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Kedija's struggle as drought ravages Ethiopia

Vital food and seed distributions are helping thousands of people like 38-year-old Kedija to survive the drought caused by El Niño – the global weather phenomenon that has left more than 10 million people needing food assistance across Ethiopia.

Kedija outside her house in El Niño hit Ethiopia
Drought caused by El Niño has destroyed the crops Kedija and her family relied on

Kedija, 38, lives in the mountainous area of the Oromia Region in Ethiopia and like thousands of other women in her community, she is struggling.

Before El Niño took hold, Kedija supported her bed-ridden husband and 8-year-old daughter by growing crops on their hectare of land. The harvest was enough to meet their year-round food needs – but not anymore.

Crop failures

“While the Belg (March-May 2015) rains started normally, they became uneven with dry spells in between and then stopped about 20 days earlier than normal,” reveals Kedija. “This resulted in crop failure and shortages of feed for livestock. It has become harder to provide for my family, especially for my sick husband.”

“I planted maize using 1 quintal (100 kilograms) of fertiliser. It cost me 1,556 Birr (US$78), but the maize died at knee height,” says Kedija.

Because of the ravaging drought, there has been a sharp increase in both severe and moderate acute malnutrition in the district. The government has classified it as a 'Hotspot Priority 1' district, meaning urgent life-saving and livelihoods protection assistance is required.  

El Niño food relief

The Ethiopian government, supported by organisations including Plan International, has acted quickly.

Kedija’s household now receives 15kg of food per person per month. While this is essential life-saving relief, she is struggling to afford other basic family needs including clothing, medical and school supplies.  

“I am trying a number of things to help make ends meet,” says Kedija. “I collect firewood from the mountain and sell it to the nearby town where I also wash clothes and earn a little money. That is why I must leave very early in the morning when others are still sleeping and go to town.”

Seed distributions

In preparation for the next planting season, Plan International Ethiopia, in collaboration with the START FUND-UK, is providing emergency seed to the most vulnerable households.

Kedija is one of those who have welcomed help.

If it means exchanging the food we get for seed... I will do it

“The moment I learned I had been selected to receive 20 kilograms of haricot bean seeds by the kebele [village], selection committee, I ran to the kebele office to confirm this for myself. And true, I saw my name on the beneficiary list,” says Kedija, as she smiles through tears.

“This seed will cover only one quarter of the cultivable land. When the rains come, I will beg for additional seeds from those that may have it and will do everything possible to increase the planted area. If it means exchanging the food we get for seed from those that may be willing to trade, I will do it, though this means having even less to live on,” she says.

To date Plan International Ethiopia’s response has benefited 34,953 of the most vulnerable households, including approximately 174,765 children.

Read more about Plan International’s El Niño response