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East Africa crisis: Droughts putting an end to traditional lifestyle

Age International is raising funds for and awareness of the older people who are struggling because of severe drought and famine in East Africa. Drought seasons and rainy seasons were a normal part of life for many in this region, but in recent years, the weather has become more extreme and longer lasting. Four years of failed rains have led to widespread famine and starvation, making traditional ways of life like Nakorwa's unsustainable.

East Africa Hunger Appeal

East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades and more than 20 million people are on the verge of starvation. Please help to provide lifesaving support to older people and their families.

Nakorwa used to live the rural lifestyle typical of the Toposa people in Ethiopia, taking care of livestock and growing crops. She lost her husband some years ago, and now lives with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. The drought forced her and many others from her village to leave their homes in search of food and health care.

“The drought hit my village, there was no food so we survived eating wild fruits and leaves. We also begged food from our neighbours.”

The conditions have made it impossible to raise crops or livestock for food, but her poor health means she is unable to work for a living. She told us she is suffering from a throat infection which is “hell to endure”, along with bouts of nausea which have stopped her appetite, even when surviving on such little food. She has visited healers and herbalists for help, without success.

“I’m sick and unable to do work to earn money. Before I was very strong, I planted my crops – now I’m just miserable. Drought and famine make our lives very hard.”

“I’m treated well. Our Toposa tradition emphasizes paying respect to the elderly. At times when I’m down, my grandchildren go to the forest and collect herbal roots to treat me... All my people care for me. The throat infection has tormented my mind, I need a cure if there is one available.”

She is grateful for the support of her grandchildren and remains hopeful for their future, despite the situation she is facing.

“I have 3 grandchildren; all of them are in school… They help me but they are young and don’t have a job. My grandchildren came to check on me even today. All of them are healthy for now – it’s only me who is sick.

“I hope my grandchildren can finish their studies and then get a job so they can support themselves. I want my granddaughter to be educated too; she can get married to a good man when she grows up. They should earn money and live a decent life.”

Nakorwa told us that being able to eat three meals a day are rare, and the family are often hungry. This is in stark contrast to her traditional lifestyle, where crops and cattle provided a continual source of milk, meat and vegetables. 

“I miss the life of herding cattle.

I wish I could be young again, milking cows and growing crops.

I miss the Toposa life of raising livestock.”

East Africa Hunger Appeal

East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades and more than 20 million people are on the verge of starvation. Please help to provide lifesaving support to older people and their families.

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Last updated: Aug 02 2022

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