By Dereje Gonfa @DerejeGonfa
Addis Abeba, November 16/2021- Gumi Suricho, a resident of the Borana zone Dilo woreda told Addis Standard, “Since the breaking of news about drought in Borana everyone from individuals to institutions is rallying to support us,” admiring the response from the Oromo community. Gumi however argued that such support will not offer a lasting solution. He explained “The aid is not reaching everyone. It will not prevent more cattle from perishing and the looming hunger.” He went on to criticize the response from the regional government saying “The government is hiding the problem to protect its image causing more people and cattle to suffer. ”
The drought in the southern part of Oromia especially in Borana and Guji zones made thousands of livestock perish. Half a million residents dependent on livestock products are now longing for aid. The severity of the drought in the Borana zone is to the extent that all Thirteen woredas face shortage of cattle food and water. This caused 35 thousand cattle deaths and around 70 thousand are weak, unable to move without human assistance.
“The government is hiding the problem to protect its image causing more people and cattle to suffer.”Gumi Suricho, a resident of the Borana zone
Dullacha Duba, another resident of Borana zone, complimented Gumi while describing the fundraising activities and the responses to the crisis as ‘momentary relief’. “We are receiving aid that will get us by for the time being,” said Dullacha, adding, “But the danger is bigger and we need more.”
According to Dullacha, every household owns cattle in hundreds, feeding them with grass that comes in two trucks and water fetched from long distances cannot sustain them for very long. He asks, “It’s concerning, how long will we last like this? “ Dullacha explained, “Livestock is the only asset pastoralists have. Their cattle have perished. The cost of goods is higher than ever. We cannot buy 100kg of corn if we sell one goat. We fear that people may start dying of starvation.”
Dullacha believes a campaign launched by the government to sell cattle to foreign companies that specialize in cattle management could be a solution. He said, “The government should intervene and facilitate a means for international and local fattening companies to buy cattle from the pastoralists. This is mutually beneficial for both the pastoralist and fattening companies.”
“The shortage of water remains the biggest problem. “Dhaddacha Abuel, a resident from Wacille woreda of the Borana Zone
Dhaddacha Abuel, a resident from Wacille woreda of the Borana Zone told Addis Standard, “The delivery of aid is focused on making sure no one dies from hunger like before. But the problem is far from being resolved. The shortage of water remains the biggest problem.” Addis Standard’s previous report has revealed the death from starvation of an elderly in Wachile woreda, something the local administration refuted.
The response from regional government and NGOs
Since the breaking of news about drought in Borana last September, the Oromo community in Ethiopia and beyond rallied in resource mobilisation. Jatani Bonaya, one of the fund raising organizers, told Addis Standard, “We started raising money after we heard people were dying of starvation. Our objective was to do what we can to save lives.” Jatani said they were able to raise Five million ETB, “We purchased cattle food and food items and distributed it in Arero,Taltale and Dilo woredas.”
On the other hand, Jarso Boru, the administrator of the Borana zone says, more than 160 thousand households were affected. Jarso divulged to Addis Standard the statistics, “70% of those affected have received assistance.” The zonal administrator added, “Our primary focus while providing aid is making sure nobody dies from starvation.”
Speaking about efforts made to save residents’ cattle he said, “We are getting a lot of cattle food from other zones and city administrations across Oromia, it is not even half of what is needed.” Currently 39 water trucks are collecting and distributing water to address its shortage according to Jarso, “There are areas that are not reached yet, in those areas the number of cattle getting weaker and dying is increasing.”
Jarso Boru, administrator of the Borana zone
“Our primary focus while providing aid is making sure nobody dies from starvation.”
The Oromia regional government allocated 10 million ETB for cattle food and another 20 million to assist people in affected areas. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that it is responding to the drought, “Humanitarian partners are on the ground in the Borana and West Guji zones to respond to the critical water & food needs.”
However, testimonies from NGOs and government officials contradict with testimonies given to Addis Standard by residents who insist that the problem is worsening and the aid delivery is not as big or efficient as it is being portrayed in the media.
The big concern
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) expressed its concern that multiple seasons of drought plus ongoing conflict in parts of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan will likely result in extreme hunger in the coming months.
Residents of Borana, who Addis Standard spoke to share the similar concern with the ICRC. They say the water shortage especially is a long standing issue for them. Moreover, expressing worry about the sustainability of aid activities as the drought worsens.
“Multiple seasons of drought plus ongoing conflict in parts of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan will likely result in extreme hunger in the coming months. “International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Borana zone administrator disclosing more statistics said, “35,000 cattle are dead and around 70,000 are at a risk of dying and mostly unable to move without human assistance.” In addition Jarso said, “Pastoralists are fleeing to neighboring zones. This is causing disruption in the education of their children as they are dropping out and moving to other areas with their family and cattle.”
Is there a lasting solution?
The zonal administrator stated that Borana experiences cyclic drought due to lack of rain. The solution Jarso explained, “Currently, we are working on raising awareness as well as trying to create a sustainable chain that connects pastoralists to companies.”
He underlined, “There is a huge undertaking that aims to tackle desertification and decrease the number of livestock at the same time increasing productivity, based on experience from Australia and Konso woreda in SNNPR.” He continued, “There is a project currently under construction. Once the project is complete it will alleviate the water shortage problem.” The project is led by the Oromia water and energy bureau.”
“The underground water resource potential in Borana can be used for irrigation as well as drinking water to the cattle and humans.”Million Bekele, head of Oromia water and energy bureau
On her part the head of the bureau Million Bekele told Addis Standard her office is working to address the water shortage in Borana zone. She said, “A project aimed at creating water networks by utilizing the underground water was launched 12 years ago. The project was revisited two years ago due to technical problems as the problems were not stated clearly.”
Million explained, “The implementation of the project kicked off with a 5 billion ETB budget. It will require a lot more to complete it.” She said the budget allocated is limited and mobilization of resources from other stakeholders is necessary to complete the project. Million added “The underground water resource potential in Borana can be used for irrigation as well as drinking water to the cattle and humans.”
A UN-backed report revealed that by 2030, up to 118 million extremely poor people on the continent will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat, which will hinder the progress made towards poverty alleviation and economic growth. The UN has recently allocated $40 million from emergency funds to support an early response to the drought in southern Ethiopia in addition to Ethiopia’s conflict-affected northern regions. With the funding relief agencies are expected to provide support to pastoral communities to preserve their livestock. AS