March 10 2021 Report
Hunger and Thirst, the Cries for Help and Balancing in Immediate Recovery
March 9th 2021
- 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.
- Now the productive/ good news and plans
ToGETHER, both a project and a consortium of now 5 local NGOs with 4 German international NGOs with German Government funds is an acronym for ‘Towards Greater Effectiveness and Timeliness in Humanitarian Emergency Response’. APDA has joined and in so doing also partners with 5 local NGOs in 7 other countries worldwide, chosen because of their frequency of emergencies.
Following on from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit as held in Istanbul, Turkey where ‘Adapting to new challenges through local, inclusive, and context specific responses’ was one of five – described objectives. This was the ‘new’ challenging to lead to a new approach and new perspective wherein the affected populations take center-stage to determine the best possible assistance and recovery needed. Termed the ‘Grand Bargain’, donor countries, international NGOs and corporations agreed that 20% of global humanitarian funding should be channeled directly through the local NGOs on the ground giving them traction to act faster, more effectively and inclusively.
This amazing idea to tip the scales so ‘top-down’ becomes ‘bottom-up’ putting the needy in the driver’s seat has not eventuated. Thus this project. In short, APDA spent the past weekend assessing its own capability to perform more effectively, timely and inclusively. This indeed was a revelation of APDA’s 26 years as well as current shortcomings wherein improvement is now planned. This for us is good news but will consume much effort, bringing the organization under its own and others’ spotlight and throw us all into greater energy of learning. Not only for Afar but also for the suffering World, we aim to achieve!!!!!
The way forward:
This then brings us to the nexus of emergency relief, recovery and peace – so much needed here!! For example, for some 15 years, APDA has always fed goats in almost destitute houses that they may live and produce milk. That, in a pastoralist society, must go on. With those coming in from Tigray who have lost all property, coming into a Region where food is scarce and the market dysfunctional, they and the host communities that support them need initiatives allowing them to return to productivity as well as getting the immediate support they require. For this, APDA is planning to work toward income generating activities of a variety in the border districts ranging from small – scale farming to produce food crops, supporting petty trade initiatives, enhancing traditional mat production toward more housing material and microfinance loans to maximize beneficiaries among Tigray people. This would be undertaken through cooperatives enabling the 2 communities to work together and enhancing local market and economy as well as forging a deeper relation of peace and understanding.
Achieved and in the plan:
The organization has just returned from Dallol on the NW border giving cooking, sleeping, eating and hygiene items/ utensils to 605 households. During the distribution, they appealed for food..
Malnutrition support is being given in Afdeera, Teeru, Kori and Bidu, parallel with animal treatment and feed. In all areas, the situation is desperate due to the fact people have spent the last 3 months with minimal food in their houses aside from the fact the animals have no pasture. Again, APDA is trying to partner with other NGOs to reach people in the most remote areas especially in northern Dubte and Magaale. This assistance is not sustainable for the length of time it will be needed but for now, it is meeting needs and saving lives.
Water supply relieving thirst, rehabilitation of water schemes and hygiene promotion is planned for 3 districts associated with the Tigray border as well as screening and treating malnourished mothers and children and vaccinating under 5 year olds.
In the face of all growing food crops and rehabilitating the rangeland:
Two livelihood projects have brought solutions to the communities they serve while another two are in process: fast growing pawpaw and banana trees endured the locusts in December/ January, the beneficiaries throwing mosquito nets over the growing trees as well as loudly shouting and smoking the area with burn-off fires chasing off the insects. Their pawpaw should be harvested in a month and the banana trees will come good in 6 months. This is in an otherwise herding community close enough to the Mille River in Sifra to irrigate now 28 hectares of land. They also had the good sense to grow fodder grass that they have harvested for use now and APDA has introduced them to poultry production – eggs coming into the diet!!!
Again, further down the Mille River as it joins the Awash in Giraaro, Mille, another scheme using solar water pump is providing nutritious food security, crops to be marketed – all a new life for waning pastoralists. As part of this, a pilot vegetable and fruit tree patch is coming on in Barbara May Maternity Hospital for all to see.
The first of the 2 projects now starting is to bring ground water to Kori through damming a seasonal river that will also water a now dry forest as well as directing 2 rivers back to their original course in Awra to improve pasture. The second is facilitating the change from traditional gravity irrigation from the Awash River channels close to where the river goes underground to reach the Indian Ocean in eastern Afar Region. People here have high potential to produce food but have only ever used a mono-crop of maize and not as yet interacted with the market. Potentially, their land could become a breadbasket for the surrounding areas.
While these projects are localized, they bring inspirational ideas to spread the market benefit as well as the food benefit to the society now lingering on a mono-diet and subject to unfavorable terms of trade. Therefore APDA would really like to multiple these projects as a solution to the dire situation we are struggling with today.