February 25, 2023

Perils of starvation, pandemic loom over Borena in a historic drought

City: AdamaCurrent Affairs

Residents said the government’s reluctance to recognize them as internally displaced people is getting things more complicated

Avatar: Tesfalidet Bizuwork
By Tesfalidet Bizuwork

Tesfalidet is Addis Zeybe's correspondent in Adama.

Perils of starvation, pandemic loom over Borena in a historic drought
Camera Icon

Credit: Alliance Biodiversity and CIAT

Jilo Molu, head of an eight-member family, lost all his 35 cattle to the drought in Borena Zone. He told Addis Zeybe that the whole family is troubled by an extreme food deficit. Jilo and his family are forced to flee to a nearby IDP center near Yabelo town. 

The people of Borena, who are esteemed for their hospitality of food giveaways, have now run out of a drop of water watching their cattle die before their eyes. Borena pastoralists share their concern that starvation may threaten their existence hereafter. 

Addis Zeybe learned from local residents that, shocked by the tremendous loss of their fortune to the drought, some people committed suicide in the area. According to Addis Zeybe's sources in the Dubluq district in Borena Zone, four people killed themselves this month.

After an extended silence, the government has admitted that over 867 thousand people are affected by the drought and 263 thousand are in need of emergency aid. While it is revealed that about 3.3 million livestock perished, concerned government bureaus say efforts are underway to save the remaining 230 thousand. 

Jarso Boru, the administrator of the Zone, told state-owned media that they are afraid the drought will go beyond into a famine. He said many families are getting support from the government, of which 13 thousand of people are left with nothing due to the drought.  

The zonal administration stated that security threats and frequent conflict in the area tend to create hindrances to aid work.

The zone has been experiencing one of the most severe climate-change-induced droughts following four consecutive failed rainy seasons since late 2020 which resulted in massive livestock deaths and disrupted the flow of income and food sources for pastoralists. It has been one of the worst droughts in the area in the last 40 years, according to the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). 

A medical professional working in one of the Woredas in the zone, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the underlying problems are getting alarming daily and more than 54 thousand displaced people are in the camp at Dubluk woreda.  

“There is almost no focused support for the old, mothers, and children and this would result in devastating consequences. Though aid agencies are in the camps, there is a notable shortage of medicines and medical equipment.”

Residents of the zone Addis Zeybe approached explained that they face pressing issues such as loss of property, scarcity of nutrition, and vulnerability to contagious diseases, among others. Moreover, they stressed that the reluctance on the government’s side to recognize them as internally displaced people is getting things more complicated. 

The medical professional also shared his fear of the possibility of a pandemic outbreak, given the refugee camp's closeness to Moyale, a cholera pandemic hot zone. 

“Considering the significant shortage of water and living conditions of the displaced people, there will be a higher pandemic susceptibility rate,” he said. 

The re-emergence of the news of dire draught in the Borena has become a national shock. Gruesome images of people and animals affected by the drought have pervaded Ethiopian social media platforms for the past week.