News Analysis:Despite alarming reports, Oromia region claims drought in Borana not out of hand, govt “responding appropriately”

The drought, described by the EU as “the worst drought in a generation” has already devoured more than 3 million livestock heads in Borana zone, southern Oromia. Photo: © European Union, 2022 (photographer: Silvya Bolliger)

Addis Abeba – The Oromia Regional State said that it is responding appropriately to providing emergency assistance to people in need of emergency aid in Borana zone of Oromia region in Southern Ethiopia, one of the places harshly hit by the worst drought in 40 years in East Africa. 

Debela Itana, Director of Logistics for Response and Rehabilitation at the Oromia Busa Gonofa, regional commission in charge of humanitarian response, told Addis Standard that the state government has been responding to the emergency by allocating over 200 million birr this year.

According to Debela, the number of people in need of assistance in the Borana zone due to the prolonged drought and food shortages has increased by more than 500 thousand in six months, from 375,000 in September to 867,140 now.

Of the 867,140 people in need of emergency assistance, the fifth round of assistance has been sent for 604,001 people so far and 263,139 have been identified as not yet receiving regular assistance and been “allowed” to get emergency assistance, he said.

Addis Abeba City administration provided food aid and animal fodder worth 225 million birr to drought affected Borana zone, Photo: OBN

“A team from the federal and regional disaster risk management commissions has gone down to Borana and confirmed the situation and the need for assistance to the 263,139 people,” he said.

“Even though they were not receiving regular aid… they were getting assistance at different times [from NGOs and others],” Debela said, adding that they have now been allowed to receive regular assistance.

However, Debela said the reality of the aid delivery is not as it is being reported on social media and the problem is “not beyond the ability of the government and the community.”

“The government is paying close attention to the problem. Food is being loaded by the regional disaster risk management commission. In addition, various bodies in different places are providing aid,” he said. “There are problems but no one has died because of this [drought]. We can say that for sure.”

However, residents told Addis Standard in early February that people were dying due to water and food shortages. “Now we have given up on our cattle, we are now striving to save our lives,” said Bekalu Abera, a resident of Arero district of Borana zone.

Furthermore, Dinka Dadhi, a communications specialist in Arero district, told Addis Standard last month that the elderly and children were dying due to starvation, as they have low hunger tolerance. He also said that although some aid agencies are providing life-saving assistance, the assistance they provide is not adequate.

Debela Itana on his part said that the federal and regional governments have been providing additional food (food for malnourished people) since last month to help people who are facing severe malnutrition  due to the drought.

“More than 10,000 quintals of additional food for the most malnourished people, including children, were sent to the zone last month. Since Monday, 3,500 quintals of rice and 13,000 quintals of additional food (food for malnourished people) have been sent from the federal government and are being loaded into the Borana zone.”

According to Debela, the aid to 867,140 people will be provided continuously for the next six months.

Five failed consecutive rainy seasons have killed millions of cattle and destroyed crops, exacerbating the humanitarian disaster. Millions of livestock in Borana district have died due to drought in the past three years, Debela said, adding that grass and water is being loaded to Borana to save at least 10 percent of the livestock.

Following the recent circulation of photos showing the severity of the drought on social media, the issue has become the trending agenda of social media and various people & organizations are collecting donations.

The government has recently issued directives to direct the donations collected through individuals, groups and institutions to go through the government’s channel only in order to mobilize donations that were being collected in a dispersed manner by various parties.

When asked about the importance of the directives, Director of Logistics for Response and Rehabilitation of Busa Gonofa Office, Debela Itana, said that the collected donations will go in one direction to help monitor and control resources going to the drought-hit areas.

“It helps to avoid wastage of resources. It ensures that there are no obstacles along the road and that the collected support reaches the people in need as soon as possible.”

Debela added that 3.6 million drought-affected people in other drought-hit zones [East Guji, West Guji, Arsi, West Arsi, Bale, East Bale, East Hararghe, West Hararghe and East Shewa] are being assisted by government and non-governmental organizations.

UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said between June and December of 2022, South-Eastern part of Ethiopia, including Somali, Oromia, and the Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s region (SNNPR), experienced one of the worst droughts recorded in the Horn of Africa, impacting 12 million people.

In a 18 January report OCHA said the drought impact is expected to further worsen after January 2023 across the drought affected zones as they enter the dry season, adding that, “severe water shortage reported” have been reported in ten drought affected districts in Oromia region.

The prevalence of severe acute malnutrition in the region has increased by more than 30 percent in the first week of January compared to November last year according to OCHA’s report. AS

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