Silence before death
There is an incredibly poignant article in Ethiomedia titled How Long Does Hunger Last? It is written by an Ethiopian in 2000, yet it heartbreakingly applies to today’s
The emptiness and despair in the eyes of the three children who were sharing a tiny dirt spot in one of the crowded makeshift shelters were horrifying. Their mother, helplessly lying beside them, placed the palm of her bony left hand under her hollow left cheek while holding the wrist of her famished three-year-old daughter as if trying to feel the child’s remote pulse. The two boys, too weak to sit upright, shifted their eyes from their little sister to their mother and again back to their little sister in a manner that revealed their hidden horror of losing either one in a matter of hours.
The writer, Tewodros Abebe, recalls the horror of seeing a family on the verge of death. A mother, herself emaciated, waits to see how long it will take for her children to die.
When my daughter was an infant she had an insatiable appetite. If I waited one minute longer than she could bear the hunger pains, she would let out a wail that’d haunt me for hours.
So imagine the pain of Ethiopian mothers who have to first hear the wails of their hungry children and be unable to feed them. Then imagine the silence that follows.
The article is gut wrenching on so many levels—but more so because it is written by an Ethiopian. This is not a CARE pamphlet. It is not a sanctimonious BBC documentary on those starving Africans. These are the words of one of us who has seen the horror of man-made famines.
My mother has a saying: “Lij yewelede indet g’ff yiseral?” (Someone translate that for me.) And that’s what I don’t understand about the EPRDF. How can Ato Meles, a parent himself, be sanguine about letting other people’s children die?
And how can we, as Ethiopians, keep on letting this happen to us? Why have we outsourced the well being of our mothers to NGOs and Bono?
Tewodros writes about “the disheartening images of men bitterly crying like children when they were informed that their and their families’ share of the day’s food ration was gone.”
How long does hunger last? Apparently as long as we are willing to look away.
I have gotten a few emails from people who want to do some volunteer work during their visit to