A negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) resulted in below average rainfall over East Africa and led to drought situations in Somali, Oromia and SNNP regions of Ethiopia according to UNICEF Ethiopia’s humanitarian situation report of February 2017.
The report indicated that 9.2 million people require access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. This figure has been increasing due to the delay of belg/spring rain. In response to this the Government of Ethiopia with support from partners is providing water rations to an estimated 839,500 people in Afar, Oromia, SNNP, Somali and Tigray regions.
Despite such efforts, nearly 90 percent of the affected people who are in dire need of safe drinking water and sanitation are not reached.
Bena Tsemay district in South Omo Zone of the South Peoples region is predominantly pastoral community whose livelihood solely relies on livestock. 60 percent of the total livestock population are now severely affected due to lack of fodder and water, thousands of cattle have been dying and many others are at risk of death. Shewiki Boto, 50 and a father of 8 is among those pastoralists affected by the effect of the drought. “I had 56 cows and 35 calves, but now only 14 cows and 4 calves left. Losing one cow or a calf a day is becoming normal. I just lost one cow yesterday,” Shewiki explains with sorrow.
Many schools and health institutions are without water. As a result children do not go to school and health institutions are impeded from delivering services at this critical time.
“We can do nothing without water and facing critical problem. We buy water from donkey cart owners for 5 birr for each 20 liter jerry can. Last week we admitted eight severely malnourished children for medication. It was very challenging for us to provide them proper treatment,” complains Yabi-Kibra Ayalew who is in charge treating children and mothers with malnutrition cases at Chebbi Dedegnate Health Center in Shashemene District.
In Shashemene district of the Oromia region many streams and rivers that serve the community and their livestock are dried up. Children and mothers are seen wandering driving donkey carts loaded with jerry cans in search of water. “Water is rationed to each village and we get once in a week. When it is our turn the whole community flocks to this water point which has only two tapes. One tape is for donkey carts and the other for jerry cans. People got stranded waiting long queues for day long to fetch a jerry can of water and sometimes, after these all hassles, they return home without water,” says Bedhaso Beriso a resident of Meja village in Shashemene district.
In such difficult times the burden on women and girls doubled, in addition to tradition imposed roles. Of those school children who drop their education, most are girls. “We women are the most vulnerable and victim of this drought. You can imagine how it is difficult for a nursing mother travel 12 hours wandering to fetch water, collect fire wood, taking care of children, and doing all household chores,” says Juhara Hussein, 36 and a mother of 8 who resides in Keku village in Goro district of the Oromia region.
In many parts of the current drought stricken areas people are migrating distant areas in search of water and pasture. Others are suffering of malnutrition and sicknesses triggered by the drought such as acute watery diarrhea. Unless there is urgent response to the situation will worsen further.