By Darin Materman
As Ethiopia enters its third year without sufficient rainfall, malnutrition and thirst plague local communities.
With three failed rainy seasons denying Ethiopians crucial water, the drought haunting the Horn of Africa is wreaking havoc on local communities. In the Oromia and Somali southern regions, where pastoralism once thrived, water has become increasingly scarce. In the Adawe village, which normally has 26 wells, all but three have dried up. Due to water scarcity, farmers are no longer able to feed their large herds, which they rely on as their primary source of income and food. (DW news)
With no water to feed their herds, families move north towards major cities, leading to widespread displacement and decreased job prospects. This combination paints a bleak picture of the future, especially if the international community fails to step up. According to UNICEF, $31.8 million is needed in order to “provide lifesaving support to more than 2 million high-risk people” in the aforementioned regions, “including 600,000 internal displaced people.” As Ethiopians continue to see their flocks decimated, the situation is becoming increasingly dire.
The drought has also led to poor health outcomes and a decreasing life expectancy due to illness. Coupled with poor water infrastructure, the lack of rainfall means that now, just 42% of the population has access to a clean water supply." To make matters worse, only 11% of that number has access to adequate sanitation services. People barely have enough water to drink, wash dishes, and clean dishes, let alone bathe. Lack of access to water facilitates the spread of disease, which is why, despite development efforts, water-borne illnesses remain the leading cause of death in children. Even with slight improvements in water quality, “22% of Ethiopian children under five die from diarrheal diseases alone.” This inability to access necessities comes with dire consequences with regard to healthcare and malnutrition.
Furthermore, decreasing herd size has seen global acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition both experiencing sharp rises, putting Ethiopia's future in danger. As the crisis continues to worsen, the healthcare sector will continue to fray, meaning millions will be left without the necessary care they need. To compound this, The Guardian reports that “due to the increase in internal migrations,” healthcare facilities are operating at close to double their intended capacity, adding stress to an already fragile system. The lack of infrastructure as well as the inability to properly staff hospitals is putting the healthcare system at high risk.
Ethiopia is not only burdened by drought, but is also forced to cope with a civil war in the Tigray region, which has pushed the state closer and closer to its breaking point. Embroiled in military, political, and environmental conflict, Ethiopia is unable to provide its citizens with the necessary resources to support themselves through the drought. While the government is funneling its resources into maintaining control of their territory, the brutal drought continues to run its course.
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight either. “Now, scientists and relief agencies fear that the next forecast” will also fail to bring necessary water, and will lead to the longest drought in four decades. Undoubtedly, without necessary aid, Ethiopians will bear the full brunt of the drought force, leading to increased child mortality, loss of livestock, and malnutrition.
Davies, L. (2022, January 30). 'we pray for rain': Ethiopia faces catastrophic hunger as cattle perish in severe drought. The Guardian. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/jan/30/we-pray-for-rain-ethiopia-faces-c atastrophic-hunger-as-cattle-perish-in-severe-drought
Gerth, M. (2022, February 18). Ethiopia grapples with severe drought – DW – 02/18/2022. dw.com. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopia-grapples-with-severe-drought/a-60831029
Mulvaney, K. (2022, March 14). Historic drought looms for 20 million living in Horn of Africa. National Geographic | Environment. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/historic-drought-looms-for-20-million living-in-horn-of-africa
Prolonged drought pushing families in Ethiopia to the Brink. UNICEF. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/prolonged-drought-pushing-families-ethiopia-brink
UNICEF. (n.d.). Emergency Drought Appeal. UNICEF Global. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/
“Water in Crisis - Spotlight Ethiopia.” The Water Project, https://thewaterproject.org/water-crisis/water-in-crisis-ethiopia.
“'We Pray for Rain': Ethiopia Faces Catastrophic Hunger as Cattle Perish in Severe Drought.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Jan. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/jan/30/we-pray-for-rain-ethiopia-faces-catastrophic-hunger-as-cattle-perish-in-severe-drought.