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Mothers helping each other

December 11, 2015

Jeneti, Razaiya and Kimiya are part of a “Mother-to-Mother” group set up by CARE in collaboration with government health services in the East Hararghe district of Ethiopia to support mothers with young children during the extreme El Niño-driven drought that has hit the country. Members are identified by local health workers as particularly vulnerable mothers with children under the age of five. CARE experts provide practical information on how best to use available resources to keep children healthy and members share tips with each other on how to cope with the effects of drought. The group has met for five weeks and will continue to meet weekly at least for six months. In collaboration with the Ethiopian government and support from several institutional donors, CARE is also supporting around 300,000 people with food aid, assisting over 37,000 children and mothers affected by malnutrition, rehabilitating water points and enabling 20,000 people access safe drinking water.

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Jeneti (25), mother of a four month old boy and a three year old girl: “This is the worst drought I have experienced. For my family, the biggest problem is that I have to spend most of the day walking to get water. I get up early in the morning and come home in the evening – and then I start cooking. I leave both children with a neighbour. When I come back, my four- month-old son is always crying. I began suspecting it was a problem with malnutrition and contacted the local health worker. She concluded that it was I who was suffering from malnutrition. I received nutrition support from the local government and joined this group with other mothers. I feel the group has opened my eyes. I have learned how to feed and clean my child to keep him healthy. Now I know how much of the different kinds of food I need to eat and what the child will need once he is six months old and I stop breastfeeding.”

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Razaiya (35), mother of eight children aged seven months to 19 years: “This drought is brought by God, I have to accept that and hope that the mercy from God will come. I would love to have some vegetables and milk for my children. We have had problems before, but we have always had some rain and the crop has not failed as completely as it has this year. The problems are double now because we had a bad harvest last year too. So we have very little to eat and nothing to sell any more. We have sold one cow, but it was in such bad shape that we did not get much money for it. We have borrowed some grain from a privately owned local grain bank and we receive monthly food supplies from the government and CARE, but it is not enough.”

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Kimiya Mohammed Ali, leader of the Mother-to-Mother group: “My role is two-fold. In addition to leading the discussions in the group about health, hygiene and nutrition, I talk to all pregnant women in the village, give their names to the local government health service and ensure they get transport to the hospital when they are about to give birth, and that they get necessary vaccinations. I also go house to house in the village to share information on hygiene and how to avoid malnutrition in children. In this crisis, I am affected like everyone else. We are all suffering. Before this crisis, we got together in groups [organized by CARE] to save money in a collective box every week. That way we could help each other. We selected a committee, who decided which household was in the greatest need and then we provided loans and support to them from the savings box. Now we have nothing to save, but it is still good to get together and not suffer alone. We learn a lot from each other. One family may have better ways of managing their resources and they can tell others about it.”

Visit careclimatechange.org to learn how CARE is helping the most vulnerable to mitigate the impacts of climate change.