As Oxfam continues our response to the floods in Pakistan, Coco McCabe is visiting Oxfam America’s projects in Ethiopia, where recurring droughts, conflicts, and soaring food prices continue to burden many families. Here’s her latest update from her journey.
I’m in Ethiopia and I’ve decided to go shoe shopping—a chore that’s always a nightmare at home where there’s a shoe for every step: approach shoes, walking shoes, running shoes, dress shoes. I don’t want any of that stuff. I just want something that’s going to do the job for me here. Something sturdy and mud-worthy.
So here, in Agere Maryam, a few hour’s drive from the Kenyan border, I’ve decided to follow the lead of the local herders and go for plastic—all purpose, one-piece plastic. No glue. No stitching. No doodads. There are heaps of molded shoes for sale here—blue, brown, black, green—piled on tarps by roadside kiosks or offered in mounds in the nearby market.
But the abundance belies the reality: many people in the fields and pastures between here and the market in Finchawa go barefoot. Shoes, when people spend the money on them, are worn to shreds. And function always trumps fashion. In the market, I spy a boy darting through the crowd. On his right foot he wears a lady’s shoe—blue or black I can’t tell through the dust that covers it—and for his left foot he has found a man’s leather shoe, camel-brown and pointy. Its laces are long gone.