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Sugary Terms of Endearment

October 16 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

Wherever I go, I see a bunch of people sitting outside of a restaurant chattering loudly over tre siga(raw meat) or tibs (stir-fried beef) and beer. Sometimes this is as early as eight in the morning. It has become a common practice and means of passing the time for most people. It is incredible then that most people in Ethiopia complain about inflation, especially food prices, when they have no problem indulging out on expensive meals and beer at such a high rate.

Eating meat is a sign of wealth in this country, even when one is not wealthy. All people who have a certain disposable income eat raw meat until they either have diabetes or are told by their doctor to watch out for their weight. Meanwhile, those on the lower-income bracket consume stew-like shiro. The likes of Misir are already too expensive for too many folks to be a staple food.

Ironically, the food that is most accessible to the lower-income households is healthier, although it is far from being nutritious enough, especially for children.

The best help in gauging this has been a friend who has been in the teaching profession for years. Most of the children at her school bring either egg sandwiches or firfir, made from shredded injera, for lunch as they usually have these two for breakfast and the leftover is packed into their lunch boxes. For supper, they either have bread or biscuits but rarely any fruits or vegetables. If they ever bring fruits, it is mostly bananas.

Although a balanced diet is critical for brain development, mostly children are cheated out of it. This is because of the lower standard of living in Ethiopia and lack of awareness. As a result, malnutrition accounts for over half of all infant and child deaths in Ethiopia, according to USAID.

Some children are on the other end of the spectrum at the school where my friend teaches. They bring burgers, fries and other processed food to school – these are supposed to be the kids from higher-income families. Here again, being well off is expressed by eating and feeding our children junk food. Poverty or a lower standard of living translates to a lack of junk food but exposure to unhealthy edible oil and meagre access to proteins. Striking a balance seems to be difficult.

There is no shortage of examples to show how unhealthy our eating habits are and how we push them on our children. The other day, I was out having lunch with my family. We were seated next to another family of four, also dining. The parents were eating raw meat while the children munched on burgers. They were sitting in front of us, and I could hear what they were saying.

The son, who looked around five years old, insisted on trying the raw meat his parents were eating. He started throwing temper tantrums, and like most parents who try to avoid a spectacle in public, the father gave into his son’s demands and gave him some raw meat. Then the sister became jealous and insisted on some as well. She could not have been older than seven.

As they were children, they did not want to eat any of the hot mustard usually served with raw meat as it not only spices up the tire sigabut is believed to weaken if not kill worms.

My South African mother-in-law, who was dining with us, was shocked.

“Is this a common practice here, feeding children raw meat?” she asked. “I know most of the adult population indulges in raw meat regardless of its health impacts like tapeworm, but this is different. Children could swallow tapeworm eggs or larvae and develop cysts that could damage their intestines.”

Most parents know the complications that could come with eating raw meat but do it out of negligence. I have also noticed on many occasions parents giving their children a sip or two of coffee. The other common mistake is sugar. We spoil our kids with sweets. When they are good, we give them as a reward and when they have done something they were told not to do, we withhold it. When we take them outside, we buy them cakes and chocolate as a sign of adoration.

I am guilty of this as a parent, but little do we know we are making them slaves to sugar, which will create many health complications later in their lives.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 16,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1120]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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