Loss of Wealth, Children, and Dignity in Ethiopia

Loss of Wealth, Children, and Dignity in Ethiopia

Publication info

Daniel Tesfu & Esete Kebede, CARE International in Ethiopia

In the corridor of a public building in Kochore center for internally displaced people in the southern part of Ethiopia, where hundreds of thousands of people have recently arrived, Alemu’s family has sought shelter. The building is crowded with people. There is a strong smell and it feels suffocating inside. Sadness and despair are apparent on the faces of people. Among the sad faces, Alemu wanted to share his story.


Half of Alemu’s family fled the conflict in Kercha, Ethiopia, to a center for internally displaced people. “Five of my children came with me and my wife and seven of them are living in the conflict zone.” While fleeing, Alemu, 53, and his wife were separated from the rest of their dozen children.


On their way out, Alemu gave all the money he had saved, the equivalent of $1940, to his wife, thinking that the people wouldn’t touch her because she is a woman. “They beat me, they beat my wife, and our 12 children. They stole our money and other belongings we had with us,” says Alemu. “During this incident I was separated from seven of my children. The remaining five, my wife and I continued our journey leaving the rest behind.” Alemu does not know anything about his seven lost children. “I don’t have any information on how they are doing,” laments Alemu. “I don’t even know if they are alive or not. All I know is that they have been left behind.”


Back home, Alemu had farm lands and ample livestock which the family lived off. “We lived a stable life, but we came here empty-handed,” says Alemu. “We had beds, mattresses, and warm blankets. Now we sleep on the bare, cold floor. I am old now and my body is withering fast. I lost my children, wealth, my pride and dignity along the way. All of my children were attending school. Now they are all out of school because of the conflict.” 

Due to the limited resources of humanitarian organizations and the significant funding gaps, displaced people are provided with very little food. “I used to feed my children good food; including milk and butter from livestock. Now my children are struggling to survive with little, or sometimes no food,” says Alemu. “All what we’re provided with most days is corn flour. Sometimes we cannot even cook it, so we go to sleep without eating a single meal. Our conditions are deteriorating.” 


Like in many crisis situations, older men like Alemu and women like his wife cannot crowd for food like stronger, younger people could. “I am not able to rush when food aid is coming, when I do I get pushed around by others. We need to be assisted in a proper way.’’


Due to a similar incident a few months ago, the entire family fled and returned home but had to flee again as the situation was still unstable so they had to go back to the displacement camp, this time the family is separated. “We want things to be resolved once and for all,” stresses Alemu.



Alemu Wordofa and his family stays in the corridor along with others in the building. Photo: Daniel Tesfu/CARE Ethopia