The Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners in the country say nearly 5 million people require emergency food-aid this year, outside the governments own safety net programme. An additional 1.2 million mothers and children under five there will require supplementary feeding. We are now working with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society to finalize plans for the major food-aid operation it hopes to start next month in Oromiya and Somali regions.
Praying for Rain - the story of Ute-Muda Garero
Ute-Muda Garero has 12 children by his two wives, Makayi-Jiro and Abayo-Sorsa. Six boys and six girls. Tidy numbers.
“Are you a Muslim,” asks a visiting Ethiopian expert in animal husbandry.
“No, and not a Christian either. I believe in one god,” says Garero, 38, smiling with the deliberately ironic reference to monotheism.
“Do you pray?” says the expert, intrigued by Garero’s equanimity.
“Yes, and I pray for rain.”
It is would be burdensome enough raising 12 children in Dhuko – one of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society’s three critically drought-affected “peasant associations” hereabouts. The name is a Marxist legacy, meaning just a settled community in a woreda (district).
But adding to his worries is the knowledge that his herd of cattle have deteriorated to the exact mid-point of the official yardstick of animal health : between two and three on a four-point scale (another tidy number), four meaning near death.
Garero is the one of the few herdsmen who have stayed in Dhuko to sit out the dry season, fearful of getting mixed up in the tribal conflict over water and pasture he says bedevils the part of nearby Borena zone where hundreds of other men from the PA have temporarily migrated, seeking better grazing.
Only the women and children and a handful of community leaders and elders are left.
“I pray for rain”
“My cattle will be ‘threes’ even if the rains start on time,” he explains, referring to the main seasonal rains due next month. “If the rains fail, they’ll die for sure.”
“What would you do then?”
“There’s not much we can do. We’ll have to depend on relatives. And aid.”
From a lack of resources, the Ethiopian government was recently forced to put Dhuko on half-time in its “safety net” of food-aid and cash handouts, which nevertheless includes some 6 million people across Ethiopia.
The ERCS is hoping to help fill the gap with food-aid distributions now being planned in Addis Ababa and locally.
For two years there has been no proper seasonal rain here – just the occasional torrential downpour that damages homes and crops and ploughs up the barely-passable 60-kilometre track to the nearest town, Hare Kello.
A little way short of Dhuko, an elderly Norwegian missionary and local legend, Jorunn Hamre, 77, apologizes for the small size of her congregation at the Mekane Yesus church, depleted by the same curse that has drastically thinned Dhuko’s population: drought.
“Things are really difficult here,” she says. “Food-aid is very necessary.”
It’s in Dhuko and countless thousands of settlements like it that the disaster in the Horn of Africa is hidden: difficult to see, even standing in the middle of it. But it’s there.
Children who look half their age from malnutrition; unnecessarily high infant-mortality statistics; “resource wars” fought between different tribes who might otherwise live in peace; the gradual erosion of an ancient lifestyle – pastoralism; in some places, like the centre of Ethiopia’s vast Somali region, the potential death of hope.
For the moment, the gods – be they one or many – seem to be against the pastoralists of Dhuko.
this story first appeared on ifrc.org and was written by Alex Wynter reporting from the Goro Dola, Oromiya region, Ethiopia.