Ethiopia: Funding, resources and access needed to help drought-affected Ethiopian communities
With the Horn of Africa once again in the grip of a severe drought, ERC Valerie Amos travelled to Ethiopia’s drought-affected Somali region, where pastoralist communities have not seen rain for some 18 months.
“I have just come back from the Somali Region, where I met the regional president, and visited an affected community in Bisle kebele. I spoke to women who had walked for five hours with their children to get help – food assistance and health care,” noted ERC Amos at a press conference in Addis Ababa on 9 July. “More and more children are malnourished. People have lost their livestock and now have no means of support. Everyone I met spoke of the lack of water and the impact it’s having on their day-to-day lives.”
Severe water shortages earlier in the year resulted in more than 1 million people – nearly a quarter of the region’s population – requiring water trucking by the end of April. Although temporarily relieved by the late arrival of rains in May, drought conditions are expected to re-emerge in the coming months before the next scheduled rains, between October and December 2011. With the pastoralists’ very way of life at risk, access to water and sustainable ways of harvesting rainwater need to be developed in drought-prone areas to reduce reliance on water trucking, which is expensive and unsustainable.
Livestock deaths have resulted in smaller herd sizes – by 40 to 60 per cent in some areas – and much lower milk production: milk is an essential component of women’s and children’s nutrition in most pastoralist communities.
Meeting women who had brought their children to a health and nutrition screening centre in Besle on Saturday, run by a mobile team with support from Save the Children UK, as well as talking to community elders, Ms. Amos said that people clearly need better access to basic health services to stop preventable diseases from taking a higher toll on an already weakened population.
“It is the poorest who are the most vulnerable. We all know we need to do more now; we also need to plan for the longer term – to help people rebuild their lives when the situation improves. I welcome the emphasis put by the Government on longer-term development and the need to build the overall resilience of the people.”
Valerie Amos met Regional President Abdi Ilie and other officials in the Shinile capital Jijiga, and welcomed their leadership in preparedness and response planning. Ms. Amos underscored the need for enhanced measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian staff, saying that, “Over the past few years, humanitarian operations in parts of the Somali Region have been affected by limited access to some areas due to insecurity. We need to work together to address these security challenges.”
Other countries in the region – Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda – are also suffering from the impact of the drought and thousands of Somalis continue to flee across borders into
Ethiopia and Kenya. The needs are huge. ERC Amos emphasized that donors, “have been generous with Ethiopia and I hope that that generosity will continue and extend to the neighbouring countries. It is essential that the humanitarian community has both the funding and resources needed to meet urgent needs, as well as access to the populations affected by the drought.”