Ethiopia drought: crisis coming

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Ethiopia drought: crisis coming

By Nicola Kelly


Borena people from Yabelo, Ethiopia, could face a humanitarian crisis after the worst drought in 30 years. David Stanley under a Creative Commons Licence

‘Lower quality - less profit,’ says Roba Adola showing me the dry land.

‘Foot and mouth disease has killed a lot of our animals. So we earn less. This year, I made 6,000 birr [$290] less for each camel than last year.’

At the market, there are many people trying to buy and make money. Markets like this used to be big business in this part of Ethiopia.

The Borena is a tribe around the town of Yabelo in south Ethiopia. They farm and keep animals and they need to sell their animals to support their families. When there are diseases like foot and mouth, and drought, they have to sell at lower cost. So families become very poor.

Ethiopia now has its worst drought for 30 years. The rains are late so farmers cannot harvest their crops. More than 10 million people need aid assistance.

‘We have to find a way to make the food for the animals last longer when it doesn’t rain,’ says Roba. ‘If we can manage our natural resources, this would help to prevent famine, like the one in the 1980s.’

I visited the village – or kebele – of Adegalchat with Ethiopian colleagues from Christian Aid. It is two hours’ drive from the nearest town. There are avocado trees, coffee plantations and wild strawberries along the road.

We meet Sanou, the village chief. We all sit under an acacia tree.

‘When drought comes, we all suffer the same. Everyone – rich and poor –suffers,’ he explains.

His community have adapted how they work because of the changing climate.

‘We try hard to adapt, but the rains don’t come. Our land dries, our animals die because they have no food and our children get weak.’

Kula Taro Wariyo invites us to her home for lunch - spiced rice. Twenty people from the village come to her dark hut and tell us about the changes in their village in the past few years.

‘In the past, when the rains came, the grass began to grow. Now, the ground dries immediately,’ Kula says.

The following day, we drive to Arero, 100 kilometres from Yabelo. I sit with a group of women and their babies. Smiling, they tell me my name means ‘Sugarcane’ in the local language.

Tume Yarco Deeda, 21, tells me how the drought affects women and girls: ‘We have to carry water, collect hay, prepare food for our family, look after our children. Drought means we have to walk further to find food and water. Sometimes, we have to carry heavy cans of water for hours under the hot sun.’

‘I know many women who have given birth on the way to get water. This is very dangerous for them.’

Drought affects these families very badly. Less trade means less money for food. No rain means longer journeys to find water, often in dangerous places. And no food or water means children have to leave school to help their mothers find these. Sometimes, it’s even worse.

Christian Aid has been working with a local partner organization, Hundee, to give one school meal per day to more than 4,000 children in the Zuway Dugda district.

One pupil is 15-year-old Marima Mohammed. ‘Drought has made our life miserable,’ she says.

‘We have so little food in my family, I don’t eat dinner to let my younger sisters eat mine. Because of the school food programme, now I am regularly going to school.’

We need to do a lot more. There are millions of people there with a humanitarian crisis coming. If we want to stop the repeat of history, we need to do something now, before it’s too late.

Nicola Kelly is an international communications advisor for Christian Aid.

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