Fighting against death and destitution

Have you ever had a bad day? Or even a bad week?
It happens to us all, it can be so frustrating!
But when we tell you what Tigist has endured, you may realise how tough some people have it.
Tigist lives high on a rift valley plateau in Ethiopia. One day she noticed her husband Berhanu lose his balance while standing by the fire in their round mud hut. It was early, before the sunrise, and the animals were still in the hut, as they were every night.
Berhanu steadied himself, wrapped his blanket around him and held his head in both hands.
Tigist put her hand around his shoulder.
It had been a tough few months, a freak and severe frost had destroyed their barley crops, already very thin because of lack of rain.
Berhanu had been worried about how they would feed their four children through the dry summer. The vegetables had also been destroyed, leaving only the animals, which they would have to sell to survive. Once they were gone there would be nothing left.
Berhanu turned to Tigist with tears in his eyes, she had not seen that before, Gurage men are very tough, never showing that kind of emotion.

“I’m not sure I can go on, he said, I have had this burning throbbing pain
in my head for a few weeks since the frost”.

Tigist had noticed he had been a bit moody but had put it down to the strain they were all under.

Berhanu went and lay down and did not move for three days. Tigist tried to feed him and he did take a bit of water but then lay down saying he was too weak to move. His body shook occasionally from cold and tears. She was beside herself, exhausted from all the work, doing his farm work on top of her own and caring for the kids.

Berhanu’s brother Solomon was home on his annual holiday from his labouring job in the town of Harar in the South East of the country. “Let me take him to Harar, he said, “the weather is warmer and I know a healer that can help him, there must be something wrong with his mind.”

Tigist reluctantly agreed.

First the devastating frost, then a dry summer and now her husband needed to go away to get better.
Still, she had good neighbours and although they too were affected by the weather, nobody had left the community yet in search of food and employment. She would find a way.
Berhanu left and seemed to be making progress. She spoke to him occasionally using a borrowed mobile phone. She could tell by his voice he was not yet fit enough to come home and he said the pain in his head was still strong. The concoction of herbs the healer had given him had not worked yet.

Then came that devastating day, Solomon had phoned from Addis Ababa. Berhanu had become delirious, they were told by a doctor that he needed to have his head scanned. He travelled to Addis, a three days bus ride away. It was found that Berhanu had a growth on his brain, he was being operated on and it was touch and go.
Berhanu died on the 11th August this year. He was a friend of Piers Langdon and of Action Ethiopia.

Piers did not know he had died until he arrived at the base of Berhanu’s mountain, the whole village had climbed to the top to attend his funeral.

Bad things happen to us all, but stories like Tigist’s means that we will continue to do our best to help her and the community through the work Action Ethiopia is doing.

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