News Analysis: Drought hit pastoralists of Afder zone in Somali region linger between life and death, urge immediate food aid

By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Abeba – Pastoralist communities in Afder zone, one of the three drought stricken zones in Somali Regional State, say they are lingering between life and death without food and water after losing almost all of their livestock to the drought. They urged both the federal and the regional governments to lend them hands in providing them emergency aid.

Abdifatah Garane, 60, resident of Afder zone, is a father of 18 children from his three spouses. He owned 500 goats, 31 camels, and a few donkeys which he used to earn additional income transporting water for his villagers.

He now has remained with 80 goats and two camels after all his livestock have died due to the drought. He said, “we need food and water immediately to stay alive and we are urging our government to help as soon as possible”. 

Gedi Gorane, a father of eight children, is another pastoralist in Bare district of the zone He currently lives in a makeshift camp after he and his families flee their home after losing 84 of his 100 cattle and 340 goats, barely left with nothing to eat.

He said, “despite the severe drought we faced, neither the government nor other non-governmental organizations have provided us with aid.” 

According to Gedi, some of his brothers have already crossed the border to neighboring Somalia, after they had lost their livestock.

The severe drought has impacted the lives of more than three million people in the Somali Regional State, especially in the Afder, Liben, and Dawa zones according to Bashir Arab, early warning coordinator at the regional Disaster and Risk Management Bureau.

He said the Afder zone, with 1.4 million population and 5 million livestock, is highly affected by the current drought, adding that, “the people have no food, no fodder and no water”.

“More than 4.5 million livestock have died since late 2021,  and further 30 million are at risk in the entire Somali region”

Bashir Arab, Early warning coordinator, Somali Region Disaster and Risk Management Bureau

“Over the past three months alone, at least 115,000 livestock have died and around 1 million livestock are at risk in the Afder zone only,” Bashir told Addis Standard, he added that “occupants of Liben and Dawa Zones in the Somali Region have also faced the same problem”.

The severe drought was caused due to prolonged failure of rain for five successive seasons. The residents of the three zones are pastoralists who are entirely dependent on rain to feed their livestock on which their livelihood relies, according to Bashir.

He said the number of dying livestock due to disease, lack of water and fodder has been alarmingly rising in the three drought affected zones.

More than 4.5 million livestock have died since late 2021,  and further 30 million are at risk in the entire Somali region according to Bashir. 

“We are mobilizing resources to deliver water and forage for domestic animals until the pastoralist can secure their food system when they get rain water,” Bashir said. 

Another official from the regional state, who is close to the matter but preferred to remain anonymous, told Addis Standard that around 3.7 million people have been affected, and only 2.8 million received humanitarian aid through the regional Disaster and Risk Management Bureau.

The 900,000 people are starving and at risk of death unless they get immediate assistance, the official warned.

He said that the regional government has recently sent a team aimed to assess the extent of the impact of the drought in the aforementioned three Zones. 

Communities in Southern and South-Eastern parts of Ethiopia have been suffering from devastating drought due to shortage of rainfall since late 2020. The UN said this is the worst drought in 40 years.

In the Borana zone of the neighboring Oromia region, more than 800,000 residents are in need of immediate food assistance, following consecutive failure of rainfall for five rainy seasons, leading to the death of more than 3.3 million livestock.

Besides, the Education Bureau of the zone declared that more than 7,800 students have been forced out of school due to the severe  impact of the drought.

The UN said in its latest report that the number of severe acute malnutrition cases in drought affected districts of Afar, Oromia, Somali and SNNPR regions has increased in 2022 by 21 per cent compared to 2021, adding that, Elkare district in Afder Zone of the Somali Region has recorded 2,562 severely malnourished children (SAM) from January to December 2022, which is a 116 per cent increase compared to 1,185 SAM cases recorded in 2021. AS

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