Faday and Adan Mohammed are young women from two different
African countries, but they share experiences as similar as
they are tragic.
10 days walking 60 miles with her three children to a feeding
center in Gode, 360 miles southeast of the Ethiopian capital,
Addis Ababa. The trek proved too much for her 4-year-old daughter
and 1-year-old son. Both died along the way.
walked to Baidoa in neighboring Somalia in search of help
after drought ended her farm work. Faday's husband died a
year ago; the twin to the tiny, malnourished baby wrapped
in her arms died at birth.
says, she has nothing. These women's odysseys took place in
February and March, as severe food shortages brought on by
drought began to threaten millions of lives. Similar tales
have been told over and over again in Ethiopia and Somalia.
not seen rain for 18 months,'' said Adan, whose family's herd
of 200 cattle and sheep died months ago.
have to wait for something from God.'' The 33-year-old Adan,
looking sad yet dignified in her dusty traditional veils,
her remaining child tucked under her arm, now lives in a tiny
hut of dried grass and bits of cloth.
has no place of her own and is forced to rely on charity.
But nature is not solely responsible for the desperate situations
of people like Adan and Faday. Politics, war and centuries
of nomadic culture all have played roles.
region has a history of conflict and perennial food shortages.
Of the countries bordering Ethiopia -- Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea
and Somalia -- only Kenya can claim any meaningful stability.
years Ethiopia has perhaps suffered the most from drought,
worsened by on-and-off warfare since the mid-1970s. In 1984,
televised images of skeletal, starving Ethiopians pulled on
the world's conscience, and as many as 1 million died.
also came in 1972, 1974 and 1989. Officials in Gode, which
is home to ethnic Somalis and one of the worst-affected areas,
say the drought comes in 10-year-cycles. Now, 11 years after
the last severe food shortage, the message is being repeated.
aid groups say 7.7 million are at risk. ``These people are
really on the edge,'' said Ben Foot, country director for
the British branch of the international charity Save the Children.
The situation is exacerbated, local officials say, by the
nomadic lifestyle of the people who live in the region.
rely on livestock for food and income. When the rains fail,
cattle, goats, camels and sheep die -- leaving the people
with nothing. They then migrate to feeding centers, stretching
local resources and increasing the risk of disease.
percent of the 3.5 million people in Ethiopia's Somali region,
are nomads, government figures say.
Abdi, chairman of the regional emergency task force, said
the key is to persuade nomads to settle and diversify into
problem is people do not adapt so quickly because agriculture
is very laborious work,'' he said. ``If they get a harvest
for two or three years, they will then go and buy cattle and
go back to where they started.''
Emanek, head of the government's disaster preparedness and
prevention committee, said regional authorities in Ethiopia
-- where regions have some autonomy -- lack the means to end
the cycle of famine.
the Wabe Shebelle River still flows strongly, but it has not
been used efficiently for irrigation.
is being done at this time to bring them (the nomads) off
the land,'' Teshome said. He estimates it would take at least
10 years to change local habits.
people on both sides of the border have been nomads for centuries,
and their allegiance is to the land and their clans, not to
any state. Most would resist changes.
say political attitudes and trade regulations need to change
throughout the region so that the nomads can take their herds
to the closest market without being blocked by national borders.
meantime, the government is asking donors for more than 800,000
tons of food to keep famine at bay.
Adan and Faday, the misery seems guaranteed to continue indefinitely.
a beggar,'' Faday said. ``I have nothing for the future.''