Maya's Trip to Ethiopia, Part II: Distributing Food and Learning About Their Water Supply

By: Maya Haile

As I described in Part I of my journey, we were welcomed to Togojalya with open arms. Togojalya is comprised of 5 tribes, each comprised of 200 families, totaling 1000 families in that area. We visited one in particular named Muhammad's Tribe, which is registered with the Ethiopian government and are more willing to accept visitors. In this case, they welcomed us since we went with good intentions to help the families affected by the famine.

At Muhammad's tribe, we passed out our donated food to each family, about 75 kilos (165 pounds) of food; 25 kilos (55 pounds) of each grain (rice, corn, and lentils). When I asked how long they thought this food could provide them with meals, they said about one month; which astounded us, since this small offering on our part will make a big difference to them. Although, our donations did provide them with a substantial amount of food, they are still in need of one of life's greatest resources- water. Water is often more hope for them more than food, I think. I wish we could have given them water, since they do not have a good supply of it. Currently they drink rain water, yet they only get rain twice a year, so they save that water all year round. The tribe showed me how they conserve the water by digging large holes in the ground and lining them with plastic. The rain water is then collected in the holes, and the families fetch the water from these holes and store it in their house for daily use.

You can imagine how unsafe this water is since it is stagnant all year round. I was surprised when I saw it since it was full of dirt and sediment. As Westerners, our first instinct would be to boil the water in order to make it clean enough to drink. Yet when I asked if they boiled the water to clean it, they said no since during the boiling process a lot of water is lost and their supply is so small, they try to conserve as much water as possible. So the water is taken and used by them as is. When you have an abundance of a resource, you have options and you think about those things. But they don't have options so they just need the small amount of water they have in order to survive.

Their lack of water was one of the most saddening parts of my visit to Togojalya. What was also heart-wrenching was also their tales of dangers they encounter when going to fetch that same water. Since the same watering hole is shared between all five tribes of the region, a lot of conflict can arise between them, especially if supply of the water is low. Many times it is the women and girls of the tribe that must go get the water for the family which puts them in great danger of encountering another hostile tribe along the way.

There are still more aspects of their hard life that I have yet to cover. Stay tuned this week for Part III of the trip, where I discuss their need for clinics and schools.

Photos: Abraham Wolde of Balageru Records

A big thank you goes out to all of those that helped me in my journey, including the photographer and videographer Abraham Wolde, and all others who helped me bring aid to the most affected in Ethiopia. Thank you!

To continue reading about Maya's journey to Ethiopia, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)