Ethiopia--The Backstory—Drought Assessment
Beginning with the failure of spring rains in 2016, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan began to spiral into a significant drought. I was asked to go to Ethiopia in mid-February this year. Part of my task was to facilitate a team assessment of a drought stricken area covering two districts in Easter Ethiopia, in which SOS CVI had begun a water trucking project in December, 2016. Thirteen villages in these two neighboring districts (Gode and Kalefo) were the subject of our assessment.
The flight out from Addis was interesting for the overview it provided of the drought affected areas in or flight path. The most remarkable feature of the terrain for much of the distance we covered was how rugged it was. Very steep walled ravines cutting down through the earth into jagged river valleys. Early on, the creeks and rivers reflected the hot sun’s rays. Not far out from Addis, down off the high plateau, the topography was still rugged, carved from the earth, the river and creek systems were all dry. If a river depended on direct rainfall and not runoff from the highlands, it was dry. From 25,000 and then 17,000 feet the dry designs cut in the ground looked a natural museum’s collection works consisting of huge twisted trees drawn grey on grey.
Close in to Addis, but down off the plateau, compounds constructed of rings of brush formed into rough circles surrounded individual homes, most constructed to stay. The enclosure was the night resting place of whatever animals were possessed by the human residents. Further out, these compounds were fewer and further between, the homes mobile – curved branches lashed together and covered with some water repellent something – tarps, plastic sheets. After Jigajiga, almost nothing. Here and there a dirt road, here and there a dry creek bed leading to a larger one, no inhabitants to be seen. Gode (locally –Godey), unlike a lot of the territory we flew over, was mostly flat land. The river (Wabe Shebele – known by different names at different places along its course), with its source in the highlands, flows through the district. Every other watercourse we saw between here and Jigajiga was bone dry.
We were met at the airport by our driver and by the Acting Program officer. We traveled together to the SOS Compound and its guesthouse, where we would be staying until next Monday morning. There, we were joined by SOS Kalefo Project Coordinator. We had a preliminary discussion about the current situation in the district and outlined a plan for the week. The SOS CVE- Gode supports 120 children in the compound and 48 young adults (14-18 yrs.) who live in a hostel in town. The village has its own water supply and is truly and oasis in an area that, today and for over a year, is a desert.
SOS Water Trucking Program
Currently, SOS is conducting a water delivery program to 9 Kabeles (villages) in Gode District and 4 Kabeles in Kalefo. More than 2500 households are being provided with water. The water delivery program began in December and is currently scheduled to continue until February. Delivery is done through local contractors who bid on the contract. Four different local contractors truck the water. Three handle the deliveries in Gode and one in Kalefo. Each truck carries 13 cubic meters of water per trip and the contractor is paid based on the tanks load and the number of kilometers from the water source to the Kabele. The water is clean, filtered, potable water, the same that is piped throughout the town. In this area, the average household size is six persons and each person is provided with the equivalent of three liters of water per day.
One feature of the water trucking program that might well have been anticipated is the increased number of families, displaced by the drought and the resulting death of most of their livestock who are moving their mobile shelters near the kabeles that are receiving water. As an example, the number of displaced in one kabele in Gode went from 15 persons to 150 in the three days between water truck deliveries. So, the need for water is expanding to more people every day.
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