The current drought in the lowlands of the country has caused a widespread disease outbreak in livestock in Somali Regional State, according to a recent assessment carried out by Jigjiga University.
The assessment, carried out by a team from the Institute of Afro-pastoralist Development Studies indicated that the lack of feed for cattle and shortage of water has made the animals susceptible to disease. The assessment was carried out in the Dawa, Afdher, Korahey, Liban, and Jarar Zones of the region’s 11 zones.
The major diseases affecting the livestock in the region are PPR, known as goat plague, Goat Pox, Pasteurellosis, CCPP, in goats and sheep, Camelpox, MERS - an acronym for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Anaplasmosis as well as CBPP, Brucellosis, FMD, and LSD. Some of these diseases, like CCPP, and PPR, are characterized by high morbidity and mortality rates.
“The diseases had been found in almost all parts of the region and it is severely affecting the animals,” said Dr. Abdimalik Hussein, lecturer of veterinary medicine at Jigjiga University and member of the Somali Region Veterinary Association.
More than 6.4 million people are estimated to require food assistance due to the effects of the current drought, one of the driest weather conditions in decades; three million of which reside in the Somali Region according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA).
Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists will be one of the most affected groups by the drought which has already caused at least 267,000 livestock deaths in Southern Oromia and Somali Regions with hundreds of thousands of livestock at risk.
“There are massive reductions in her sizes as a result of increased mortality and poorer reproductive performance of the animals,” said Abdimalik. “This is going to affect food security and compromise the sole dependence of pastoralists on livestock.”
Low milk availability and income from livestock, the backbone of the economy in the Somali Region, is now affecting families, who are currently facing water shortage and require trucking support. The drought, a result of three consecutive failed rainy seasons, has also disrupted the education of more than 155,000 students in the region.
Though the official results of the assessment will be officially launched in the coming weeks, pastoralists need better drought prediction mechanisms, according to Abdulmalik.
“The government should formulate a prevention mechanism that can tackle or decrease the effect of drought on the pastoralist communities with greater emphasis given to the livestock sector and the professionals that engage in this sector. Lives are dependent on this,” he said.
Last month, the World Food Programme appealed for 327 million dollars, to launch its Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa, part of the organization’s plan to reach 4.5 million people who require immediate assistance. In Ethiopia, particularly, the organization aims to provide food relief for 2.9 million people in the Somali region, including 585,000 malnourished children and mothers, as lack of clean water and food security increase malnutrition cases in the region.