Ethiopia’s lasting legacy of famine (Roger Thurow)
At an international hunger summit in London next month, experts will seek to tackle the long-term impact of childhood malnutrition and its consequences for struggling nations
By Roger Thurow
In the first-year classroom of Shemena Godo Primary School, in Boricha, Ethiopia, three dozen children study the alphabet. On a black chalkboard, teacher Chome Muse highlights the letter B and writes the combination with each vowel. Ba, be, bi, bo, bu.
The pupils, crowded two or three to a desk, listen to the sounds. I am watching one boy in particular, Hagirso, who sits at the back of the room. He copies the letters in his tattered notebook and proudly shows me his first attempts at writing, a triumphant milestone in early childhood development.
Hagirso, though, is no child. He is 15 years old. I first met him 10 years ago during the Ethiopian famine of 2003. He was in an emergency feeding tent, on the verge of starvation and weighed just 27lb when his father carried him to the clinic. The doctors and aid workers feared he wouldn’t live.
Miraculously, Hagirso survived, but the damage of severe malnutrition had been done. When I next saw him, five years later on the family’s small farm in the southern highlands, Hagirso had gained weight but not much height. He was then 10 years old and just over 3ft tall. He wasn’t in school. Read More