News: OPA says people in Borana zone dying of hunger, treatable conditions as health impact of prolonged drought gets severe

More than 800,000 people need food assistance while over 3.3 million livestock have perished (Picture: Borana Zone Communication)

Addis Abeba – The Oromia Physicians’ Association (OPA ), a non-governmental professional association, said the prolonged drought in Borana zone of Oromia regional state in Southwestern Ethiopia has apparently brought the most drastic impact on the health of the people.

In a statement sent to Addis Standard the association said “people are dying of hunger and treatable conditions, with a death toll on the rise due to the loss of millions of livestock and little to no food supply”.

Malnutrition, dehydration, and water-borne diseases are a few of the health issues that have arisen following the drought according to OPA.

“Malnutrition cases have increased dramatically, with a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 16.04% as a whole and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) prevalence in Pregnant and lactating women (PLWs) reaching 40%” it stated, adding that, “malnutrition related edema admission and deaths in stabilization centers have also shown a considerable increase over time”.   

The adverse nutritional effects of the drought has caused an outbreak of measles and 127 confirmed cases have been reported in Moyale, Guchi and Gomole districts of the zone, with measles cases raised from 126 in 2021 to 396 in 2023, OPA said, adding that, the number of displaced children, risk of gender-based violence (GBV), and suicide have also increased since the outbreak of drought.

OPA said inadequate measures to relieve the effects of the drought and lack of structured relief aid is resulting in undesirable outcomes, urging that nutritional support, fluids for resuscitation, emergency medications, clean water services, and other hygiene facilities should be provided to mitigate the health impacts of drought in the area.

Despite alarming reports, the Oromia Regional State, however said it is responding appropriately to provide emergency assistance to people in need of emergency aid in the Borana zone, that no one has died because of the drought.

Borena, the worst affected area, has suffered from perpetual drought and water scarcity for consecutive five rainy seasons, leaving more than 800,000 residents of the zone in need of immediate food assistance and the death of more than 3.3 million livestock.

The UN said in its latest report that the Oromia region recorded high rates of new admissions of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) with a total admission standing at 27,526 as of December 2022. The number of SAM cases in drought affected districts of Afar, Oromia, Somali and SNNPR regions has increased in 2022 by 21 percent compared to 2021 it added.

In a 18 January report UN 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” have been reported in ten drought affected districts in Oromia region. AS

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