I watched the BBC report regarding the Ethiopian drought three days ago, and I have been emotionally confused since. Not because of the ongoing problem, but by the reaction of many of my fellow Ethiopians. In an attempt to express my thoughts I started to write a short facebook status, yet I couldn’t. It went on for over 1,000 words. So, I left it a lone for a day, but my confusion isn’t easing up at all.
I am struggling to cope with the perception I sense from many of my countrymen. Somehow I feel so many people are taking comfort in that this drought is not as bad as the famine we had to endure in 1984. I find the notion of that narrative doing disservice to those suffering by the drought right now. I am very confused as to what exactly people are offended about this BBC reporting. Let us even assume, the report that, there are two babies dying everyday is inaccurate. Should that be the main focus of our reaction?
Do people realize, when the reports say, 15 million Ethiopians will be in need of food assistance in early 2016…it means in just a matter of few more months?
For people like Birtukan Ali the mother who lost her child (shown in the video) this is the worst drought for her. This is her 1984. She won’t be alone, this will affect millions and the hardship will get worst before it gets better. The dire need is just starting. Why are we tending to compare and contrast this drought with the 1984 famine, as if, so long as it is not as bad, everything is okay.
I see a lot of people congratulating William Davison for his “Yes, Ethiopia has problems – but this drought is no 1984 rerun” article. It is a great article as far as reporting goes, but I find no solace in there. I fear perhaps the title is misleading many people and just maybe many of them are not internalizing the full content of the article.
The simple fact that, we will need foreign assistance in order to cope with this, an assistance that might or might not come in time. That alone should worry us. We have to be prepared so that we don’t fall victim of what Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman calls, planning fallacy – assuming only the best –case scenario will happen.
Some might say, I am just being overly worried. My argument to that is; an optimist bias attitude will catch us off guard. As they say, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Yes, our people are much more resilient, and our government is in a much better position to assist its people than it has ever been, but that is not enough room for comfort. We need not to focus in crying foul about the reporting, but rather refocus our energy how best is it that we could help our people and put even more pressure on our leaders and public figures to stay on top of it.
I sense many of us are misplacing our priority between, trying to guard Ethiopia’s image that has been bruised for so many years and worrying about the problem at hand. My sincere view is that, let us focus on protecting our people and our image will protect itself.
Whatever we do, downplaying the severity of the problem won’t be one of the solutions.