ETHIOPIA: "We do not have
A mother and a child at a therapeutic feeding centre: Parts of the country are facing extreme food insecurity after the long rains failed. Photo: Tesfalem Waldeys/IRIN
ARAR, 10 June 2008 (IRIN) - Expecting that the rains would fall soon so she could plant some vegetables, Nuria Mohammed sold her five cattle cheaply to raise some money to buy food for her family.
"I sold the cattle for 200 Br (Birr) to 300 Br," she said. "They had become skinny because of lack of adequate pasture, but still they were our only family assets. Previously, they would each have been worth 1,000 Br (US$105)."
Seven months later, the rains had still not come to Nuria's village of Burak Jeneta, East Hararghe zone in southern Ethiopia's Oromiya Region.
"Now, we do not have anything in our house," Nuria said of the impact of a drought that has hit the region, drying up food resources and water wells and wiping out pastures.
According to the government Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA), Oromiya and Somali regions are facing extreme food insecurity after the long rains failed in some pastoral areas during the last planting season, followed by poor to very poor short rains.
Many of the affected people, like Nuria, can no longer afford to buy wheat and corn from the local market. "I bought a quintal (around 100 kg) of corn for 500 Birr,"
she told IRIN at a health centre where she was nursing a sick child. "A year ago, I would have bought the same amount of corn with 200 to 250 Br."
Unable to cope with the situation, Nuria and her neighbours had decided to abandon their village. They however changed their minds when the government began distributing food aid within their area.
Then the children started falling ill, forcing Nuria to seek help at the Water Health Centre. "When I was nursing Faiza, I was sick, so I could not breastfeed her properly," the 25-year-old mother of four said.
Lying beside her daughter, Faiza Abdulmalieh, were other severely malnourished and underweight children. Nearby was Nuria's other daughter, Fatima, who was recovering from a bout of diarrhoea. She was being treated for oedema on both legs.
The two children, both less than five, are among at least 29,735 of similar age who health workers at the centre estimate are malnourished in East Hararghe zone.
This is not the first time the zone has experienced severe drought. In 2003, another lasted a year. Nuria, like some other parents, remembers the period because that was when she lost two children.
"Before they died, their stomachs were swollen," she said.
|Queuing up for food: The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency says Oromiya and Somali regions are facing extreme food insecurity. Photo: Tesfalem Waldeys/IRIN|
|Drought has caused crop failure in some of the most vulnerable areas of the country where 10 million people are food insecure|
Source: IRIN News