Armina has just lost her 2-year-old girl Shumuti to starvation. When the price of maize doubled recently, Armina had nothing to feed Shumuti but a watery soup, made from weeds. She watched her daughter grow thinner every week. By the time she found help, it was too late.
Now Armina, from Ethiopia, is also struggling to keep her baby son Tamirat alive as the only food she had to give him, her breast milk, is drying up, probably because of her own malnutrition.
“Now Tamirat is getting sick,” Armina explains. “His skin is shrinking. I barely have any milk to give him anymore ... and we still have no food ...Unless we get help I don’t think we will survive.”
A local health official says the situation for families like Armina’s is becoming worse by the day. “Our communities are on dangerous ground. People are dying and they need help.”
Armina and her family live in a deeply impoverished and drought-stricken region of south-eastern Ethiopia. Drought, failed crops and soaring food prices have left many people struggling to survive, their numbers rising rapidly.
Cruelly, just a few metres behind Armina’s hut, are fields of failed maize and teff crops. Rains have just arrived and the new downpours have turned these fields deceptively green – but the next harvest is at least three months away -- if the rains hold up, that is.
It is the so-called 'green hunger' that now holds Armina, her son, and so many other parents and children in its grip.
Armina points to a few tiny maize plants near her feet that have only just broken through the soil. She prays that she, Tamirat and her husband will hold on long enough to see them bear their white, life-sustaining kernels.
When asked about her hopes for Tamirat’s future, Armina responded: “I am hoping that he will become strong, go to school and grow up.” Asked if she has ever been as hungry as she is now, she smiled faintly and said: “No – never.”