“I lost my job because of COVID 19”: Sohari (50)
Sohari Amdaga is married and lives with her husband and their six children in Addis Abeba. Sohari has three boys and three girls.
Sohari and her family are among the 4,429 people that were identified as the most food insecure households across Addis Abeba city Administration. The family’s livelihood were further affected by the economic restriction put in place to halt the spread of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic. Sohari’s family has now been identified as one of the target beneficiaries for cash support through the Emergency Food Assistance for households affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic in Major Cities, project implemented by Save the Children and funded by USAID. The family receives a monthly stipend of 2,000 Birr from Save the Children Food for Peace (FFP) program.
Sohari’s story in her own words
I am originally from the Gurague Zone, “Sebat Bet”. I do not really remember how old I was when I first came to Addis Abeba. My husband was living in Addis Abeba at the time and I joined him. He said that living in the city was much better than the hardship in the countryside and convinced me to stay. We had small house made of plastic in a slum area. We now live in one of my relatives’ house. They gave us a small room to live in. I have been living with my husband and children in this house for many years.
I gave birth to three of my children while I was in the Gurage zone I got the other three children after I came to Addis. My oldest son is 30 years old. The other two boys are 25 and 22. My daughters are 19, 18 and 13 years old respectively. The boys did not go to school at all. They are all alcoholic. One of the boys had a serious mental health problem and the family had a hard time because of him. However, the first two daughters completed Grade 10. My 13 years old daughter is now in grade 7. She recently got registered to go back to school
I used to work in a public school under the new school feeding programme. I earned 1,000 birr per month. I joined the programme because the pay was much better than what I used to earn before. I was thinking to earn a better income and get enough money to buy food for my children. unfortunately, the programme was suspended because of the pandemic. I am now at home. I also used to wash cloths and earn some additional income before the Coronavirus. I had to wash clothes every week to earn 300 birr per month. These days, no one wants their clothes washed by an outsider because of the virus.
Few years back, I also used to sell vegetables in the market as well as “Kolo”, (roasted barley snack )in the street. The income was very low and I wasn’t even able to cover the household expense. I was struggling to pay for electricity, water, etc. It was completely impossible to cover expenses related to social life in the community such as “Edir”, Women’s Association, etc. My husband sells handmade baskets. Unfortunately, he uses his money to smoke cigarette and chew Kat. He does not give a penny for the household expense. My daughter who worked as a sales girl in a boutique used to give me some money to buy bread and injera for the family. Now that she got laid off, the family is struggling. We do not have the money to buy food. The boys have no job. All they do is to drink alcohol and smoke cigarette. My husband also does the same. He drinks and chews Kat.
I am not happy with the relationship I have with my husband. I have had a difficult time. He sometimes beats and also yells at me. I once reported to the Women and Children Office and we also went to the court but nothing was done to make him stop. I always tell him to give the family peace and some money to buy food. Despite our dispute, we still live together. He is the one who brought me to the city. I don’t have any other place to go. Most of my relatives who were back home have now passed away. I have nowhere to go. Life will be very difficult if I return home.
I admit life is also a challenge in Addis Abeba but I do my best to manage it. I have to live with my husband and children. My children always defend me. The boys always argue with him because he does not give peace to the family and never supports them financially.
I tell you the truth. I don’t have anything at home. I don’t even have flour. I cannot afford to buy peas “Shiro” and store in the kitchen. I also don’t have any electricity. I cannot even cook injera. The family does not get enough food. I buy lentils or potatoes when I get the money. We buy injera from the market only when we get the money. We sometimes skip meals during the day. If we eat breakfast, we mostly skip lunch. When the children went to school, they rarely have breakfast. They get a small piece of bread to eat when they get back home in the afternoon.
Those children who went to school went to a public school. School admission was free. However, I did not get enough money to give them lunch for school. It was difficult to give them a full meal. A Non - Profit Organization used to buy a uniform to my youngest daughter. Now the government is in charge. She also gets free meal at school.
Although I don’t have enough money, I have a good engagement in my community. I provide a free labour service whenever there is an occasion in the community. I make coffee, sauce, etc. I give to the community what I have; 20 birr or 30 birr. I contribute more to my community by offering free service rather than contributing in cash. Community engagement is very important. You never know what may happen to you and your family one day. There will be time where I will need the support of the community members. Therefore, I have to engage in the community - based activities. To tell you the truth, there are times where I borrow money to pay the monthly membership for “Edir”.
Using the cash I received from the programme, I first paid my debts I was once very sick and needed medical care. I borrowed money to pay the bill for the treatment. So I first paid back the 600 birr including the outstanding balance for the Edir. I had five months outstanding balance. Using the cash I received, I also bought food for my children. I bought injera, shiro, berbere, flour, oil, soap etc. from the shop located at the woreda. I was happy. I have now fully recovered. I hope that I will never get into a problem again and same to my children. I wish I could get more money. I would appreciate if I also get access to electricity so that I could make injera at home. We would be more grateful if the organization helped us with that too.
What Save the Children doing to help Sohari and others like her?
Save the Children, through the Emergency Food Assistance for Households affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic in Major Cities in Ethiopia project provides cash support to families whose livelihoods are impacted by the pandemic for the coming six months. This support will enable households to purchase and provide enough food to their families.
The project is funded by USAID with a total budget of nine million USD for six months. The project aims to increase household access and consumption of diverse nutritious food. The project is under implementation in six major cities in Ethiopia namely, Addis Abeba, Adama, Dire Dawa, Jigjiga, Hawassa and Bahirdar reaching 29,035 households.