Severe Ethiopian Drought Claims Thousands Of Livestock Threatens Life
- Severe Ethiopian Drought Claims Thousands Of Livestock Threatens Life
An animal carcass lies rotting on the banks of Lake Naivasha, Kenya.
Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Lea-Lisa Westerhoff
Goraye, Ethiopia (AFP) Apr 05, 2006
Putrefying cattle carcasses line either side of the wind swept road
leading to the lone watering hole in the extinct Goraye volcano in
the southern Ethiopian region of Borena, where animals have
succumbed to a scathing drought that is also threatening people with
For the last five years, the region has only been receiving scanty
rains and this has caused the drying up of hand-dug wells and
underground water reservoirs.
"It is a real massacre, we cannot any more count the number of
animals that we have lost in the past weeks," said Diide Tadi, head
of Dire district, which is among the worst affected areas in Borena
At least 100,000 animals have died in the last two months in Borena,
home to nearly 100,000 pastoralists, while some 250,000 people out
of about one million residents in the larger Oromo region currently
depend on relief aid, officials said.
But according to United Nations predictions, the number of those
needing relief assistance is likely to double next month.
At least 5,000 people depend on the Goraye watering hole, which was
recently repaired by the UN agency for children (UNICEF) and also
serves herders from Kenya who travel for about 100 kilometres (60
miles from the south of Ethiopia.
With the fast dying animals, international relief group CARE
hurriedly put up an abbatoir to buy dying stock from the herders and
then distribute the meat to the hunger-stricken locals.
"Because of the drought, we slaugter up to 100 cattle a day because
they are too weak to walk," said Gilma Liben, an official with CARE.
In addition to Ethiopia, a severe drought that has gripped the east
African nations of Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti has put some 11
million people on the brink of starvation according to the UN.
The situation is mainly affecting children of the pastoralist
communities as they depend on milk from the cattle now falling in
the wake of the scorching drought.
Meanwhile according to Dejene Benti of the US Medical Corps
International, infant malnutrition is hovering near 20 percent which
he warned is critical, resulting in about 30 children being
hospitalised at a health centre in Goraye due to drought-sparked
"When animals die, it is the children who are directly affected
because in this pastoral society, 60 percent of food is from milk,"
said Marc Rubin, an official with UNICEF.
However, with the light rains that have fallen in the region
recently, the situation remains critical and worse still, the
showers risk sparking infection as run off washing rotting carcasses
drains into open pans and other water holes that are used by local
"With all the carcasses lying along the roads, the rain will collect
all the dirt and contaminate the ponds and the wells where people
drink, this will be problematic as it could cause a lot of disease,"
Residents here say the current drought is the most severe in recent
times with some 1.5 million people in the country's eastern and
southern regions having no access to potable water since January.
"I cannot remember ever having seen such a severe drought in at
least the last five years," said Gaarso Lema, a 25-year-old herder
who said he has to, on certain days, trek for between 10 and 15
kilometres in search of pasture.
"Three years ago, I lost 14 animals, but this time I have lost 25. I
only remain with five and I fear that they will all die," he added.