My daughter’s birth country is in deep trouble – young people are extremely thin, it’s heartbreaking, aid worker says

Aid worker Ronan Scully has told how his adopted Ethiopian daughters begged him to tell the world the story of their country’s plight.

Ronan, 56, from Galway, landed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa last week to see firsthand the impact of successive years of drought in a region of Africa where up to 23 million people are facing critical food shortages.


Ronan Scully with his daughter Sophie (12)
Ronan visited a camp and met locals on his journey


Ronan visited a camp and met locals on his journey

He has always had a special place in his heart for the biggest country in the Horn of Africa, thanks to Sophie, 12, and Mia, 15, whom Ronan and his wife Jacqui O’Grady adopted while they were babies.

Representing both Self Help Africa and the Irish Emergency Alliance, Ronan moved to highlight one of the worst food crises Africa has faced in 40 years.

He told The Irish Sun: “Sophie is old enough to understand that her home country is in deep trouble.

“While the television is full of nightly bulletins about the war in Ukraine, she told me people need to pay attention to the tragedy unfolding in Africa.”

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One in five people in Ethiopia are facing food shortages this year – and millions have been displaced from their land, mainly due to poor harvests caused by climate change.

It is estimated that up to nine million head of cattle died underwater
the holes dry up and the grazing disappears from the arid lands.

Ronan said: “Rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices, resulting from the war in Ukraine, have made the situation even more serious, while spiraling inflation has pushed up food prices and raw materials beyond what many families can afford.”

Droughts are part of a regular climatic cycle in the arid areas of the Horn of Africa.

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However, greater frequency combined with underlying economic, social and environmental factors has a particularly devastating impact on communities.

Ronan last week visited a refugee camp in Debre Birhan, less than two hours from Addis Ababa, where he saw more than 80,000 people living in cramped conditions with limited sanitation facilities.

He said: ‘There were up to 12 family members sleeping on a mat on the floor – grandmothers alongside infants, nursing mothers and teenagers. They had nothing with them except small bundles of clothes and cans of water.

“Young people are painfully thin, in some cases just skin and bones. It was heartbreaking to watch and hard to leave, knowing that I was returning to the comfort of a bed.

“Their world has been turned upside down. They receive very little food and many are malnourished.

Ronan described the camp as an impending health disaster.


Although there have been sporadic outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated water and the specter of Covid is ever present, officials say they have had no serious outbreaks of the deadly disease so far, like cholera.

But Ronan told us, “When so many people live in such close quarters, there is always a risk of disease and a risk of disease spreading rapidly.”

He said a recent appeal from Self Help Africa enabled the organization to directly support 2,000 families with assistance.

And the organization also works across Ethiopia, helping tens of thousands of farming families adapt their farming methods to climate change.

Ronan said, “Crops that can cope better with drought are being introduced, and alternative crop varieties that allow farming households to spread the risk are also being promoted.

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The Irish Horn of Africa Emergency Alliance launched an appeal this week, with Ronan urging people to donate so his organization can help more people on the ground.

lSupport the appeal of the Irish Emergency Alliance at or by calling 1800 939 979.

Sophie Scully with her older sister Mia, at her home in Knocknacarra, Galway


Sophie Scully with her older sister Mia, at her home in Knocknacarra, Galway
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