“I am worried about my children. What will they eat?”

Emergencies, Rights in crisis, Blogs article written on the 31 Mar 2017

For more than 16 months, Ethiopia has been in drought. In many parts of the country, it hasn’t rained in more than two years. Water reserves are running out, crops are burnt and dying, and people don’t have enough food or water for themselves, let alone the livestock they rely on to make a living.

Right now, more than 11 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, in the region known as Horn of Africa, are going severely hungry.

In Ethiopia, Oxfam has been working to address the impacts of severe drought since late 2015, when a recording breaking El Niño hit the region hard. Oxfam is already helping more than 270,000 people with safe, clean water; in the next three months we’re aiming to reach an additional 450,000 people with more water and cash transfers for food, helping them to feed their families and keep their livestock alive.

More help is urgently needed to prevent this crisis turning into a catastrophe. We cannot wait for the next rainy season from April to June to fail; there is a small window of opportunity to avoid the worst and we must take action now.

Here, people in the Galadi region of Ethiopia share their stories of what life has been like for the past two years.

Mohammed, pastoralist

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

“Where I live, there is no more water. I ran from that life. I came to get water to survive.

“Before, I had 400 shoats (pigs). I lost many of them — today I only have 15 shoats. I am a pastoralist. There has been no rain for two years. There was some grass, but then when the grass finished, there was no more food for my livestock, so I had to leave.

“I have three camels — they are alive but they are very thin. I don’t know if they will survive. Our lives and our livestock situation is the worst. We used to take the strongest camels far away to fetch water for our families. They are not strong anymore because they are affected by the drought. They cannot carry anything. We lost many of them.

We have never seen two years without rain in our lifetime. The last drought was only one year without rain — now this is two years. I don’t know why the climate has changed like this.

“We need food. Within 24 hours, we only have one meal. Normally we would have pasta and wheat flour and we would drink milk from our livestock. Now there is a drought, the livestock are not producing any milk because they are already thin … Today we only eat maize. It is affecting our body condition and nutritional status. You can understand this is difficult. We are feeling a lot of hunger, a lot of suffering because we don’t have enough food to eat. That’s the way we are today. We are in a dangerous situation — even people. If the drought continues like this, people will die. We are expecting rain in the next two months, but we don’t know for sure. Only God knows.

“Our livelihoods depend on livestock — we are all pastoralists. The people who have a small amount of livestock, if the rain comes they might benefit from this, but there are some families with no livestock. I’m not sure how they will survive. If we don’t have livestock, we will always need help. We will always need a supply of food.”

Fadumo, pastoralist

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

“I moved here because of the drought. I lost my livestock. I had shoats and camels. Before, I used to have 60 animals, now I just have 20. I have one camel which is still alive.

“I have 5 children living with me. I had 11 children. One is being looked after by my aunt, two have gone to stay with their father to look for our camel. The camel travelled far from here.

“I am worried about my children now. What will they eat?

“We are getting some help — we have some food and water. We need many things. We need food which is nourishing. Food is our biggest need.”

Haimo, café owner

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

“I have worked for my children my whole life. To run my café, I buy 25kg of sugar, then when I have sold enough tea, I repay my loan. That’s how I have survived.

“I don’t want my children to feel like they don’t have money. During this time when there is drought, I don’t have enough customers. Many people no longer come to drink tea. It has never been like this.

“My business is affected, life is bearing down on us harder than before. My husband is an administrator for the government. He has a few shoats, but doesn’t depend on them. I don’t have enough money to support my children — mainly for their education, for example for textbooks and clothes. The drought is getting worse and it is very hard for me today.”

Najib, school director

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

Since the drought, attendance at Najib’s school has plummeted. He says parents don’t send their kids to school when there’s nothing to eat.

“Normally, before the drought there were 300 students, now just 130 come to school. The rest dropped out because they need to move the livestock to search for food.”

He says education is more important than ever as the pastoralists’ way of life is becoming unsustainable and they need to seek different forms of income.

“As we all know, people depend on livestock. But we need education for the younger generation. We need to change our lifestyle. People are always suffering. We need to change the way we live — to develop another way to live. We need that.

“We need urgent support with water, food and medicine.”

Global hunger, famine and food security

Around the world, one country is in famine and three others are on the brink — unprecedented in modern times. We must end this crisis now before more innocent women, men and children starve.

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