Environment Around Soddo

Many people have been asking if the drought and famine conditions are affecting people in and around Soddo.  When we were in Soddo in late April and early May, conditions were good. However, people were worried.  The “short” rainy season came late and did not produce much rain. A good “short” rainy season will allow families to plant vegetables and grains. A bad “short” rainy season can cause the countryside to have little or no crops through the summer months. Allie Sebree has been in Soddo since late May and has seen conditions deteriorate substantially. Following is a post written by her about her experiences with one family and village near Soddo.

Sunday, July 30, 2011

About two and a half weeks ago, a very pregnant young woman came up to me as I was walking to the CCC children’s home and asked me for help.  She had a baby and a young girl with her.  This summer, this has become a normal occurrence here in Soddo for me.  Whenever someone very poor comes up to me, I tell them to come with me to CCC to get some extra bread.  As we were walking down the hill to the orphanage she began to rapidly talk to me in Wolaitingna (the local language) while pointing to her children.  When we got to CCC, I had Nebiyu (one our our older CCC boys who speaks great English) translate what she was trying to ask me.

She had walked from Gacheno, a town 37 kilometers away.  She told me she had no way to provide food for her children and she wanted them to be admitted into our orphanage.  She had two daughters, a one year old and a six year old.  She also had a son that is five years old.  She also said she was nine months pregnant.  We gave her and her kids some food.  Several of the CCC children went and got clothes for the kids from their cubbies of clothes.  I told her there is a process she has to go through to bring children into our orphanage and she had to speak with our dean of students, Chu Chu.

When Chu Chu arrived, he spoke to her and told her that she needs a letter from her local government office stating that she is too poor to take care of her kids and all their history.  I got a hotel room for the woman and her children and gave her some money and told her to come back with the proper paperwork and we would try to help her.

The woman returned two more times with the wrong paperwork.  I was in Addis Ababa for a week and when I returned I asked about the woman and if she had gotten the right letters and I was told no.  So Gold (one of CCC’s social worker) and I went to Gacheno to check on her.  I was worried she had gone into labour and might have had complications.  When we got to her town, I was in shock.  This family and all their neighbors were living in complete poverty.  I was surrounded by about ten starving children and five starving babies.  There were four women there that said they were all widows and also starving.  They didn’t have beds in their huts and they were sleeping on the muddy floor.  The roof of their huts leak when it rains making it even more muddy.

I asked the woman how she was feeling and she said her water had broke and she was waiting for her baby to come.  She said she felt fine and there were no problems or pain.  Gold gave her our format for admitting children into CCC.  I also gave her some money in case she had any problems during labour so she could come to Soddo to deliver the baby.

The next morning Sister Helen, CCC’s head nurse, and I went back to Gacheno to check on the woman’s progress.  When we arrived we found her and her new baby girl.  Sister Helen talked to the mom and checked on the baby and both seemed to be doing well.

Sister Helen checking baby

However, the condition she was living in was not suitable for a newborn baby.  I knew something had to be done, if the baby stayed in this hut she would probably die.  I told her I would figure something out and return back later that day.  All the other women started asking me to take their children as well.  It was a very heart breaking experience.  I have had similar requests to take children but it is something I will never get used to seeing.

We returned to Soddo and talked to Nizite, CCC’s director’s wife, about how we could help.  Nizite said she would rent a room for the mother and her children and we would feed her and support her so she could properly take care of her new baby girl.  Our next problem was transportation.  The CCC car is not working right now and public transportation would not work for a new mother and baby.  So we asked a friend in Soddo with a car to help us pick up the family.  He agreed and so we got everything prepared and went to bring the family to Soddo.  When we arrived at her house to get her, everyone started begging me again to take their children.  Women were shoving starving children at me.  We got in the car with the mother and her children and left a very disappointed village behind.

We got the little family settled into their room. We took all the children and mom to the hospital for check ups and to be tested for Hepatitis, HIV, and parasites.  Everyone was negative for HIV.  The oldest girl tested positive for Hepatitis, but everyone else was negative.  The test they have in Soddo is not 100% decisive and can produce false positives so we have to send the oldest girl’s blood to Awasa to check for Hepatitis.  We are hoping it will come back negative. The children were treated for intestinal parasites which I am hoping will help their nutritional status.

Mother with her children in front of rented room

We are feeding the family three times a day and giving them mitten.  Mitten is a drink made here that has lots of nutrients in it.  We are teaching the mother how to care for her children and keep them healthy.  When she and the baby are strong, they will return to their village and we will try to continue to help her and her neighbors as best as we can.  The mother wants to give up all her children but I hope to enter her into the Home Based Care program, along with her neighbors.  We are trying to empower widows and single women to keep their children rather than giving them away.

Tomorrow, I am purchasing wheat, rice, teff, and cooking oil to take back to Gacheno to help sustain the widows and children until we can get them more permanent help.

Allie Sebree

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