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Fast – Unfolding Crisis of Hunger and Thirst

With constant blue skies and drying winds, the winter rains (normally unreliable, very short season) appear to have by-passed Afar Region, the prospects of rain still 2 to 3 months away. Daily reports accumulate of drastic thirst and apparently no resources to save people.

This lady’s story is that her child was treated in Gawwaani hospital with naso-gastric feeding, got marginally better but because there is nothing in the house, the boy is progressively weakening again. She has supplementary food for 2 months. She herself is identified with acute malnutrition.

Discussing who and how will get the supplementary food APDA is supplying in Buurimudayto on Monday

As the goat milk dries up in so many communities, malnutrition is now the ‘norm’ for pregnant mothers, APDA’s obstetrician in the Barbara May Maternity Hospital reporting almost all delivering mothers have hemoglobin below 5 Hb (grams per deciliter) – 10 to 13 is accepted for an Afar female. From the count of 8 maternal deaths in our December update, already there have been a further 7 mothers who have died in the interim period, 2 arriving in the hospital and dying as they delivered with only 2 Hb.

APDA is screening mothers and under 5 -year old children in far flung communities such as along the Eritrean border and close to Djibouti as well as in communities that government and other NGOs do not reach, camel – trekking being the only way. While the government health bureau does supply the treatment for severe acute malnutrition, there is often a gap to assist malnourished mothers and moderately malnourished children. Concerned friends and others have generously sent funds to purchase high-protein ground barley. Still the organization has not peaked to fulfill all these needs. The organization health workers are tasked with screening for anemia, the organization ambulance working almost 24/7 bringing in mothers in danger. As ‘gap – fillers’ the task is daunting. In the 5 newly – inaugurated districts of southern Afar Region where Afar have taken over the vacant grazing lands the Issa/ Somalis roamed over the past 70 years, drought is desperately evident and with other assistance availed aside from that of APDA. These people too are desperately thirsty.

While providing protein- rich/ iron rich supplementary food to prevent maternal death, APDA also needs to feed the remaining few milking goats in almost destitute households aiming that the handful of goats don’t die before the rain comes and to pick up the bonus that concentrated animal feed actually rejuvenates the animal body sufficiently that reproduction and milk production is gained.

A goat eats 300 grams of concentrated feed in a day, the feed costing 35.00 ETB/ 0.625 USD per kilogram, much cheaper than re-stocking should the house fall into absolute destitution. The last truck of animal feed APDA had goes out today, leaving the store empty. Around 4,500 known households on the brink of destitution with malnutrition in their house need support for a minimal 3 to 4 goats per household. Along with malnutrition, child diseases such as whooping cough and measles are now really taking a toll particularly in Buurimudayto/ Gala’alu where almost every child is malnourished and also in Teeru where problems are dire pushed by drought but more the weed-shrub prosopis juliafora that has overtaken as much as 20,000 hectares of grazing land blocking road access to almost 28,000 people.

This comes by way of appeal as the overall picture is so bleak until rain falls. Between us, counting the drought casualties is a daunting thought we find intolerable.

A close-up of a woman emerging from the hole and a panorama of the water hole and hauling the 25 – litre Jerri cans to the surface up the cliff-face, the roped Jerri can barely visible.

This photo in Kori a week ago has its sequel as women and men disappear down a dangerous hole to harvest the last of a natural source, the water they haul up by rope looking like dirty soup and smelling.

The dam they were using eventually drying up, this is the only water for 2 villages of around 5,400 people. The government – owned 25,000 – liter water truck that should deliver to these people needs 10 replacement tyres and daily fuel – the Region is appealing for immediate assistance to truck for at least 2 months. While this is the most startling example, thirst is the lot of so many rural communities, women walking from 4 to 24 hours to collect water and phone calls come in from more and more communities begging for water assistance. APDA also has a truck to put a 12,000 – liter tanker on but this too needs fuel support.