DOLO ADO--When my people ask me if it’s hard, being a humanitarian, I’m always surprised. But I understand what they mean. “Yeah, sometimes,” I say, and I mean it – some days I can’t wait for the sun to go down, to wash the dirt off my face.
But usually when I hear this question, I’m smiling on the inside. I’m thinking: I am privileged. I am in a position to help the less fortunate. Not many people in my country can say that.
It’s hard to explain the highs and lows of my job. I work in logistics for WFP in Ethiopia. On a good day - when the food is moving fast and we don’t have to deal with any major road blockages or crowd control issues - I feel invincible.
But on a bad day, when I see something that makes me think about all the things that could go wrong – that do go wrong in this world – I feel a heaviness in the pit of my stomach that’s hard to shake off.
The other day, for instance, I was in Dolo Ado on the border with Somalia where there are 120,000 refugees. I was offloading some High Energy Biscuits and I saw this family of 12 or 13 just lying there on the dirt with their belongings, I guess everything they could manage to carry with them: mats and jerry cans and small bundles of clothes.
The kids looked at me like they didn’t know what had happened to them. I couldn’t help but wonder how long they had walked for or when they’d eaten last.
Once, I too was a refugee. It was a different situation. My family didn’t have to leave but we did it just to be safe, even if we only went to England for six months. I was nine. I didn’t have to walk across a desert, but it was hard enough. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go into humanitarian work.
I do believe this is a very transformational time for Ethiopia. There are signs of growth everywhere, foreign companies from China, India, and Turkey are coming to Addis Ababa. They sense opportunity here. I want Ethiopians to be able to take advantage of this, for there to be more jobs for us, more opportunities.
I don’t want my people to be dependent on relief assistance. But the problem we have is our reliance on rain. We are an agrarian society and our welfare depends on whether or not it rains over a certain few days of the year.
We are very dependent on agricultural yields and in order to work towards independence, we need to take steps to industrialize our agricultural sector. We also need more unity to create cohesion among the various ethnic groups here.
Real economic integration, infrastructure, such as roads, need to be put in place to link these groups and make them one. It is essential to close the gap that has existed for generations and for the people of Ethiopia to feel as one, function as one, and think as one. All differences aside for the greater good of the country.
It makes me feel good, my work here in Ethiopia. No matter what your ethnicity, no matter where you came from, if you are hungry, I will bring you food.