Here in Ethiopia, 2001 is drawing to a close. Tomorrow is the first day of 2002 in the Ethiopian calendar.
It is a time of renewal and celebration here – perhaps more than in European cultures (something like a cross between Christmas and New Year). The rainy season is coming to an end; the hungry season will soon be behind us. Today in Addis Ababa people are promenading in their traditional white Ethiopian clothes and shawls. The market outside our house is heaving: goats, chickens, lots of fruit and vegetables all crowded into the muddy space. (Though because New Year’s Day is a Friday – which is a fasting day for Orthodox Ethiopians – the big feast will be on Saturday).
Many Ethiopians face huge challenges today. There are many families across the country who will not have enough to eat today or tomorrow. Thanks to the work of the government, supported by foreign donors, about 5 million of the poorest families will get help through the safety net programme; but there are at least as many again who need help. Ethiopia gets more aid now, but nothing like enough for a country of this size and population. Aid to Ethiopia is $25 per person per year, compared to over $100 in Zambia. There is no question that if aid to Ethiopia doubled tomorrow, the government would do an excellent job of using that money to provide food, health, education and infrastructure to its people.
To everyone in this beautiful country, may the coming year bring you joy, may your dreams for you and your children come true. And may the rest of the world stand in solidarity with you, our brothers and sisters.