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Water trucking provides lifeline for pastoralist communities

© UNICEF/Ethiopia/2011/Lemma

Ethiopia, 20 September 2011

By Indrias Getachew

The women and children of Melbena Village await the arrival of the tanker with its precious cargo of water, in drought-stricken Borena zone of Oromia Region in southern Ethiopia, along the border with Kenya. The area hasn’t received decent rainfall in over two years and the impact has been devastating for the largely pastoral community.

“If the water truck did not come we would have to move from here, that is how bad things are,” said Kurfa Wario, 22-year-old mother of two, who has lost nine of her ten heads of cattle during the worst drought in recent memory.

Source of water

The water truck has been their only source of water for over nine months now ever since the ponds and traditional hand-dug ‘singing wells’ dried up.

The water truck arrives sending up a cloud of dust blanketing the awaiting women and children. As the collection pit fills, Kurfa, who is one of the stronger women in the village, begins hauling loads of water to fill the waiting empty jerrycans.

“Due to the severity of the drought we have to distribute water by tanker truck,” said Abiot Kassa, head of the Water, Mineral Resources, and Energy Desk in Mio District which oversees the emergency water operation. The water trucking is supported by the Borena Zone Emergency Coordination Taskforce, of which UNICEF is a member. “The community, especially women, is suffering a great deal. Elderly women, pregnant women – they are in bad shape, as you can see, and children as well.”

Every three days the truck delivers 16 cubic meters of water to some 500 households in Melbena Village, which is just little more than 15 liters of water per family a day. Emergency water rations are provided free of charge to the community.

“As long as the truck brings us water, we will survive on that,” said Kurfa. “If the water truck is delayed by two or three days, then we go thirsty. Everyone depends on this water – children, adults, all neighbors depend on this water to survive.”

The implications of the continuing drought for the Borena pastoralists are grim.

“This drought has resulted in great harm,” said Abiot. “There is no grass. There is no water. As a result the people have lost their cattle. The living situation has reached a critical danger point, especially for women and children, they are not doing well. They used to live on milk, but now there is no milk or milk products, which is making life difficult for them.”

UNICEF’s response

UNICEF and partners are supporting the Government of Ethiopia to respond to the immediate needs of drought-affected communities including in Borena. Pastoralist communities like in Borena will need to be supported to recover from the drought, build resilience and diversify their livelihoods.

UNICEF’s emergency response includes interventions in health, nutrition, education, child protection, water and sanitation, and advocacy on policy interventions.

Supply distribution to the Horn of Africa

In Somalia, the epicentre of the drought, UNICEF has established more than 800 nutrition centres and programmes; is reaching more than a million people with water and sanitation; and has started measles’ vaccination programmes to reach 2 million children.

In July and August, a total of 3,700 metric tons including ready-to-use therapeutic food, supplementary food, vaccines, basic health kits and diarrhoeal kits were transported for UNICEF to the Horn of Africa from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South Africa – 2,500 tons aboard 73 flights and 1,200 tons aboard nine ships.

The cargo included enough basic health kits to serve 620,000 people, therapeutic food to treat 56,000 children with severe acute malnutrition and supplementary food for 290,000 people for two weeks. Out of the 2,500 tons that were airlifted, some 500 tons was carried aboard cargo space donated by airlines to UNICEF.

UNICEF and its partners in Somalia are doubling their capacity to treat 200,000 children with severe acute malnutrition over the next 12 months through outpatient feeding and 200,000 moderately acutely malnourished children in 300 supplementary feeding centres.

In Kenya, UNICEF from July to December will assist 250,000 children under 5 with moderate malnutrition, 40,000 children with severe acute malnutrition and 55,000 pregnant and nursing women.

In the first half of 2011, 12 million children in Ethiopia received vitamin A supplements. In Kenya, nearly 170,000 children received these immunity-boosting supplements in July.

For Somalis seeking refuge in camps at Dadaab in Kenya, UNICEF supports the delivery of clean water for people trekking 100 kilometres from the border with Somalia. UNICEF also supports critical hygiene promotion in the camps, working with CARE International to protect the health of up to 90,000 refugees.



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