They are used to drought in Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries on the Hornet. But now that there has been almost no rain in the wet seasons for almost three years in a row, everyone knows: What is happening now is not normal. This is a disaster for millions of people and their animals. Harvest fails, water sources run dry and livestock die in droves. Communities, itinerant pastoralists and their families, are not only struggling with hunger, they have also lost their source of income.
“Families have sold everything they had to survive the last two years. They have no reserves. No money, no food, no pets. Food aid is now the most important thing. It’s a matter of survival, ”said Hirko Belay, an Ethiopian relief worker with whom Cordaid works.
The climate phenomenon La Niña
The abnormal drought is linked to the climate phenomenon La Niña and the warming waters of the Pacific Ocean. As a result, wet seasons remain dry and precipitation patterns are completely disrupted. When the rain comes, it is sometimes devastating. Then you have locust plague, also a result of the climate crisis. And in some parts of the Hornet, such as in northern Ethiopia, there is armed conflict beyond all natural disasters. It makes food production even more difficult.
“This combination of conflict in Tigray, mass displacement and extreme drought means that around ten million people in Ethiopia are currently dependent on food aid,” said Ahmed Mohammed, who coordinates humanitarian aid in Ethiopia for Cordaid.
What does Cordaid do?
What will Cordaid do with Hundee, the Ethiopian aid organization that Hirko also works for? As mentioned, food aid now has the highest priority. Therefore, we will first distribute large food packages to 700 families in three monthly installments, mainly consisting of corn, beans and vegetable oil. This means that families can be sure that they will get something to eat in the coming months. We also give money to each family for transportation and to buy herbs and spices.
“So a direct consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine is that we can provide much less food aid with the money we have than, for example, a year ago.”
Auxiliary workers prefer to use the local market as much as possible. So why distribute food in central locations? “The market is not working at the moment,” explains Tord Bijleveld, Cordaid’s aid coordinator in The Hague. ‘Farmers and farmers have nothing to sell. There is no market. That’s why we share it. These are large bags that people do not just carry on their heads or backs for a few miles. Certainly not those we help: The most needy and weak, often elderly or single mothers. That is why we also pay for transport. ”
Food aid more expensive due to war in Ukraine
Purchasing emergency supplies, such as food, is usually done locally as far as possible. Also in this relief operation. To his great frustration, Ahmed Mohammed, who coordinates purchasing and distribution, sees that the war in Ukraine is seriously disrupting the supply and prices of food in Ethiopia.
“We do not deliberately distribute grain because of that war. We have to introduce it, and it is too expensive, especially now because of the war,” he explains. “But even the price of locally produced maize and beans and oil from neighboring countries is rising. dramatically due to the conflict in Ukraine. “We have, than, for example, a year ago. If we used to be able to feed ten families for a certain amount, now there are painfully only five.”
Goats: source of income and milk
Pets are extremely important in Borana. The culture, the kitchen, the economy, everything is aimed at it. Cows and goats determine a person’s status and are the main source of income. People pay with animals. And without cattle no wedding. The drought is also undermining this economic and cultural base.
“We also work with traditional weather reports. Their knowledge of nature, of the stars, of animal behavior also helps in the fight against the consequences of the climate crisis. ”
“That is why we also distribute hunger to 100 households that have lost many animals due to drought. Our help packages also contain concentrated animal feed. This allows them to raise a small crowd again. That way, they can create an income, and they also have milk for their own consumption, ”says Hirko Belay.
Water support in the short and long term
In addition to food aid and livelihoods, this relief campaign is about water. In the short but also a little longer term. “Even though wells are drying up, there is still water in the ground. A major additional problem is that many water pumps are broken. Old, worn parts are not available. People do not have the means for maintenance. That is why we need to restore an important water distribution system on which more than 22,000 people depend. It is a large water pump with a whole series of taps, where many people can get drinking water at the same time, ”explains Ahmed Mohammed. “We also want to connect it to solar energy. It saves people fuel, which is hardly affordable these days. “
What can make an even bigger difference, certainly in the long run, is the construction of water basins. Communities often have a pond for storing rainwater as standard. In areas exposed to drought, this is vital for humans and animals. “We are going to excavate a pond that is dilapidated and soiled somewhere. We need to strengthen and fence in the banks. People who have virtually nothing left and who live on the brink of starvation cannot do this on their own now. It is a work of great value, because this pond is also a crucial water point for thousands of people, “said Ahmed.
The smell of rotting carcasses
It is also expected to remain dry in the coming rainy season, which only increases the need to help the most vulnerable people and animals. Everyone longs for the rain as it should fall in a wet season. And if even a little bit of water falls from the sky, you will see that everything changes.
“Recently, it has been raining a bit for a long time,” says Hirko Belay. “You can immediately see how weak animals gain strength. There is less death. The smell of rotting carcasses, which was smelled everywhere, subsides. And if it rains a little like it does now, people need to have everything ready to save the water and build up reserves. That’s why these water basins are so important. “
Satellites and traditional weather forecasts
In addition to emergency food aid and a more structural water supply, this aid campaign focuses on data and information supply. “Farmers and livestock farmers often do not have the information they need to prepare for or protect themselves from climate violence,” Hirko said. The Ethiopian Meteorological Institute is, of course, a source of valuable information using satellites. But people in rural areas do not get that data. Moreover, these messages are not so specific that farmers and livestock farmers really benefit from them.
We want to change that. “We want to make sure that communities are informed and informed via radio about what the weather is going to do in their area,” Hirko said. “So people know if sowing makes sense. Whether to sell their animals now or later. We want to collaborate with the Meteorological Institute in this reporting. But also with traditional weather forecasts playing a big role here in Ethiopia. They use their knowledge of nature, of the stars, of the behavior of the animals, to make weather forecasts. Their knowledge also helps in the fight against the consequences of the climate crisis. ”
Cordaid sets off into the drought-stricken Borana. With food and feed for three months. With live goats. By repairing damaged drinking water systems and supplying them with green energy. By restoring a water basin to store rain when it falls. And by ensuring that farmers and livestock farmers receive the meteorological and climatic information via radio that makes them more resilient.
In this way, we increase the chances of life and survival in the extreme drought in Borana, on the Horn of Africa, a little bit.
This relief operation from Cordaid in Borana is part of a joint operation of the Dutch relief alliance in Ethiopia in response to the catastrophic drought.