Giving Up is Not An Option

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 16:25

The drought in East Africa is a disaster happening right now. Many of the farming communities are desperate after 2 years without rain. Many women get some relief aid, so they do not die of starvation, but for most, it is impossible to pay school fees, health services, water, and food. As I drove towards the town of Garba Tulla on the last day of June, my translator, Mahad Bashir Kalla  introduced me to Zainabu Kamato, a woman in her late 40s. Like most women, Zainabu is doing everything she can to make ends meet. Zeinubu’s family is surviving on food from the World Food Programme. Beans and cooking oil is their new staple food, but there is not enough. On Tuesdays, she spends half her day walking to a borehole to buy water. 

"I try to make it last a whole week, but it is tough and even water is hard to afford."

I always try to hide a bit of the relief food from my sons, so that there are some leftovers for my daughters and me.

"It is an empty feeling, when I cannot give my children enough food. I tell them, that things will get better and maybe they believe me. I have a daughter who wants to become a nurse and one who wants to be a doctor.  That’s what we are talking about," she says.

Zainabu lives with her six children and husband who suffer from a mental disease in a one-room house. Everything: the house, the compound, and the trees are in different shades of red. A few trees still have green leaves.

We always hope for the better, but I don’t know anymore

Zainabu says sadly. As we pass an area with hundreds of farmers, many livestock were moving towards us along the road. Kalla said that they were looking for greener pastures, just like pastoralists have done for thousands of years.

 “The biggest pastoralist in the area used to live here. I knew him as a friend. He had thousands of cattle, but most of them died in the drought. We told him he should sell the livestock, but he refused as the cattle were everything to him. In the end, he could not take it anymore and he killed himself. That’s how much cattle means to us,” Kalla told me. “Before they could travel knowing that they left their wives, mothers, and kids behind with enough food. Now they are just running away” he says.

The constant dust cloud around the cars made it impossible to see anything, when we were within 100 metres of the government cars. “Don’t worry’’ Kalla assured me as we entered the area inhabited by his Borana tribesmen, ‘’We are approaching Garba Tulla."

There is no green pasture, no wealth to fight over and hence no reason for the other tribes to be here