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Wildfire heightens Ethiopia hunger crisis

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (BP)–Southern Baptists are helping families in southern Ethiopia whose homes, livestock and food supplies were destroyed in late April by wildfires that raged across two drought-stricken regions of the North African country.

While news media have been reporting on the hunger crisis in Ethiopia –- which has claimed hundreds of children’s lives and threatens thousands more — the situation has become even more desperate in the Ethiopian regions ravaged by wildfires, reported Abraham Shepherd, a Southern Baptist who leads relief and development efforts in that part of the world on behalf of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist humanitarian organization.

A lack of spring rain already had destroyed crops, but the drought also left vegetation dry and vulnerable to wildfire. When the inevitable flames raced across the countryside and into villages, entire families found themselves facing the real possibility of starvation, Shepherd said.

Southern Baptists have released more than $37,000 to help those families rebuild their livelihoods and stave off a hunger crisis that already was bad enough.

Working through a local Ethiopian humanitarian group, Baptist Global Response will help rebuild mud-and-thatch houses, replace livestock and provide a supply of grain and cooking oil to feed 56 families until their summer harvest can be taken in, Shepherd said.

An allocation of $11,634.73 in general relief funds will provide corrugated steel and nails to help families rebuild their houses. The $25,845.48 disbursed from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund will provide oats, corn, and sorghum, cooking oil and seven milk cows.

The allocation also will cover transportation, fuel and storage costs as well as the cost of hiring local people to help with the distribution, Shepherd said. The families affected by the fire are providing the wood and labor needed to complete the houses.

“We are looking to help these families rebuild their houses and give them grain for three months until they are able to harvest their next crop” after much-hoped-for seasonal rains, Shepherd said.

“There was one man who lost 44 animals in the fire, several of which were milking animals,” he added. “The economic loss was such a hit to the community that they held a funeral to mourn the death of the animals.

“Replacing a fraction of this man’s herd will go a long way toward helping the entire community,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to connect people in need with people who care.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor at Baptist Press. The Baptist Global Response website is located at www.gobgr.org.

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