Amidst the dramatic hills and beautiful valleys of rural Ethiopia, 85% of the population make their living. It's shocking to learn that 49% of all Ethiopians are thought to be malnourished and that the stylish elegance of their pared-down frames is often due to long-term malnutrition1. This poverty is multi-faceted, and while many children appear to be fed, they are often shoeless, in tatters, and at the mercy of their harsh environment. The old and the young are the most vulnerable. Eye ailments suffered by people of all ages are brought on by the flies, dust, dirt and unsafe water.
Juxtaposed against slow-moving but relentless rural poverty is the despair of the poor and sick in the capital of Addis Ababa, where the population grows by 8% per annum and where 80% of the residents are slum dwellers1. Here poverty is without any shred of dignity and amidst the turmoil one sees the scramble to survive by bartering or selling anything – from little trinkets to mobile phones. Begging comes as a last resort.
Help when given, is marvellous. ‘Let There Be Light’ a charitable school in Kore, an inner-city slum, sponsors children from mostly single-parent homes where often the only income is from begging. Surviving by grants and sponsorship, the school daily feeds and teaches some 35 children. Weekly baths and health and social services are provided and each night the students return to their families. These lucky children have taken the first steps on the steep road to self-sufficiency.
1. Tomorrow’s Crises Today. IRIN – Humanitarian News & Analysis. Chapter 5, Addis: putting food on the table. Sept. 2007.
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