling trees and selling timber. Sister Ines describes the tragedy. “Please keep on supporting us, help us to face the situation in which people die in silence. Here people are used to see their loved ones dying in silence. Yesterday we went to visit a school in Kebele, a community of 4,000 people, and we spoke with the school teacher. The school has 700 pupils of all grades. Two of the older children died in the past week, we were shown the graves of 5 toddlers recently buried and the school teacher said it was impossible to count how many new born infants buried in a pit just outside the house, as if they had never been born. Since last October at least 15 babies had been lost. We stopped on the road where there were three huts, five of six children were playing nearby and two had swollen bellies. Here, 160 m from Addis Ababa, the situation is extremely serious. We thank you for your help, your prayers, your support”. AP (Fides Service 10/7/2003 EM lines 50 Words: 696)

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