We are already more than halfway through the food program. Together with your help, we already have more than 1,000 people in the food program! And we now even have room in the budget to add more people. And this is still urgently needed. Until people can harvest, there will be no food available in the area and the food that is still available will increasingly run out. And we see this too. Lately we are seeing more and more severely malnourished people (and many children) who are not yet in the program. We are therefore very happy that we have the space to also provide those people with food! All in all, logistics is of course becoming more and more of a challenge. We now have groups of over 100 households. And it is quite a job to provide all those people with food in just a few hours. Every week we travel to Shalla, a 4-hour drive there and 4 hours back. What does such a day look like? We try to leave at 6:00 in the morning. Once it has arrived at its destination, the food has usually already arrived by truck and has usually already been fully unloaded. The people scheduled for that day have already been allowed into the compound as much as possible and registration has already been initiated by our local boys. A signature (a fingerprint) is requested from everyone.
And then the hard work begins for us. Aberash and I measure all people and children (upper arm circumference) who are in the special malnutrition program. These people receive special protein-rich flour. We monitor whether people improve or whether they can be removed from the program. And fortunately we see good results! Every time there are people and children who have recovered from malnutrition. Unfortunately, we also see children who are deteriorating. We then ask the mother why the child has lost further weight. Has it been sick? We give the mother advice. And then hope that the next time the baby has increased in kilos. And we are so happy with every half centimeter that the baby increases in arm thickness!
Once we have measured everyone on the list, we walk through the group again: do we see any other children (or adults) who are malnourished? After all, there is always a chance that we do not have a child in the picture. The families are large and the mother does not always take all the children with her. If we have space we try to talk to the mothers. Personal attention, giving advice. We hope to gain access to the Gospel in this way! Because that is so necessary in the area. It is a strictly Muslim area. And it is such a dark area spiritually. You just feel it. There are so many problems. The light of the Gospel can only bring change! And then the handing out begins. This is a whole sport in itself. It is not the case that everyone just sits quietly in his or her place. Everyone starts walking together and tries to cling to us. Sometimes we feel like the police who have to keep order. One of the lesser things about the job… But fortunately there are also many people who cooperate in a good and honest way. And we must also have eyes from the front and from the back to ensure that no food is pushed back. Not so much by the people themselves, but by local people who help. We caught a health worker responsible for a certain Kebele (sub-area) saying to the people of her area: ‘Give me some of your food or I will take you out of the food programme’. So she abused her power and those poor people of course have no idea what reality is like. That we are the ones who decide whether or not someone gets into the food program. We also caught her giving people from the program an order to steal food. It took a long time and we were eventually able to ensure that she was no longer allowed to enter the compound while we were distributing the food. We have also warned people: ‘If you even give or sell your food to someone else and do not use it for yourself, you will be removed from the program. And no one else has the right to take you out of the program.” So we have to look carefully at whether everyone gets their own food and whether food is taken twice. This is also a challenge and again you feel like the police. We let people go to the food parcels in groups of five, and we also have volunteers who assist people to put the food in their bags and to check… People come with wheelbarrows and donkeys to collect the food. And for some, there is still a long journey ahead, perhaps walking 20 km with a 45 kg bag! It helps us a lot that everyone now has a ‘conference bracelet’. This is a bracelet that is given to visitors at large conferences in the Netherlands with a unique number. We have done this to reduce the risk of receiving unlawful food. For example, during our field research we discovered that a woman with several malnourished children who was selected for the program had never had food herself. Her neighbor had picked up the food every time and… eaten it herself… Each of the four groups has a different color. We have warned people that if they lose their bracelet they will no longer receive food. And that helped… Only 4 people have lost their bracelets. I sometimes find it touching that their food depends on the bracelet… And when you see where they get it from… Tucked deep in their clothing or in a plastic bag. And then a crumpled and dirty bracelet appears. Once all the food has been distributed to the people on the list for that day, there are always people trying to get into the program. They come at you like bees and you literally no longer have the space to move a step. We have now learned to leave as quickly as possible to keep the peace. We usually arrive in the next big city around 3 o’clock. Here we eat something quickly, because we are hungry after such an intensive job! The return journey then begins. The journey back is always a long way! We arrive back in Debre Zeit around 8 o’clock in the evening. And then it is already dark. We are grateful to be able to do this program. We see so many positive effects, prevention of malnutrition, people (and many children) coming out of the state of malnutrition. The local Health Center has also indicated that they have admitted so many malnourished children every year, but now the counter is at zero! And otherwise the effect would of course be even greater now because the drought has now struck to an extreme extent. The personal attention we can give to people is also important. The people indicate that they appreciate that we know them, that we have visited them in their houses. We also see God’s protection that we are still protected every time on the dangerous roads. The road to Shalla is not without risks. It is a road full of potholes and then the people and animals that unexpectedly walk across the road. And especially when it is dark, the risk is even greater. We have seen so many serious car wrecks along the road where no one could have come out alive. We are also grateful that the truck with food was still able to reach the site. The road to the health center is a dirt road and if heavy rain falls it could become impassable. We also think about what we can do in terms of long-term investments. We may be able to work on irrigation or a well. In one of the distant sub-areas we saw women drawing filthy drinking water from a deep ravine. There is also room for great progress in education. We have noticed that the level of education is very low. We are considering doing training for key figures in the area after the program. Inspiring leaders who can in turn pass it on to the local population. Thank you for all the donations, support and material support. Together with us, you save thousands of people from starvation. Be blessed for your contribution and efforts!!