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Our chief executive Jeremy Hulme writes about his latest trip to Ethiopia to see our emergency feeding programme in action.

I’m writing this – actually scribbling it in a notebook – while sitting on a rock in a dusty, barren little village called Dudub, in the Afar region of Eastern Ethiopia.

Here they are in the middle of the worst drought for thirty years (yes, that’s how long ago Liveaid was), and for the pastoralists – that means people that don’t have any farm land, only livestock – it’s a catastrophe. When I first came here in mid-December, people were in tears as they told me they had lost between seventy and eighty percent of their cattle.getimage Families who had had eighty or ninety cows, were now often reduced to three or four – and they looked like hat-racks!

I was a farmer before I joined SPANA, but I had never seen animals like that before. I was devastated – but determined that SPANA could and should do something to help.

So, to be honest it took a bit of organising, but up to the present moment, we have shipped nearly three thousand bales of hay, and nearly seven hundred tons of concentrate feed into the region.
And sitting here on my rock, I’m watching the surviving cattle tuck into the latest delivery into the village.

They’re not exactly fat now, but the purpose of the exercise is simply subsistence: keeping them alive for their owners until the rains arrive and food can grow. But now they’ve got their energy back and a shine again to their coats – and most importantly they’re producing a little milk again for the hungry children of the village.

I was able help one poor old thing – a cow so thin she would surely have died without our feed – to have a little gourd-full on her own, in peace and quiet. spana_ethiopia_wm-1173It was a lovely feeling to be able to do something practical to help. The old cow couldn’t say thank you – but her owner, a widow with children to support couldn’t have been more grateful.

Amina told me, without her three remaining cows she felt she and her family might even perish. She said SPANA had not only saved her cows, but saved her and her children. And there is no greater feeling than that.