Monday, August 13, 2007

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 Ethiopia. Things have a way of staying put in Ethiopia.

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 Ethiopia to celebrate the Millennium. Organizations in Ethiopia looking for help, please post your information in the comments section or send me an email. One organization to look into is the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even one of our NGO participant turns to become certified opposing "POLITICIAN!"

While the land was fertile with less population, starvation during Teferi.
No need to mention of Mengistu.
Now the same with Melese equiped with so many explanations at hand.

Are we only good to scream and complain?
To discharge our share, can't we participate and involve other than politics?

The most disgusting part:
Don't visit while Melese...
Don't invest while Meles....
Don't give aid while Mele....
Don't what else while Mel.....

What about us???

Melese is one man, we are millions!!!

The solution is not Shawel, Nega or etc...

11:52 AM, August 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Different Issue!!
Some websites are not available these past few days. What's up?

1:38 PM, August 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said: "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?" You are really clueless! do you actually believe that for REAL??? I heard another Ethiopian like you say the other day: "Currently Ethiopia is an apartheid state"..Please guys wake up from your bad dreams and try to differentiate between political differences and inhumanities. You can attack the guy (the PM) on the bad things he did. Don't just create lies. And remember, because you are a good writer does not make whatever you write right! I disagree with the PM on many things but I just don't make up stuff to attack the guy!

11:05 AM, August 14, 2007  
Anonymous Redeat said...


Thank you for reminding us who/where we are!

One org. that needs to be visited and supported in Ethiopia is an effort by a handful, truly caring individuals called

For anyone visiting Addis Ababa, for millennium or not, witnessing AFC's efforts is a must. Contact Abezash Tamerat at


1:21 AM, August 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

APAP (a public interest law group founded in 1993) is another organization to check

1:20 PM, August 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the time & energy wasted in negative politicking, if we would have initiated and managed hundreds of our own, what would have been the outcome?

Free self from ghetto mentality of complaining and killing each other.

10:27 PM, August 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear expatriate countrymen and women, do we seriously think that these poor overwhelmed local NGOs have the time, patience and resources to babysit and coddle our clueless selves so that we can salve our consciences by getting in their way for a few measly days? If you want to enjoy the Millenium back home, just go and and knock yourself out. It's your country, it's your calendar, it's your people.
If you want to help, make it a sustainable and meaningful commitment, not by making yourself a totally ineffective nuisance in other people's lifework.
Peace and love to all

5:44 AM, August 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope to see "Fara Free" NGO in Ethiopia.


12:30 PM, August 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you ask how the PM can watch other people's children die? same way you do. except he doesn't blog about it. do you think he somehow is more Ethiopian than you? you think not going to visit addis is your way of washing your hands ?

solutions, not restating of problems are what would make you have an answer to your children when they has 'what have you done for Ethiopia'. i can assure you that 'i wrote a nifty blog piece' is not going to cut it.

5:32 PM, August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meles's a "starve-out-the-population strategy" is working.

5:35 AM, August 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “There is nothing new about poverty, what is new is that we now have the resources and techniques to get rid of it. Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will[ Meles's willingness].”

5:45 AM, August 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is quite a moving and well articulated essay.

3:22 PM, September 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tnx Wonq! a great article. do you happen to have contact info for the author of the article, Tewodros Abebe?

9:44 AM, September 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is sad that every where i go and every post i visit there is less and less optimism about Ethiopia. I don't dispute that there is a lot of change needed to be made, but i am craving for posts that will shine light on Ethiopia and Ethiopians accomplishments.

5:02 PM, December 28, 2007  

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