Extreme weather exacerbated by El Ñino has left more than 10 million people across Ethiopia in need of humanitarian aid.
When owning a herd of cows is like having money in the bank, losing it can mean terrible things for a family. But that’s exactly what’s happening to countless Ethiopian households as the worst drought in 30 years wipes out the livestock many use for food and income.
Across the country, where farmers rely largely on rain to feed their crops and water the pastures on which their animals depend, drought is pushing more than 10 million people into circumstances so dire they now need humanitarian aid. In December 2015, the Ethiopian government issued an appeal for $1.4 billion to help it respond. Donors have stepped up to fund only 48 percent of the appeal so far.
The government is also helping to support many other Ethiopians through its safety net program, which is expanding to cover eight million people this year.
“I had 400 sheep and goats and 100 cattle,” said a woman named Hawa who is now living in a camp for displaced people in Harisso, a community in Ethiopia’s Siti zone in the Somali region. “Each day I lost 10 animals, then more and more.” Now, they are all dead.
Originally from a village called Anado, Hawa and four of her children moved to the camp about seven months ago, after her husband went to Djibouti to look for work.
“I am here to get support. I have nothing left. I had no other option,” said Hawa, who now spends long hours every other day scouring the mountains nearby for firewood.
“Here in the village there is no work,” she said.
About 80 percent of the people who live in Siti depend on their livestock. But the drought, linked to a global weather phenomenon known as El Ñino and following successive failure of rains during the last year and a half, has killed more than half a million animals across the country. Thousands of families in Siti are now without a source of income.
“This drought has lasted longer than any others,” Hawa said. “Other droughts haven’t cost [us] our livestock.”
The losses are on everybody’s minds, every day, especially as families worry about how to feed their children.
“Every day we talk about the drought and the things we have lost,” said Lule Abrahn, who also moved to the camp after all of her 50 goats died and her family had no food. “I don’t sleep at night because I am hungry. … We are very weak now. My children keep asking me for food.”
Where aid is being delivered, it is making a difference. Oxfam has helped more than 100,000 people in Siti with emergency assistance that has included distributing animal feed and rehabilitating water holes. We have also been helping families bury their dead animals and trucking in water for more than 17,500 people. In other drought-hit regions of the country—Afar and Oromia—we have also been trucking in water, vaccinating animals to ensure their health during this hard time, and providing some households with cash so they can buy the essentials they need.
We have reached more than 160,000 people with the emergency aid, but our goal is to help 777,000 people.
Ethiopians aren’t the only ones struggling in the face of extreme weather. Millions of other across the globe are now seeing conditions deteriorate as El Ñino makes droughts worse in their countries—and brings floods to other places. Donate now to help us assist those enduring climate-related weather crises.