Almaz Ashenafi, with her children sheltered in government office building, Kercha. (Photo Credit: CARE)
Almaz, a nine-month-pregnant mother of five, living in a camp with a large number of people crowding together in Kochere in Southern Ethiopia inside a government office building still under construction. There are more than 820,000 people displaced in Gedeo sheltered in office buildings, churches, schools, sheds, host communities and sheds.
“My two sons stayed behind in the village with relatives willing to protect them,” says 25-year-old Almaz. “The remaining three daughters are here with me and my husband. We came here because of the ongoing conflict. I was afraid for my family’s lives, so we had to flee.”
In their home town, Almaz’s husband was a farmer. He was the breadwinner, but Almaz earned some money to help the family as well. “Sometimes I sold dairy products in the local market,” says Almaz. “My daughter and son used to attend school. But since we were displaced they have been forced out of school. Almaz reminisces over her family’s past good life, and compares it to their dire present. “Before the conflict, we were able to support ourselves and earn money to take care of our health and hygiene. We had our own house, and our own facilities. Here, however, we cannot clean ourselves as we don’t have soap and other washing materials. Dirt has taken over our bodies. Several people sleep together in one room and the children poop and pee there. Because we are living in a crowded room with other people, we sleep next to the bathroom, which is used daily by around 3,000 people. Hygiene here is really poor. We are vulnerable to falling sick easily.
“I am pregnant in my ninth month. I need nutritious food but I can’t get that here. All we can eat here is dry corn flour, that is if we are able to get some. And when we have it we cannot cook it because we cannot afford to buy firewood. My children and I are starving.”
Food is not the only essential need that Almaz and her family lack in their new home as a displaced family. “There’s nothing to wear here,” adds Almaz. “We left our houses without being prepared for it, therefore, we didn’t have the time to grab extra clothes and we are freezing here on the cold bare cement grounds. I sleep coiled on the ground with my children and it makes me very sad. If it wasn’t for God and the government’s support, we wouldn’t be alive today.”
"If you spend a night in our shelter you will not find one person who doesn’t cough. Unfortunately there are many of pregnant or lactating women, and many who have given birth after coming to this shelter, yet neither we nor our newborns are given any special treatment."
Despite all the struggles of the displacement and the current difficult life, Almaz still can afford to have hope in what is there to come. “In the future I hope to see better days. I wish to go back home.”
By: Daniel Tesfu and Esete Kebede, CARE International in Ethiopia
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