Welcome to Ethiopia

November 19, 2011
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer

In many ways, my Ethiopian journey began this summer when ongoing drought conditions pushed many communities in the Horn of Africa into a food crisis. Unlike Somalia, famine was not declared in Ethiopia, yet it is the country with the most number of people affected by this crisis - approximately 4.5 million. As the situation unfolded in early July and the media reports started appearing, we began to receive phone calls from people wanting to help. Many of the people that I spoke had been transported back to the 1980s, when scenes from the devastating famine that struck Ethiopia blazed across our televisions screens. Those images were some of the first of Africa to be seared into our collective memory. And when I spoke with people, there was concern and disbelief that this could be happening again, and it was clear that it was a moment that still haunted many.

I am carrying these concerns with me as we travel to the Ethiopia. I keep wondering what does food insecurity like, what does it mean, can it be solved? Travelling through the streets of the capital Addis Ababa, I am taken by all the vibrant colours of fabrics worn by women, the bustle on the streets, the sting of the diesel on the senses, and the half-constructed buildings that dot the sides of the road. From my hotel, I can see the sun bursting off the tin roofs of the small shops that sell all sorts things, including food. There are small cafes and restaurants here and there. But I need to remind myself that the story of the city is different from that of the millions who live in rural communities. I suppose I will soon find out that other story, the one that lives beyond the emerging city, and hopefully begin to understand what this summer seemed so inconceivable.