- AFAR PASTORALIST DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION
- QAFAR DACARSITTOH DADALIH EGLA
- Battling against food insecurity, resultant of ongoing conflict, extreme market volatility and livelihood losses
- September 21,2022
- Unfortunately more of the same…
- Drought to flood
- Having now trailed off, the annual main rains were a comforting success in most areas. The Region’s main river, the Awash flooded in early August destroying 8,454 homes affecting 42,270 people in the lower Awash Basin as the government reported. Equally, the middle Awash was affected 10 days later, homes and livestock destroyed. APDA was able to immediately send food for 1,000 people to the worst – affected area, Afambo through the organization emergency contribution. Again, supporting the community with hygiene and sanitation supplies and awareness, to date, no diarrhea disease outbreaks are reported.
In all, the drought followed by the flood has devastated the herd so that some districts, particularly in the north where they also incurred herd loss to conflict, a herd of 5 to 15 goats has become the ‘normal’. In Afar herding sense, this is not effectively feasible to feed the family.
Solutions toward preventing livelihood losses:
- Veterinary services available to the community
- Available and affordable animal feed produced locally
- Strategic re-stocking that the herd rejuvenates
- TPLF again militarily active in Afar
- The above is the work of not so gentle nature. What is least easy to cope with is the terror that the Afar society have been thrown back into through the military incursion into Yallo in central western Afar on August 24th. A bloody 5 – day battle was fought with TPLF pounding the market town and surrounding rural areas forcing the entire district of 43,000 people to flee into yet another displacement. These people are very scattered through the adjoining rural terrain reaching up to 150 kilometers from their places of origin, fleeing empty – handed. Then, since fighting continues and can be heard in the adjoining, parallel roadside towns of Amhara Region, particularly that of Kobo, vast numbers more have displaced in fear away from the Tigray/ Amhara border with Afar into the eastern hinterland. Perhaps as many as 172,000 people are now sheltering in rural areas scattered among the existing herdsmen in eastern Sifra, Uwwa, Awra. This population differs in that they did take what they could from their houses as well as driving their remaining herds with them. Likewise, the northwestern Afar live in daily fear as TPLF forces are visible in the hills above their towns. TPLF continue to occupy 3 sub-districts of Magaale (Hidda, Tonsa and Araadu) and in Yallo, fighting continues in bouts but not as intensely as is ongoing in Amhara Region. The most affected then are the people of Yallo and neighboring Guulina as well as Magaale adjoining Yallo to the north land – locking this district in from safe access – APDA’s health team are however walking in through the rugged hills of Gimridda and through Teeru to reach these communities.
- The market and food access
- Unaccountable inflation has struck Afar Region with daily price hikes on the very basics. Sugar is now ‘hard-to-get’ commodity shooting up from around 30.00 ETB per kilogram to 150.00 ETB in around 6 months. An egg is now 17 ETB compared to 1.5 ETB a year ago. Once sugar reaches the far rural areas, it is over 200.00 ETB, if it reaches there at all. This volatility is pushed by the overall national economic downturn but then made totally incomprehensible by unscrupulous merchants wowed by merchants in Tigray who apparently have no upper price limit when they need a commodity – thus the irregular market is taking food at high price to the northern border with Tigray to be met by Tigray camels and donkeys – the most recent demand in Tigray is not just fuel, sugar and beans but matches and cleaning agents. This reflects back on the local Afar population who are then extorted to pay extra-ordinary prices or suffer.
- The most affected are again populations like Magaale that have no entry point due to conflict and districts in the far north where roads hardly exist such as Konnaba and Dallol.
- WFP has distributed a 3rd round of wheat flour, oil and pulses to 16 districts finding Konnaba, Dallol and northern Afdeera too challenging due almost non-existent roads.
Faatuma has sold goods in the Tuesday Konnaba market for the past 9 years, her husband not healthy enough to work. She is now back for 6 weeks from displacement in neighboring Dallol. She says she is lucky to make 300 ETB profit with current prices.
Local solutions to food insecurity:
- Community cooperatives working in linkage to keep prices at a constant level and sell deep into the community
- Communities producing food locally: horticultural as well as building back the herd and the beehives
- Community health
- Due to all of the above, malnutrition is utterly extensive. Strolling through the settlements of Konnaba the previous weekend malnourished under – 5 year olds were clearly visible. The new displaced of Yallo are highly disturbing registering malnutrition. In the entire north, the main cry is for food, affordable food.
- Frighteningly measles and whooping cough are occurring in growing pockets of northern Afar as well as around Yallo. APDA having had to abort the first attempt to vaccinate under 5 year olds in Magaale, did start again, that 15 – day campaign just existing as fighting started on August 24th. The challenge then to continue with the next 2 rounds spaced by a month to complete 3 antigen doses for some of the vaccines is to take the vaccines in on a longer camel-foot route. Not wanting to miss this vital opportunity to these children the organization will try but it will take double logistics being the team must work from a generator – powered refrigerator, carrying out cold boxes of ice and vaccines on camels and walking around the community with vaccine carriers.
- At best, as these pictures show, rural vaccination in Afar is a challenge.
Health workers walking through the terrain in Eli Da’ar close to the Eritrean border with vaccine carriers
Flash flood to pass through to reach the community
Maternal health is a constant concern and challenge as to how to equip and build skills far into the community now there are so few working ambulances and the two northern hospitals are not yet equipped to perform emergency cesareans. Too, with the Yallo military incursion, the Kalwaan hospital is thereby rendered insecure. There is a high onus on APDA’s Barbara May Maternity Hospital and the team there continues to save lives in a dedicated way but it is up to 700 kilometers away from the most northern mothers. Both transport and roads are key to mother’s safety.
- Roads and ambulances as well as repair of infra-structural damage
- Community health workers equipped to walk house-to-house providing the primary health package
- Improving community level knowledge of obstetrical emergencies
- More intensive house-to-house vaccine campaigns
- Last but not by any means the least: education
With the event of the Ethiopian New Year on the weekend, a new academic year will open.
- For thousands of children this will not herald an event they can rejoin or participate in as school books are now at best 3 times the price (70.00 for a 50 – page exercise book), they eat irregularly and can probably not manage the needed concentration and conflict fear blacks out learning in the mind of parents and children. Their schools anyway are mostly in disarray, few of them having been rehabilitated after TPLF mindlessly destroyed the buildings and equipment. As well, many are disrupted having housed displaced people or military.
- However, all this cannot deter us: already a better part of last year was lost to conflict and our most essential task is to build the future of our younger generation.
- APDA is thinking over new and innovative ways to assist learning and, while most of APDA program schools are conducted in open learning, the organization is supporting the government to see that as a way out till the formal structures are attainable.
- In every way, the community needs mobilization to see education as THE priority and to accept all possibilities of learning, whether functional literacy, alternative basic education or formal learning.
- APDA’s commitment is to do all to see that education in the Region comes back to life and full color. To date, through the organization support, 54 rural students from remote rural settings completed their education to grade 12 with a new batch of 25 of them joining tertiary learning this year. This is indeed the organization strategy of hostel – living facilitation: the students are supported to live safely close to a government school for the school months.
- Education solutions:
- Support as needed in school stationery and innovative teaching aids and supplies
- Wide – ranging community awareness and then planning to include education into their survival plan
- School feeding when needed
- Innovative training for Afar teachers that they are motivators and leaders in the community