The good, the bad and the ugly

Lesley Stephenson and Thomas Baumann have returned from a challenging working visit to Mohoni. Lesley describes the local situation as follows:

‘First of all, the good news. Mohoni had repeated rainfall in the 2 1/2 weeks we were there. As you can see from the picture of the students taking school garden produce to market, things are looking wet and green at the school. If the rain returns in the main wet season of late June/July/August, we will have a harvest in September and that will help to break this terrible region-wide drought.

However, the green look of the school grounds is deceptive. In areas just outside Mohoni, there has been no rain at all, still! The government is frantic, they were in meetings the entire time I was there. We did have one meeting with the head of the Woreda, a real privilege under the circumstances, and they are doing all they can to deal with our specific issues, i.e. ensuring that the DHL shipment finally gets through. However, the letters we badly need to get the boxes to Mohoni have still not been signed, and this is understandable. When people are dying, a shipment for a special school is just not a priority. However, we expect  this issue to be resolved in the next fortnight, and will keep you posted.

The government asked us if there was anything more we could do to help them with the emergency they are facing as their budget is more or less depleted. Federal wheat aid of 15kgs per family per month is inadequate to keep people alive. As you know, we are already supplying monthly emergency aid to over 460 severely drought-affected kids and their families, but of course there are thousands more. A truck of wheat or grain from Addis to the most affected regions costs about CHF 7’000 (this is for about half a ton) and they are looking for sponsors for these additional supplies.

We cannot go down this path as we have neither the resources nor the mandate. This would only be possible if individuals or companies here in Switzerland were willing to finance special support through us. We would coordinate such efforts and guarantee that the money and food was properly organised and delivered, but that would be our limit. Please let us know if you have contacts to individuals or organisations who would have the resources and interest to help in this way.

However, there is something else we are trying to do just within Mohoni until the end of the school year in June. Thousands of the kids are affected by a brutal skin rash, which is likely scurvy or other nutritional-deficency-based problem. They haven’t had fresh food for months – Vitamin C and A are likely to be severely deficient. The teachers went beserk when they saw me externally treating the worst affected kids at the school as they claim it is contagious. But it’s not. It’s a widespread nutritional disorder in a large population which has been close to starving for months. It’s clear that it’s widespread!

The wounds reacted well to cleaning, disinfecting and creaming. But the kids urgently need Vitamin C. We are currently pricing supplies of oranges from the market in Mekelle as the markets in Mohoni are depleted due to the drought. If this is feasable, we will take one last emergency support step before the end of the school year and finance some fruit transport to the area. We have also bought a large supply of disinfecting soap which has been parceled out to the most affected kids’ families so that the open wounds where they have scratched the rash can be kept clean, a real challenge in this environment.

The school itself has progressed well in many areas, and I’ll be coming back with pictures and an update on this shortly. Thanks to all members of our community for their support and encouragement’.   

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