The Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners recently adjusted the number of citizens who need food aid from a projected 5.6 million at the start of the year, to an actual 8.5 million people. Severe weather patterns have had a spiralling effect on Ethiopians throughout the nation, forcing them to relocate to survive.
The daily fight against the effects of drought
One of the heavily affected areas is Ethiopia’s Somali region, where 3.3 million people are depending on food relief, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). More than half of the Ethiopians displaced within the country live here.
To mitigate the effects of the drought in these remote areas, emergency teams at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) are providing water, sanitation and hygiene support, as well as emergency shelter, household supplies and water purification tablets. We’re also handing out dignity kits, which include items like toothbrushes, soap and sanitary napkins.
The displaced group together in settlements. Unfortunately the hygienic situation in these settlements has been critical for some time now, and illnesses such as acute watery diarrhoea are a common occurrence. So far in 2017, more than 34,000 cases of the disease were counted. The World Health Organization reports that eight out of ten cases and nine out of ten deaths in Ethiopia were happening in the Somali region. Although the number of cases might not be rising as rapidly as before, the levels of malnourishment remain strong.
Logistics are intricate in this vast region. NRC is operating in six zones, 17 woredas (areas) and 76 displacement sites. The Doolo zone alone more than 100,000 internally displaced people living in 44 different camps.
NRC’s acting area manager, Abdi Beshir Ahmed, describes the daily toil: “We are sending water trucks, we teach about hygiene, drill deep and shallow boreholes and construct communal and household latrines.”
We are sending water trucks, we teach about hygiene, drill deep and shallow boreholes and construct communal and household latrines.
A wish for long-term commitment
The seasonal Deyr and Karan rains in the south-east of Ethiopia have failed to come for the third year in a row, and the recent Gu rains had below normal precipitation levels. Two million livestock animals in the Somali region are already dead, the Food and Agricultural Organization announced in August 2017, and this number includes the camels, which normally are the last to go.
It is hard to recover from this and the people are likely to stay displaced. “What I would really wish for is more reliable and flexible funding,” says Abdi Beshir. “If we have just managed one situation, and then the next season hits us, we need long-term, reliable perspectives.”
Funding gaps unlikely to close quickly
But it does not seem like there will be enough money. OCHA in Ethiopia just announced a national humanitarian funding gap of USD 428 million until the end of the year, with USD 326 million for food alone.
Equally alarming is that less than a tenth of the pledged funding for education in crisis has arrived. Attending school would allow drought-affected children to access meals, potable water and learn about life-saving hygienic practices. A total of USD 45.5 million is needed to carry out these programmes. So far, just USD 3.4 million has been received.
Although the United States has just agreed to put an additional USD 137 million in the national hunger pot, it will take a while until the paperwork is done and distribution is up and running. Bureaucracy is slow, and competition for the funds among partners in different geographic areas and sectors is not conducive to a quick response.
Meanwhile, people of the Somali region are struggling to survive. Abdi Beshir is certain that the level of crisis will rise: “It is really frightening.”
Sources: Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), FAO, Human Resources Development (HRD), Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), OCHA, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO