2020 Activity Report

January to December 2020 Activity Report:


Afar Pastoralist Development and Emergency Assistance Program: Afar Region


  1. Executive Summary

The APDA program continues to deliver an in depth and collaborative program with the Afar pastoralist community, working where government social services do not reach. The year has been challenged by the fact these remote area communities have been and continue to be severely affected by the multiple shocks endured in 2020. Drought – breaking rains from the 2018/19 drought did fall in August 2020 but this brought catastrophic floods sweeping away the homes and the livelihoods of 33,010 households (DPFSPCO report November 2020) and, along with the rain came the desert locusts. Since farms and livestock were swept away in the flood and the locusts came in total 3 times in 2020 destroying the grazing of other communities that were not flood – affected, in total there was a vast downturn in the food and livelihood security of the community that APDA serves. Finally, by November 4th 2020, fighting in Tigray drove tens of thousands of Tigrayans into the border woredas, the communities in those areas baring the lion’s share of burden to feed and support Tigray IDPs. Under the latter shock, the border and the hinterland markets suffered an immense blow that further extended the food insecurity. Overall, malnutrition in Afar Region greatly increased in remote areas challenging the APDA primary health program to reach these communities with limited resources.

With all these challenges, APDA increased its mobility in the hard to reach areas of the Region in the year, sustaining as far as possible a recovery/ development program. In fact, the organization joined the ToGETHER initiative aiming to improve effectiveness and timeliness in responding to disasters securing community – driven direction to recovery, development and peace through the principles of localization. With the organization experience in having such deep-rooted relationship to the communities, this is a familiar theme now shared with 5 other local organizations in Ethiopia and internationally, with 7 more disaster-prone countries. This implementation is leading APDA to be thoroughly self-assessing toward strengthening its ability to respond and interact with other NGOs.

APDA currently has emergency response programs in the north-western Tigray border woredas, in remote communities enduring devastating malnutrition and herd fatigue through locust pasture loss and among 2 communities threatened with death by thirst. Simultaneously, the organization is facilitating these communities to recover their resilience, going on to sustainable livelihood development. There are now 4 very successful irrigated horticultural sites linked to income generation through microfinance and marketing. A further project to rehabilitate highly damaged rangeland is newly underway and a further 3 are in the planning stage. On the Tigray border, while distributing essential household NFIs, the organization is starting the beneficiaries in sustainable marketing and income generation. The overall aim is to reduce food insecurity and develop Afar Regional productivity and marketing that has to date, not been apparent.

COVID – 19 affected the program as the pandemic did the Region. APDA worked on 2 projects deliberately to raise awareness to behavior change as well as making awareness on stopping the spread of the virus a crosscutting issue in all activities. Since APDA’s activities are conducted in open air, including education the actual field activities were not interrupted but caution taken in physical distance and hygiene measures. All training courses for community – level development workers were conducted in open air in their respective woredas and kebele sites.

The organization 35-bed maternity and gynecology hospital continues to serve the Afar women, a fistula surgeon visiting twice yearly, emergency obstetrics and gynecology as well as assisting treatment for chronic problems including FGM – inflicted and prolapsed uterus.

‘Gabat’ APDA’s social enterprise developed to support the organization’s overall program was slow to gain marketable contracts in 2020 but the idea that APDA should generate its own funds still follows with its 2019 – 2023 strategy plan. Overall, the organization has made slight inroads in regaining the funding lost in 2018/19 with the downturn in international funding for long-term development ventures as is needed in the Afar pastoralist society.

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Hunger and Thirst, the Cries for Help and Balancing in Immediate Recovery

  1. First the bad news….


As is always, rain coverage in Afar Region is erratic leaving swathes of the most notoriously dry land and thirsty people by December. Both Bidu and Kori, two of the most foreboding drought – districts have now sunk into dangerous thirst. As of late – January, since the organization is a development partner to the community, APDA was obliged to begin water trucking in Kori, literally to save lives. This 80 – days support comes with the hope that annual short rains begin by mid April. Women were walking 12 to 14 hours to collect water, risking themselves and the children left behind in the house. Two days ago, a community on the road to Kori stopped all truck transport from passing for 24 hours demanding water, demonstrating their proximity to the danger of death from thirst.

The government is servicing Bidu, just north of Kori and did bring a truck to the protesting community with a promise of more. With blue skies and the weather heralding the hot season, the omen is not good but currently it is only APDA and the government who are providing this emergency drinking water assistance.

Hunger resulting from a dysfunctional market

The greatest crisis Afar Region currently faces is that of food insecurity. The locusts have consumed the pasture leaving the animal herd with almost no milk, market food prices verses the fetching price of a goat in the market means 2 to 3 goats must be sold for 10 days supply of wheat in the house (50 kilograms of wheat is now 2000 to 2200 ETB while the goat price has fallen from 3,000 ETB to 1,200 ETB for a quality animal in the last 2 months). Most households are trying to survive on wheat alone, even forfeiting sugar at the price of 70.00 ETB/ kilogram having risen up from 25.ETB/ kilogram. The market is negatively affected having lost much of Tigray and Amhara Regions’ supply chain due to ongoing unrest and the deteriorating national currency exchange forcing sharp fuel price rises.

APDA is particularly anxious to continue targeting pregnant and breast-feeding mothers that mother and baby are assisted along with under 5 year old children. Without help now, children will endure stunted growth, crippling them aiming them with limited capacity for their life.

Afar Regional government is beginning to assist those registered with them from before with wheat-grain relief food as of mid-March but, as their emergency office described, they have not the resource to cover the entire need.

The herd status linking to malnutrition

There was a very faint gesture of rain for 2 days in February covering some of the western border areas and reaching a few communities – this raised the heads of desperate herdsmen in the hope of keeping their herd alive. However, wherever the malnutrition is particularly strong, this is because there is no remaining pasture and animals are already dying. Some of the worst – hit areas are Teeru and adjoining areas in central Afar Region, Kori, Bidu and bordering Eli Da’ar on the northern Eritrean border, Magaale one of the recipient districts of Tigray’s displaced people in the north – west, Saha in northern Dubte, Harissa/ Obno on the eastern Djibouti border, Gala’alu in southern Afar Region and Sifra. As is clear, the affected areas are widely scattered, all having in common that the locust infestation reached them 2 to 3 times as of July 2020 up to January 2021.

Milking animals in particular must be saved from dying between now and June (the annual hot season when pasture hardly rejuvenates despite rain), animal feed along with treatment of diseases is very much needed in the deteriorating herd. The health workers going out to treat malnutrition must then identify the household with too few goats to rescue from absolute destitution. 

Carrying the burden of Tigray displaced people

Some having been in Afar Region since November, the highest need of the 54,000 odd displaced Tigrinya people in Afar Region is food, a shared need with their host communities who are desperately trying to feed them as well as themselves. While an estimated 15% of those who initially came have gone back, the situation remains fluid with sporadic fighting in the borders areas since the insurgents have far from left the rugged hills that form the foothills of the Ethiopian Escarpment. The tragedy for most is that they have nothing to go back to: homes, businesses looted and burnt as well as the crop harvest they had. As the military roam their home areas, the displaced people declare their reluctance to back, fearing reprisal including gender-based violence.

The Afar Regional Government is by no means fulfilling their food requirements leaving the substantial burden to local people. Thus, and even more under the above –described conditions, the host communities are falling into poverty with their guests from Tigray.

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Konnaba Report Visit

Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA)

Report of visit to Konnaba in northern Afar Region, February 2nd to 5th 2021

Trip purpose:

  1. Realizing there was no recently clarified information in Samara, collect information on new arrivals coming into Konnaba as reported by phone message (Mahammuuda, woreda 2nd in charge rang late January gaining connection from high point between ‘Aba’ala and Barahale).
  2. Find the immediate needs of these people
  3. Connect the gained information as widely as possible

People spoken to include:

In Konnaba administration: woreda head and second head, cabinet members, head of health, community members, Tigrayans now residing in various houses in the town of Konnaba, shop owners, various people engaged in assisting displaced Tigrayans

In Kadda Hara and Kwa’a kebele: kebele leaders; clan leader; committee established for supporting displaced people; nurse; teachers; previous APDA members/ employees (APDA had a 3 – year project in Konnaba from 2007 to 2010 supporting 22 mobile health workers; 22 women extension workers and 22 Afar teachers) as well as 477 newly displaced people now in 2 community – organized camps.

Overall status in Konnaba:

Electric supply is periodic; there is no phone connection or banking. Around 20 kilometers into ‘Aba’ala, there is phone network and banks have resumed. The woreda government reported the phone connection may resume in the coming week along with bank service.


2 Djibouti number plate vehicles and around 8 young boys with motorbikes currently service transport to Konnaba from ‘Aba’ala and within Konnaba. 


Market into Konnaba is extremely limiting: there is a minimal sale of local goats for food-shops in the town. On February 5th, the first bulk load of vegetables arrivedin Konnaba town from Mekele: 4 wooden pallets of tomatoes and 8 sacks of onions. The sellers said they intend to sell tomatoes at 40 ETB/ kilogram and onions as 25 to 30 ETB/ kilogram. One merchant had gone to Mekele via ‘Aba’ala to purchase the supplies, the direct road from Konnaba to Wukro and beyond having been land-mined and deliberately put into disuse.


Kadda Hara and Kwa’a, focal kebele of visit:

Kadda Hara and Kwa’a is one of the nine kebeles (sub-districts) of Konnaba constituting high and rugged hills following the 2 permanent streams of Kadda Hara and Kwa’a along the Tigray border adjoining to Dallol. There is no road access although construction has been attempted and access includes following the streams of water and climbing very high cliffs. Kebele leader says the kebele normally has 1,600 households. People are herding goats (from 5 upwards to 100 goats per household but average around 15 to 20 goats), keep very few cattle for milk in the house and have camels and donkeys, the latter being the means of bringing any goods up into the kebele. Their houses are permanent settlements perched high up and as far as they can, the farm from rainwater as well as small patches of orchard-type farming from the streams of water. In all, since APDA knew them in 2010, they have constructed 5 schools teaching to grade 8, the iron roofing, metal supports and cement carried up the hillside on donkeys, camels and people’s shoulders. Construction is clearly an art and based on the massive amount of rocks they have. They have also constructed clinics and veterinary clinics. 


Displaced people in the kebele and the incident of fighting from which they fled:

  1. New arrivals

According the kebele leadership, they have registered a total of 477 people starting from late December 2020. They described 165 households supported in the veterinary clinic compound of Kadda Hara and 115 households in the once – APDA – used school in Kwa’a and 2 adjoining private houses. These people are overwhelming women with children and children (65%); young boys and men with a couple of elderly people. They are all speaking Tigrinya, a few speak Afar and one, a university student from Adigrat, speaks English. Probably, they are dominantly Moslem but Christians are also among them. One child seen had a broken arm incurred while fleeing.

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January Report

     Desert Locusts, they are back in force ‘as big as birds’

 January 23rd 2021

  1. Despite the dry, locust swarms are back and eating through sprouting twigs..

     As of January 18, the first phone calls came in of the dreaded locust swarms coming back to Afar Region. They had been poised ready for re-entry in Somali, Oromo and Southern Peoples Regions of Ethiopia but no one believed they would come in the dry, pasture-scant season of winter!! As they flew in, fully grown beasts described by some Afar as ‘as big as birds’ punched fear and dread back into the hearts of the herdsmen. All there is for them to eat is the sprouting twigs of the acacia bushes, the grazing shrubs in the cycle of rejuvenation to produce flowers and pods that normally produce a source of protein food for goats and camels. Now the fear is these shrubs will be ruined but immediately the reality is there is NO grazing for the herd. This is devastating since 2020 was marked by progressive natural shocks to the landscape: drought as the year began, then floods in August lasting till October + locust infestation on any green blade of grass/ shrub imposing a further drought by the close of 2020. This along with the market catastrophe resulting from the abrupt break from Tigray left the herdsmen standing bewildered: limited of no grazing and no market to sell off the herd with food and household commodity prices souring in a spiral of local and national inflation.

     The first locust news came in from the Kori community in central northern Afar, already reeling under the shock and stress of thirst as of December. Kori at best is a forbidding land of ancient volcanic flows with one of the lowest rainfalls in the Region. There the community is already showing a famine – like nutrition surveillance result.

     Then the well – known grazing lands of Sifra on the Region’s central western border reported the sun was blotted out by the swarms. They are also in northern Dubte and Teeru where APDA spent the better part of 2020 fighting off the ravages of malnutrition as well as in the eastern fertile area of Assaita, the far north on the Eritrean border in Eli Da’ar as well as in the Region’s south, Ami Bara and Hanruka. Geographically, the plague is dispersed and poised to wipe out any possibility of the herdsmen resuming good grazing. All through these mentioned areas, APDA has very recently supported pastoralists with animal treatment as well as hay where possible but now the need is much more glaring.

  1. Immediate answer in animal fodder

     The government Bureau of Livestock, Agriculture and Natural Resources along with FAO are planning a two -prong assessment as of the coming week in view of re-launching the spraying of poison. However, the community is now left with no pasture and without a solution for the most vulnerable households, more herdsmen will sink into abject destitution. To feed 10 breeding goats in a house for 1 month will cost around $92 USD. Comparably, it costs around $642 USD to restock a household with 10 goats when all the goats have died. APDA envisages at minimum 2,000 households need this rescue for the coming 2 months.

  1. Tigray people harboring in Afar Region

     While the Federal Government has declared an end to ‘military operations’ in Tigray in late December, the residue appears to be multiple militia forces inflicting terror and pain on local communities since the number of displaced people from Tigray in Afar Region has now reached 89,000 people according to OCHA estimates in mid January. For the most part, these people are living among the local Afar using the house facilities of the community.  The border is most porous perhaps in the far north where reportedly upwards of 150 people are crossing daily into Konnaba fleeing militia fighting in the mountainous areas adjoining Konnaba at Kadda Hara. The Konnaba authorities report the crossing area is road inaccessible but fighting is a daily event and both Afar and Tigray houses and property is being incinerated. They also state that those coming are mostly women with children and young girls – coming escaping rape and other inhuman acts. Several, they said have come in with malnutrition as they have spent up to 3 weeks on the road to reach Konnaba and have no sources of food in Tigray.

Thus the needs are multiple: nutrition, safety, shelter and recovery of their basic possessions. APDA is preparing to assist 605 households with shelter and hygiene support in the coming week but the need is quite overwhelming.


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December 21st 2020

Greetings to you all for Christmas and the New Year – may we remain strong together!!


  1. A difficult year for us all passes…….

For all of us, 2020 was a year of enormous change and insight as the whole world fathoms the implication of a killing pandemic. From our corner in Afar Region, we watch as so many of you go back into strong restrictions that even curtail your ability to celebrate together. Relying on ‘virtual’ relationships is driving us all into some degree of social pain, I suspect. Here, the year punished us with no visitors from March to October – it is always our great joy to share directly with any of you and to exchange together the way forward in our joint struggle that the Afar pastoralists gain development through justice. Mind you, we have learnt much in other ways but always prefer, as anyone does, direct communication.


Actually in Afar Region coronavirus has not really got a hold: perhaps the heat, perhaps our more ‘natural world’ as we move and live with all types of microorganisms giving us the resilience that the chemical/ processed – dependent West apparently lacks. Other crises shocks did overwhelm the community including first the prolonged drought from late 2018 until breaking rains in August 2020 and then the consequence of these rains. The Region saw the most devastating flood in 50 years and, as any leaf of green emerged rejuvenated by the rains, desert locusts consumed it.


With your help, APDA is still mopping up the repercussions: whole communities have as yet not been able to return to their farms along the Awash River, living displaced and unproductive on their own land. Some 22,000 households now live with the uncertainty of no livelihood to return to: farming land swept away as well as their livestock. They live now on government relief food assistance with all the systems vulnerabilities. Again, what the locusts did is hard to recount: as many of the affected herdsmen say, they have sunk into yet another drought since all the recognized grazing lands are now bleak and useless, even the acacia shrubs stripped of any green leaf. The land awaits the winter rains of December/ January but forecasts tell us no rain till April. Worse still, there is really no place to go to find grazing, as the devastation is so widespread. Finally, on November 4th, the Federal government began its ‘military operation’ to overthrow the Tigray Regional Government. This caused a final blow to the pastoralists as the already COVID 19 – weakened market shriveled up. Tigray was the market for Afar on the border: bringing in food to sell and taking off goats. The main animal market in Yallo bordering southern Tigray has dropped from selling up to 24,000 goats on weekly market day to selling 300 goats locally and selling them at 50% the price Tigray merchants had paid. Consequently food is in short supply and at 3 times inflated cost while there is no real market for goats for Afar in a wide periphery around that market. Then there is the issue of Tigray displaced people who have come to live with the Afar in the border districts for security and food.


  1. Together, what we did

As is APDA’s mandate, the organization searches out and fills in the gaps left from government and other NGO interventions, to do this, working in very remote areas requiring foot and camel caravan access. As of March, APDA has responded to severe malnutrition in several communities along the Eritrean border (Bidu and Eli Da’ar); northern Dubte, Teeru in central Afar Region and now remote communities that were flood-bound in Afambo and Garani close to the Djibouti border. Response has been to screen and immediately treat under 5 year olds and pregnant/ lactating mothers found with malnutrition, at the same time, treating their remaining goats and giving them fodder (alfalfa hay) to keep them alive. These people were initially drought affected then flood and locust affected. There has been a particular effort to find pregnant and lactating mothers malnourished and anemic that both the unborn child and the mother survive the delivery and the postnatal phase. In all, some thousands of mothers and children have been rescued from the fate of malnutrition.


Rapid shelter and hygiene/ sanitation assistance has been given to 1,220 households helicopter – rescued from surrounding floodwaters in August. Then again, 460 flood – displaced households till now unassisted in southern Afar Region have got mats to rebuild traditional houses and household utensils. What APDA learnt from this is that starting small groups of flood-displaced women in making their own traditional mats leads to income generation as well as the mats they want for their houses rather than distributed plastic sheeting. To start them, they are given a few bundles of dry palm leaves they weave into strips to make mats.


  1. Where do we need to go?

Right now, the organization has still got its running skates on, working out how to best assist both Tigrayan people and local Afar affected by the conflict in Tigray: there are those whose village was burnt and they have experienced atrocities; food is the general problem with no market and till now, no food distribution for the displaced or for the Afar who have given almost all they had as first-line respondents to their Tigrinya neighbors: given goats to eat; blankets to keep them warm; buried the dead as they found them and taken in whole families sheltering them in their houses along the border. APDA is hoping to launch into a program of searching out malnutrition among the border communities, providing hygiene and sanitation and shelter to particular group of 1,870 internally displaced. The most telling blow is that the markets have all but petered out. On this, APDA wants to work innovatively with existing border cooperatives and link them to other goat markets, perhaps in Djibouti or even in Somaliland. This need overshadows all as without the market, those now able cannot help themselves and least of all can they continue the Afar culture of assisting the poorest in he community.


Animals still desperately need treating, many still suffering a now strange disease that has apparently occurred from the sprays (land and aerial) used to kill the locusts. Parallel to this is the urgent need to accelerate on providing animal fodder aiming that the last remaining goats in all but destitute households survive till the rain rejuvenates fresh pasture, perhaps waiting until the coming April.


Another venture about to happen is a meeting between the Afar’s top leader (Sultan – elect) and leading clan elders to cap the seeming growing trend of gender-based violence in towns as well as a handful of incidents in the rural. Perhaps one of the impetuses of this was the long period of no schooling in the Region due to coronavirus restrictions as well as the opening for some Afar almost lost without identity to dump traditional ethics, the latter are people who have come from the rural to urban life and are almost socially dispossessed. Not knowing government law and punishments, Afar will negotiate a punishment for the perpetrator through the traditional legal practice but he remains at large. The organization wants the traditional leaders to appreciate that such violence will only be curbed through perpetrator imprisonment allowing the affected female to rehabilitate.


Again, progress is slowly emerging with the government education authorities, the Afar language development faculty in Samara University and the Afar Teachers’ Training College to totally revamp education for pastoralist children through having curriculum and books that relate to their lifestyle. APDA is very excited to involve in this in 2021 leading we hope to having teachers motivated to serve pastoralist communities that through education the Afar can be the masters of their own development and future.


This greeting letter must, for the most part look gloomy to those who have yet to visit us. In fact, no, we are full of hope and encouragement that the light will eventually shine…

To quote a newly – found Spanish friend who spent 2 weeks on a scientific venture in the sulfur lakes of the Danakil Depression (Hamad ‘ Eela in Barahale) and then went about researching ‘Afar’ to write with astounding insight as follows: ‘The Afar live in the most hostile conditions possible, in a desert where it rains so little that mist is considered a form of rain. With a pastoral tradition, they roam the parched soils with all their belongings on the back of camels so as not to exhaust the scarce available pasture. And they do not produce waste. Their culture is completely oral and they have developed the tradition, unshakable and necessary, to help each other and to tell the truth’…. Then in explaining both the Afar ability to survive and cope with change, she says ‘One of the reasons that, as I have seen, are used to excuse the lack of support for nomadic people by the states, resides in the difficulty of getting educational, health or medical resources to people in constant movement. However, a quick consultation of the website of the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) shows, with crystal clarity, that it is not even remotely an unsolvable problem: it consists in moving with them.’


We owe enormous gratitude to her and all of you as you stride on with us to surmount the seemingly impossible to discover ways that are really suiting to our ailing World that by any means, we need to work to preserve for the common good of mankind. While we face a tough number as 2021 dawns, there are great lessons to be drawn and more avenues toward sustainability to venture down.


Life goes on in all its glory. Just as I write have negotiated the rescue of two mothers in remote areas, both in dire condition: one having a 4 – month miscarriage and in agony, another who had a previous caesarian section again in an obstructed birth. None of this is possible without your partnership.


We close in thanking each and very person and do hope that the Christmas celebration and a New Year seriously dawn with abounding hope and encouragement for all in our world of mounting confusion!!!



The Tigray conflict adds yet another layer of inevitable suffering to isolated pastoralists

November 26th2020


  1. Tigray conflict – affects on Afar Region


Afar Region forms Tigray’s eastern border with 6 directly adjoining districts. Today as we write, we expect a massive influx of Mekele – city of displaced people. The Federal government assault on Mekele is about to happen and they report 80,000 people fled Mekele yesterday and today. The Afar Regional Government is now scrounging to prepare for the influx into ‘Aba’ala, the closest district to Mekele city. This is all today’s news.


Further south in Yallo, fighting 11 days ago on the border and inland to the north-south roadway resulted in a horrific yet-unreported massacre wherein reportedly ‘scores’ of people unable to flee were hacked to death, burnt or shot. Afar men from the town of Yallo went to bury the dead understanding the town of Chercher and surrounds was deserted discovering a grotesque scene of slaughter – mostly women and young children, elderly, blind and the like, bodies were already decomposing when they reached. Yallo in Afar Region is utterly related to Chercher in southern Tigray, socially, economically and in having almost merged cultures.


Yallo had the largest animal market in Afar Region, mostly selling into Tigray. Now the market has died, the surrounding districts to the center and east of Afar have nowhere ‘local’ to sell their herds and purchase daily needs. Again, food, fuel and other commodity prices have soared in the last days costing up to 4 and 5 times the comparable prices they knew from Tigray.


With the conflict now already 21 days in the making, Afar Region is still in shock: the umbilical cord of electricity, marketing, banking, food supply from Tigray to the Region’s western districts is cut leaving the northern districts aghast with no power to draw water from 8 boreholes in ‘Aba’ala, water supply for 56,000 people. These people now either purchase a 25-liter jerrican of turbid water from the river or trek to pick it up themselves. No bank services, no market is fast – blooming into food insecurity since even if there is food available, people cannot buy it.


  1. The layers that have mounted up

Starting from a bad position of overriding malnutrition due to households without goats or too little to produce milk for the family from the losses of previous droughts including the 2018/19 drought that broke in July 2020, this year has seen a deluge of disasters all pointing to increasing food insecurity and with the backdrop of the pandemic outbreak of coronavirus that anyway has interrupted normal life movements. With the drought-breaking rains of August, flood that overtook 14 districts displacing and dispossessing over 124,000 people still has its ramifications in now malnutrition and destitution since farmlands and livestock were lost.

Then with the rain, the desert locusts came back. As a result, all major grazing plains are barren leaving households without animal feed facing an early milk shortage (normally milk dries up in the community around February/ March). While the locusts did go as of a few weeks ago, the herd remains sick in many districts from the sprays used to kill the locusts as well as apparently from the locust droppings. This is particularly problematic in Sifra, Dullassa, Erebti and Magaale districts. APDA has sent out veterinary supplies and supported animal health workers to try and avert further death in the herds.

Now as pointed out above, markets are not functioning leaving the community unable to assist themselves.

All this is adding to food insecurity and feeds into malnutrition.  


  1. The solutions APDA is looking for
  2. Immediate
  • Advocacy to get the massacre in Chercher and surrounds investigated by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and any other such body.
  • Immediate ‘first-aid’ support to people crossing from the Tigray conflict. There are still around 400 shocked and terrified people sheltering in river valleys not far from Chercher. They need food and shelter as well as psychological support to resume their lives.
  • Continuity of malnutrition screening in remote areas of Afdeera, Teeru and Bidu as well as food support for pregnant and lactating mothers.
  • Animal treatment matched by fodder distribution in locust-devastated areas
  • Constant health team presence to see that communities do not fall into disease outbreaks such as cholera and the like and the ability to support with water purification and soap
  1. Short-term
  • Support particularly for women rendered destitute by flood to make an income through traditional mat weaving
  • Once-off support for women dependent on petty trade in Yallo and other border markets who are supporting families that had become herd – destitute.
  1. Medium to long – term

Marketing support through cooperatives enabling livestock to regain selling takeoff: this may well involve the chain including logistics, animal fodder and treatment till sold and finding the sellers. The aim here is that economic movement returns to all Tigray – conflict affected districts enabled by community-based cooperatives.


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The flood continues to rise. A drastic race against time

September 16th2020

  1. Rising water, rising flood damage

Afar-Regional Government Report as of September 16th:

As of August 2nd, the Awash River, the Region’s major watercourse that flows from the southern tip north and then east to the Djibouti border is in flood. While the Lower Awash was first and drastically affected, now the Middle Awash is massively affected with whole settlements submerged. Now described as the worst flood in living memory, with the further expected rains and release of water from the Koka hydroelectric dam on the Upper Awash, flood waters are expected to continue rising for the coming 15 to 20 days.

The Disaster Preparedness and Food Security Program Head announced this morning that 240,425 people are affected, of these, 144,285 are now displaced having lost all forms of property and housing. Those displaced are in 47 temporary shelters many of them school premises. People simply cling to what they can awaiting a helicopter/ motorized boat rescue. Ami Bara in southern Afar Region, adjoining Hanruka , Gawwaani and Gala’alu are reported the hardest hit with whole sub-districts isolated from any form of communication aside from helicopters.


  1. The critical gaps

As reported from the above meeting, food is most critically needed. The government is looking for 86,567 quintal (100 kilograms/ quintal) of food to support 240,425 people over 3 months. Desperate cries for help from now the worst hit districts in the Middle Awash of Gawwaani and Gala’alu are telling APDA people have nothing to eat and have not eaten for up to 4 days and more.

Second to food, the government says 34,000 households have no form of shelter or protection from the full range including rain, wind, at times, high sun, wild animals and so on.


  1. Losses with ramification on livelihood

The same meeting described a total of 41,448 hectares of planted farmland as utterly lost. Some of this is commercial farming but also, the small survival plots of the local community are included. Twenty plan nurseries were swept away. Including the drastic losses in the west of the Region, well over 40,000 head of livestock are lost and 85,000 hectares of grazing rangeland is flood – damaged and where plant-life has appeared, locust infested.

106 schools are damaged beyond use leaving at least 25,000 school students unable to return for the new school year as it begins in September. Forty-one health facilities are flooded leaving umpteen medical emergencies at risk including childbirth. 200 kilometers of road are washed away/ damaged.


  1. How it affects the household

Perhaps this story from one household given food and shelter assistance from APDA may shed light on this:

Abida’s Story

Abida Makko is a 50-year-old widow now living with over 400 other displaced people in Hummadoyta Primary School. She is only had one girl – child and is now responsible her daughter’s 6 children as well as her daughter. Abida’s husband died an old man some 15 years ago leaving her a young married woman alone with her daughter. Then her daughter had 6 children (the youngest is 18 months) but their father died 1 year ago in fighting against the invading Issa/ Somali clan some 50 kilometers from their home. In her home in Urogubi, Afambo she had 4 cows that had 3 calves; 15 goats; 2 donkeys and a camel. She lost every single animal in the flood.

On August 4th, waters surrounded her house coming in to waste – level. Her daughter and her were holding the children to stop them from drowning. They were rescued by the government helicopter and brought to Humadoyta, another sub-district in their district called Afambo. As they came, they brought nothing with them, only the clothes they were wearing.

She had been in the schoolhouse just 24 hours when APDA came and gave her sugar, ground barley, lentils and wheat flour. This totally saved them, she said as up till then, there was nothing to eat. The ground barley was particularly good as they mixed it with a bit of sugar and water – does not need cooking and immediately got some energy back. Abida said they managed to keep the food and feed themselves for 1 month. Now she is waiting for government food distribution and still in the school. There are no toilets or wash areas and some of the children have diarrhea. She was given one blanket, plastic ground sheeting and a cooking pot. This, she said is hard to look after the children with such few possessions. 

When asked her immediate concerns, Abida replied that they have nowhere to return to: no house, no animals and no farm. She said they need shelter and food. But after that, the children do not adjust to eating shiro (Ethiopian sauce made of ground chick peas and spices) and chillie powder as is common in the town. She says they only know milk. She said she really needs goats or some animal to give back milk to the family. For the older 2, she says she has no idea how they will go to school as she cannot afford any books, shoes or anything that might help them.


  1. What to do??

APDA is certainly working and wanting to work further afield and harder: the organization has distributed food in the 1stweek to 87 households in Afambo and now distributed shelter and hygiene/ sanitation assistance to 1,220 households in Assyaita, all the Lower Awash. What needs to happen is today’s needs should be met but recovery is also urgently important as the burden of Afar Region’s dependent poor is now all but doubled.

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Struck by Flood!!!!!!!!

August 10th2020

  1. 50,000 loose property while 19,626 to date are displaced

The Awash River bursts its banks:

The expected main rains has come with force not seen in the past 10 years: water pouring down from the Ethiopian Highlands and rain falling as of August 2ndhas brought catastrophe for 8,763 households. The rainy season has just started and thick, dark clouds loom again as the Awash River continues to rise…

A rapid government assessment last week is reporting devastating household losses in 10 so far of the Region’s 35 districts, the worst – affected being on the Lower Awash in Assaita, Afambo and the newly – formed district of Garani. To date, 4,699 hectares of irrigation recently – planted farmland is utterly washed away with the worst – affected communities in Koradora and Gala’alu in Assaita and Urogubi in Afambo being utterly surrounded by water, people still clinging to trees, floodwaters having swept away any presence of their inhabitants: house property + food + herd – miraculously, no one is reported drowned till now. Two government helicopters have worked constantly for the past 4 days trying to pull them to safety, dropping food where it is possible.

Indeed, the Awash River has the notorious reputation of flooding annually but by and large those incidents were relatively minor with the waters quickly receding. This year, the Geega River cutting into Afar Region’s western border from Amhara Region brought a raging torrent of water on August 4thactually flooding over the road entry to Logya town cutting traffic from Djibouti for some 8 hours. The Geega joins the Awash at Dubte town and, with waters released from the flooding hydroelectric dam (Koka Dam) on the river’s headwaters outside Addis Ababa, all surrounding communities were immersed and surrounded by August 5th.

While the damage – count is yet to be completed, at least 3,721 households have nothing to return to and stand without food or immediate shelter; disease outbreak of malaria, pneumonia brought on by cold nights and hunger, even cholera is possible. Flies have come out in force bringing any number of infections to small children. Too, Assaita has become a hub of coronavirus transmission with almost 17 cases found in the town. Using schools and other empty buildings to house displaced people is then challenging trying to avoid further transmission.

As the season wears on, the Regional Government has predicted as many as 63,000 people maybe affected and of these, 44,000 people displaced from their homes.

What is urgently needed:

  1. Food and cooking utensils
  2. Tarpaulin and rope to structure immediate shelter
  3. Blankets and mosquito nets
  4. Clothes
  5. Disease preventative support in soap, water purification, household level water storage jerricans
  6. Basic medicines such as rehydration salts, malaria medications, eye ointment, basic antibiotics

Beyond these needs:

  1. People need support to build back their traditional houses of dry palm – leaf mats (daboyta)
  2. Those left empty will need re-stocking with 5 to 10 goats in order to start up again
  3. Farm tools to re-establish crop growing will be needed


  1. Rain status beyond the Awash River Basin

This extra-ordinary rain has also fallen in most drought-thirsty areas of the Region bringing immediate drinking water relief but creating numerous flash – floods that again have swept away herds and property.

Some areas have become impassable for example, rain fell mid – campaign in Teeru and Awra for APDA’s health team making it extraordinary hard for health workers to reach flooded pastoralist households to vaccinate children and conduct nutrition surveillance.

The other point of remark is that while a flash flood may fill the land like an ocean for a few hours, as soon as it subsides, small spikes of green grass appear. As they do, desert locusts are poised to snatch them as particularly seen in Teeru and Awra in the past days. Locust swarms have greatly multiplied and daily darkened the sky in Sifra, parts of Tallalak and ‘Adda’ar. The nature of the rain is torrential but not wind-driven thus the swarms actually enjoy this environment to further group. A HUGE swarm is blocking vision the road from Harsis 10 kilometers south of Mille all the way to Mille town as this is being written. For grazing, this is drastic.

While this is a short message, this is to appeal to any organization, individual that can support this emergency, emergency on the back of emergency being that the Afar community were already enduring malnutrition, herd losses and locust infestation. Here, Afar households are giving what they can in terms of clothes household utensils and so on. APDA is looking to immediately assist 700 households in Koradora, 1,290 households in Gala’alu and 510 households in Urogubi as these communities are intimately known to the organization through APDA’s provision of health and education services over the years and these are anyway very hard to reach areas.

Photos taken in the first week of this disaster are posted in APDA’s Face Book page.

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24 Hours in Barbara May Maternity Hospital

June 5thto 6th2020

Since the Coronavirus Pandemic reached Afar Region in early April, the situation in Barbara May Maternity Hospital (BMMH) has changed: deliveries have doubled and the weekly clinics continue to see up to 50 antenatal mothers and up to 20 gynecology cases each Tuesday and Thursday. It appears the community perceives it is safer to deliver away from Logya, Dubte and Samara (75 kilometers from Mille) where the Region’s main quarantine center is in Samara University and COVID cases are treated in Logya hospital government hospital. Also, 10 days ago, a doctor who had worked in Dubte hospital and studying surgery in Tigray was found COVID 19 positive. This has added to the fear.

The hospital now has 35 – inpatient capacity in 3 rooms: the large initial inpatient room; 5 beds in what was firstly the antenatal clinic and 8 beds in a closed verandah area and one intensive care/ anesthetic recovery bed in a room that was the laboratory. Constantly, from 20 to 24 beds are occupied with a daily turn – over of delivering mothers as well as patients requiring longer – stay treatment.

Recall of 5thafternoon till 6thafternoon, June 2020

The 4 mothers who had delivered without complication the previous day are discharged in the morning leaving a total of 18 inpatients by mid-morning.

Mother of 3 is in labor in the delivery room having been found with twins: the first presenting a head and the second in breech – each baby has its own placenta, the delivery is a ‘piece of cake’ but of course, there is fear of postpartum hemorrhage. Already there are 2 other mothers in the ward with twins: one who had 7 previous deliveries and did bleed defying all medical treatment to the extent the only option was a hysterectomy in order to save her life. Through the drama, blood was picked up from Samara blood bank after considerable overlay of bureaucratic obstruction: 4 units were poured into her. Still weak from the trauma, this mother is now doing well with 2 very vigorous twin boys.

As the day’s 3rdtwin case is delivering, a phone call begging ambulance help comes in: a mother some 120 kilometers away on extremely rough road has delivered but now dying of anemic.  The ambulance driver is located and he is on the way getting back to the hospital at 1 AM with not one but 2 extremely anemic mothers.  Off the asphalt road, it took him 4 hours to do 80 kilometers t reach the settlement of Magadayto inside Geega. Both mothers are found to have enlarged spleens: one with a haemaglobin of 2.8 and the other 3.2. Their respective babies are alive and active, the mothers can hardly hold their heads up. The hospital must start a course of choraquine to reduce the chronic malaria and the spleen before they can transfuse them – they will need up to 10 days in the hospital and 6 months treatment to reduce the spleen.

Meanwhile, Khadiga, 18 year old primagravid from Logya is admitted in labor. She has severe facial odema. In her first delivery, the labor is longer and harder and when the baby is ready to come out, Khadiga has a convulsion – she has eclampsia like 2 other cases in the ward. The staff control the eclampsia but her blood pressure resists going down. Dr Omar decides on using a vacuum – ‘Kiwi-cup’ to pull out the baby as fast as possible. Her daughter is fine at birth but after 5 hours, little Faatuma begins convulsing. Medicating her gives her a hypoxic episode and the body twitching persists. She is unable to latch on to the breast and the decision made to ring the pediatrician in Dubte hospital and refer mother and baby by ambulance for a better treatment for Faatuma.

On ward rounds, Omar is confronted by 2 patients waiting for a solution: one who has had 2 previous caesarians and can only safely deliver by a 3rdcaesarian and a young mother that had a fistula repaired in 2019 now suffering with a huge bladder stone. He decides to take both to surgery on Friday morning despite the fact there are another 2 mothers laboring in the 3 – bed labor room. The caesarian takes much longer than normal as the mother has extensive adhesions that need to be released, the baby is delivered in good condition. ‘Adey’s father had brought her to the hospital after seeing her in agony passing urine for some months. The 18 year old had lost her baby in the rural home delivery that resulted in her getting a fistula. With the fistula, quite unusual to Afar people, her husband deserted her leaving her a discredited, divorced woman.  When her father saw the 7 cm diameter stone removed from her bladder, he said he would show the whole community and campaign for better maternal health where he lives.

Dr Omar is still writing up the patients’ surgical records when the labor room midwives ask him to check a breech mother – she is not progressing and they can feel a foot. The family from Logya (educated people) refuses the caesarian saying they only want the mother to survive. Mother has NO living children having had 2 other newborn deaths. Eventually, they are persuaded and 3rdoperation is undertaken, live boy!!            

Where she was, another laboring mother is admitted. This mother is complicated with repeated urine infection which turns out to be the reason of her supposed labor.

Meanwhile a mother who delivered in the hospital 8 days previously is admitted with severe anemia, enlarged spleen and liver – she seems to be complicated by heart dysfunction due to the anemia and the infection she has totally reduced her platelets as seen on the blood film. With high concern on what vicious infection she has, the hospital manage to locate her relatives and take her, a second referral to Dubte hospital. She comes from Mille town, is alone without a partner and been working in house cleaning.

The final delivery for the 24 hours is a 16 year old. Her family is from Eritrea and now living in Logya – Haalima is seemingly a well – primagravid with no real alarming symptoms. Like most such young girls having their first, her labor is not easy but she is very well controlled. Just as the cervix reaches full dilation, her blood pressure rises to 103 diastolic. The staff act and give her medication to reduce the blood pressure. However, just 20 minutes after the birth she convulses and has to have the full treatment for eclampsia, her baby, another boy, is fine.

On Saturday evening, another 2 delivering mothers are admitted with hemoglobins of 4.2 and 3.5 respectively. Again, another tussle to get the blood from the Samara blood bank.

The challenges and the actions:

APDA is deliberately working to keep the hospital as safe as possible from Coronavirus and enforcing  less people in the hospital. Local population likes to have up to 7 to 12 per patient – all the family and friends come. Also, all people entering the compound are checked for fever. Awareness is being given on the hospital health education TV screen.

The process to open a mini-blood bank has been slowed by difficulty to communicate with people in Addis. APDA is in process to try and overcome this.

With the additional beds, there is need for hand-basins to be put in on 2 positions. Also floor tiling needs repairing. This will be done.

The head nurse, a health officer acts to assist Dr Omar who is now alone after Dr Margaret returned to UK in April but he is not trained yet in emergency surgery. There is a need for a doctor able to cope with such emergencies as the hospital faces: either an Ethiopian doctor but this is not feasible under the current needs due to the pandemic in the country or a voluntary doctor.


May 2020

Living under the Shadow of Coronavirus

May 13th2020

  1. Coronavirus and the challenge of determining its movement

As of May 11th, Ethiopia has recorded 250 cases of COVID 19: 23 from Afar Region, 6 from Somali Region; 4 from Tigray and the remainder mainly found in Addis and dominantly travellers as well as a few from the nearby town of Dukkum, from Nazareth and Dira Dawa. Overall, 105 cases have recovered and there have been 5 fatalities staggered over a period of time.


In Afar Region, there are now 13 quarantines at Djibouti border entry points as well as in Samara, Gawwaani and Gala’alu. As of a week ago, the Region got reagent to test for the virus and so far, 281 tests have proved negative. However, to be actually sure of the situation is a near nightmare: a mother in Sifra died as the ambulance had almost reached her from placental retention and second man died in another area. Their relatives have broken the lines and walked into Afar Region from Djibouti for the funerals and so now the hunt is on to find them and their contacts and test them. In Djibouti, there have been well over 1,000 cases and, under the condition of deportation order, Ethiopian traders have been and continue to cross into Ethiopia through any entry they can find on the border. These people are living under the stress of walking through desert land into Afar Region as well as being possible cases/ contacts of the coronavirus.


APDA has to date printed awareness raising material (information flyers, posters and banners) on what not to do and what to do to protect from infection with one poster given to highlighting the problem of spitting being that it is Ramadan and it is so common for people to idly spit what they have in their mouths. Now with microphones, there are people allocated to raise awareness in towns, markets and areas where people gather. An extra-ordinary challenge is upon us as, when Ramadan closes, the celebration is a family-gathering involving purchase of clothes for children and so on so people flock in droves for the coming 2 weeks to the roadsides. Again, the organization has made 2 locally – filmed dramas that currently are being displayed on the health education TV screen in the Barbara May Maternity Hospital depicting typical Afar response to the Coronavirus threat. Should the hospital treat a Coronavirus suspected case, it is equipped with adequate oxygen cylinders and very basic staff protection material (masks, gloves and gowns) as well as infra-red temperature recorders. Currently, the only ventilator in the Region is in Assaita Hospital, some 3 hours drive from Mille.   


  1. Needed government restrictions and their effects on the community wellbeing

In a Region like Afar, town connections are vital: markets (especially now with Eid coming), relatives, possibility of daily laboring work and much more. However, the tool the government has to control disease transmission is to close the transport and restrict any movement. For a population so intertwined in community life as the Afar, this is inconceivable thus very difficult to police and to maintain –  a funeral without the relatives and the clan attending let alone a person sick not visited; a birth without a minimum of 4 to 5 caretakers is all inconceivable. Borders mean little and the name of the clan is shamed if you are NOT socially interactive. Hence securing even quarantine areas is hugely challenging.


There is, as WHO has cautioned, the danger now of health teams paying less attention to the pregnant delivering mother and the sick under 5 year old for all the fears and restrictions this situation has thrown on us. Almost 95% of patients attending APDA’s Barbara May Maternity Hospital must travel some distance to reach the institution. Under the current conditions where numbers in vehicles are highly restricted leading to doubling of the transport cost, this for many mothers is prohibitive.


Children across the Region are now bored and crying for the opportunity to go back to school, schools having closed as of mid-March and now not to open till the new academic year in September. Without a readily graspable alternative method of teaching children in the home due to lack of technical accessibility and that most parents are illiterate, the children simply are biding their time. APDA is scrambling/ struggling to establish a system of simple teaching card handouts to be delivered house to house in its alternative basic education program. The Afar rural is certainly NOT online!!


  1. Locusts, malnutrition and measles: all under the Corona shadow

The community needs and depends on a multitude of other treatments that must continue such as tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. Now there is plethora of outbreaks of measles but apparently no place for responses. Children are dying. Boyna in Teeru reported 4 children of around 5 to 8 years dying of measles in the last month all had migrated back from Mabay where there is almost no vaccination coverage. Even adults are affected by whooping cough as well as measles due to the overall dismally poor vaccination coverage in Afar Region. The ‘unseen’ preventable diseases such as hepatitis B, pneumonaccocus infections must be spiraling in the community. Then the altogether silent killer, malnutrition still has a fierce grip on many remote communities.


The short rains are over and the hot season is in full fling with temperatures constantly over 40 degrees, Overall there were 2 main rainstorms not producing on pasture rejuvenation. Quite the reverse: encouraged by the rains, desert locusts came back around 7 weeks ago now and are busily increasing and expanding: 4 sub-districts of Sifra are heavily effected and swarms have gone down into Tallalak in Zone 5 on the western border and are affecting 3 sub-districts in Mille. APDA is anxiously contacting FAO on the matter and the Regional authorities are beginning to spray the affected areas. This indeed adds to the overall food insecurity since these pastoralists will be stressed to move their herds to find pasture. It seems the locusts have laid eggs and have great potential to spread.


  1. APDA response and what more is needed

As mentioned, malnutrition is widespread and particularly severe in remote areas. The organization is responding in northern Dubte (Geega, Dagaba, Saha), a project now able to continue until August 31st. House to house nutrition surveillance has identified an initial 154 severely malnourished children and provides supplementary food for 800 malnourished pregnant and lactating mothers. Human nutrition response is matched with veterinary response: those with less than a ‘survival herd’ of 15 goats are now receiving alfalfa hay to stop their further animal deaths and the herd in general is being treated halting the progression of animal diseases.


Using this tandem strategy of human nutrition and veterinary support, a second project has opened on the Eritrean border in Bidu among people who have reached destitution/ semi-destitution through droughts as well as political isolation over the past 20 years. The people of Alaab, Moggores and Aggum are now critically food insecure and the project aims to bring them through the remainder of the dry season until there are hopefully pasture – rejuvenating rains in August/ September. Malnutrition is rife and the herd is all but emaciated. Therefore screening and treatment of severe malnutrition, supplementary food support along with animal treatment and hay in houses almost destitute is planned.


In an adjacent area on the Eritrean border, northern Eli Daar the desperately weakened herd there is about to receive 6 months support in treatment and supplementary animal feed (government – supplied alfalfa hay). This will prevent further animal loss and thereby support the family to have their survival herd.


Finally, in Teeru and northern Awra where shocking malnutrition and critical livelihood loss has plagued the district since around November, APDA will work on seeing the remaining herd survives as described above and supporting households to de-contaminate drinking water and store it, have soap under this threat of Coronavirus as well as get support to overcome malnutrition. This district is extremely affected by the invading weed shrub, prosopis juliafora. There is no longer access to animal grazing, road transport or even water supplies due to the density of this thorny thicket. Thus 100’s of households are displaced into southern Teeru and those who were unable to move are dangerously isolated.


With the dark clouds of Coronavirus dominating our horizon, it is utterly needed to look beyond to the recovery and the emancipation back to a productive livelihood: enormous work remains to facilitate the rehabilitation of the environment the pastoralists depend on and to truly connect them to productive interaction in the market so that food insecurity is overcome.


  1. APDA’s program of development, how it is faring

Having an utterly rural program that uses foot-transport house to house is primarily a great advantage. Any discussion, learning happens in the open air under a tree and so most of APDA’s primary health, women’s empowerment including stopping of harmful practices continues – not unimpeded but continues. Not more than 8 people gather and practice sitting well away from each other and the Coronavirus awareness takes center stage but leads into all manner of discussion. Literacy teaching also continues in small groups and mobile teachers are keeping up with their alternative basic education students. Reports and interaction with the field office is more phone – orientated, SMART phones are not universally found. Only the field office has the opportunity of interacting with the world on ‘virtual meetings’.


Actually, APDA has seen Corona as an opportunity to really work with the community on behavior changes reducing respiratory transmission of disease. Aside from the social distancing that is so hard to translate here, stopping spitting of anything from the mouth is a big one. If this can really become adapted in the society, then tuberculosis will slow down enormously along with other respiratory transmitted diseases such as measles and whooping cough.


As no doubt you are, we too are learning enormously as the world does mental summersaults and gymnastics. Our fear that humans are isolated is less than that of your circumstance but nevertheless communications are changing and evolving. May we all benefit from the opportunity to re-think that this extra-ordinary pandemic is offering staying safe in a different perspective of ‘protection’ as it determines. The big hope now is the time you can visit and we meet again in the flesh!!!

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