February 4, 2016 (Baltimore, MD)— International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding to the urgent needs of families in Ethiopia suffering through the most severe drought in 30 years. More than 10 million people face severe hunger and loss of livestock across the dry and barren plains of western Ethiopia.
Tilahun, a 53-year-old cow herder, is at risk of losing his two newborn calves and only source of income. The cows in his small herd have stopped giving milk due to lack of water and feed. The father of nine children says each day becomes more uncertain. “We’ve had drought before but we would move our animals to graze in the neighboring Afar region, or they came to us when they had drought. This year both regions are affected and the drought is affecting both people and animals, which makes it difficult,” said Tilahun.
IOCC, an ACT Alliance member, is working with church partner, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission, to install five large capacity water tanks in the country’s hard hit North Shewa Zone of the Amhara region. IOCC is also providing water needed for livestock in remote, drought-hit communities where little emergency relief assistance is currently available.
The arrival of water is desperately needed to spare the small herd of cattle owned by Shiferaw, 75. The nearest water source in the region is a six-hour round trip walk from his home. “I don’t remember this kind of drought in my living memory,” he recalled. “Due to the long distance to the river, our animals are able to reach water only once every three days.” The poor harvest of teff, a nutritious staple grain in the Ethiopian diet, has also severely cut Shiferaw’s income and a valuable source of food for his wife and three children. He had to sell one of his seven cows to buy food for his family.
The lack of rain during the country’s short but critical rainy season has led to a severe shortage of water, and caused widespread crop failure and the death of over 400,000 livestock – a stark reminder of how fragile the food supply can become when growing conditions are severely impacted.