Food brings hope to families fleeing violence in Ethiopia
Nida Tariq

Food brings hope to families fleeing violence in Ethiopia

Lara Palmisano

It’s been a difficult few months for 25-year-old Etenesh. In May this year she and her two daughters had to flee their home in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, when their small farmstead was set on fire during civil unrest. The walk from their village to the neighbouring Gedeo zone only took a few hours, but fear and grief made it seem endless.

Overnight, Etenesh lost her home and possessions and was also forcibly separated from her husband, who is from the Oromo ethnic group while she is a Gedeo.

 “The ethnic difference didn’t matter to us or our families when we got married,” she explains. “We built a home together — a family — but now my children and I aren’t welcome there.”

Since April 2018, civil unrest in and around West Guji and Gedeo zones have displaced over 1 million people. These people have been forced to leave their homes and are now living in various internally displaced people (IDP) sites and host communities in the two zones, with limited access to food, clean water, shelter, social services and other necessities.

Etenesh and her daughters, aged two and nine years, are currently living in a local school along with hundreds of other internally displaced people. The stress and less-than-favorable conditions at the makeshift camp have taken their toll on the family.

“My husband used to provide for us,” says Etenesh. “Now we have no money and there isn’t always enough food to go around. My 2-year-old, Bikilitu, has lost so much weight since we came here.”

Food brings hope to families fleeing violence in Ethiopia
Bikilitu, aged 2, accompanies her mother to a distribution site to receive her monthly allocation of nutritious foods from WFP.

When examined by Government health workers, Bikilitu was found to be acutely malnourished. She was immediately registered as a recipient for WFP’s (World Food Programme) Supplementary Feeding Programme.

Supported by CERF funding, the programme provided Bikilitu and many others with life-saving 30-day rations of nutritious food. The foods distributed include Supercereal Plus, a soy-based enriched powder that can be cooked like a porridge, and Plumpy’Sup, a ready to eat fortified peanut-based paste.

 “Seeing that my children are well gives me hope that things will be all right and one day soon our whole family will be together again.” says Etenesh.

In July, WFP expanded operations in West Guji and Gedeo zones, to provide specialized nutritious foods for 147,000 acute malnourished pregnant and nursing women, and moderate acute malnourished children (6–59 months). CERF’s funding was part of a larger CERF allocation of US$30 million to help humanitarian actors provide lifesaving activities in food and nutrition, health, shelter, water and sanitation in Ethiopia.

To date, WFP has received the highest amount of CERF funding among UN agencies of the year, underscoring the prevalence of food insecurity in 2018.