September 9th 2023 [Monthly Report]
As forecasted through IGAD and other sources in July, a devastating flood in the Afar Lowlands particularly along the Awash River system did not occur. Instead, seasonally irregular rain has fallen in patches throughout the Region leaving considerable rainfall shadows. While officially, the main rainy season is all but over (normally July, through August and tailing off in September), the traditional meteorologists say it is about to start, the winds driving the season very recently occurring. High winds and dust are the current mode, temperatures still into the 40’s. The most drought-prone districts of Bidu and Kori are thirsty and being supported by water trucking. Amid this locusts, cholera and extreme hunger
The multiple layers that trouble the most vulnerable: Locusts
Having blown in from Yemen to the east and Tigray Region as of May, locusts are progressively increasing in number and coverage consuming the grazing shrubs as they find in their path. Described as young locusts ready to mature and breed where soil is moist, almost every district on the western border with Tigray and Amhara Regions is affected but probably the worst devastation occurred in otherwise dry northern Eli Da’ar. The locusts have stripped grazing shrubs to dry twigs, invaded their houses irritatingly landing on their faces as they slept. Fortunately, APDA does have concentrated animal feed that was procured in February/ March when it was thought the dry season would begin to kill goats in the most vulnerable houses and is about to transport that to save remaining community animals, hopefully preserving milk in the household. FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture are trying to contain the swarms with knapsack spraying as well as spraying mounted on a pick-up in some of the districts. The photo was taken in Sifra last week.
This highly feared disease has lurked as a relatively slower version in southern Ethiopia and Oromo Region for the past 5 months and progressively popped up in other parts of the country. Now 8 weeks ago, daily laborers from southern Ethiopia brought it to the sugarcane plantation in Sabore in Awash/ Fantale, southern Afar Region the disease then spreading to adjoining Ami Bara and Dullassa. In the first week, 4 people died and now over 157 cases have been diagnosed and treated, still 3 to 5 new cases appearing in Awash/ Fantale weekly. APDA’s women extension workers in the affected districts joined with government extension workers to immediately start the process of case detection in households, contact tracing and hygiene awareness along with distributing and teaching water purification. Again, on August 24th, a woman arriving from Djibouti by bus died within 1 hour of reaching Teeru, her relative who had cradled her dying the following day. Within the first 4 days of this vicious strain of the disease, 9 people have died in Teeru. Having been informed by phone on the 24th, APDA immediately swung the 10 mobile health workers and 8 women extension workers it has in Teeru into action house-to-house in the administrative town and rural sub-districts finding and rehydrating people orally as was possible as well as transferring to the cholera treatment center in the district health center, working with contacts and deliberately organizing the cleaning of the dangerously unsanitary town. In fact, a group of 25 voluntary people are organized with cleaning equipment, taking on the slack behavior of residents to change. On September 9th there were no new cases and death is contained at 9 people. However, 3 days ago, the disease has cropped up in Gaali Boora, a shanty – settlement on the outskirts of Dubte town, a total of 13 cases having been identified and under treatment. Further transmission is possibly fearfully imminent, that community drinking and connected with people drinking from the irrigation channels of the once Dubte sugarcane plantation.
All is symptomatic of inadequate safe water in urban/ large settlements and Afar, almost no organized/ constructed sanitation and no waste management.
Worst of all, no available food assistance with extreme market inflation
As informed by the Afar Regional Government Emergency Coordination (ECC) on September 5th, 658,000 Afar people are in immense problem of hunger. Having suspended food assistance to Tigray and then in Afar Region in May, WFP still is not decided to resume leaving 16 districts without assistance. Added to that, government emergency food assistance through the World Bank – funded Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) no supplies as of 2 months. The government emergency officers appealed to all active NGOs for immediate assistance in September/ October stating there is no foreseeable solution. At the rural district level, even if you do have 5,000 ETB (92.5 USD) to buy 50 kilos of wheat flour (enough to feed a household of 6 people for up to 15 days), there is almost no supply of flour to be had. APDA is hearing these cries from various community leaders and people, especially those of northern Afar. One woman from Dallol on the Eritrean border spoke of the utter distress of children begging their parents for food, she said ‘you just have to shut them away and come and try and find something….’
APDA is now distributing food to 7,600 identified malnourished/ starving people in Kilaalu and Sibeeba, two districts that were retrieved from Issa/ Somali control almost 2 years ago – these districts have never ever been assisted before – the struggle is immense as maize flour was almost unattainable on the market, roads into the communities hardly exist and hand to hand distribution is vital to achieving according to the criteria. This distributed, then there is no more. The organization calculates it costs $165 USD to provide 90 kilograms of wheat flour and 18 kilograms of chick pea flour to support a family of 6 for a month, transportation included. All communities that the organization is struggling to continue surveying and treating malnutrition in are crying out for this.
The need and action
- APDA will continue to work on the community – level control of cholera/ waterborne diseases in Teeru taking the message as far as possible. Soap and water purification are currently available and the organization is about to rehabilitate the latrine in the Alaalu health center, Teeru. APDA is supporting a group of volunteers to take ownership of settlement/ town sanitation in Alaalu – this can be repeated if found a success. Needs sweeping/ cleaning supplies and maybe cheap soap to sell.
- Animal treatment medications and concentrated animal feed are currently in supply
- The chief urgency is FOOD. This is needed in far – flung Dallol, the still – to – be assisted areas in Aba’ala where allegiance between TPLF and the government remains unclear, the population thus shunned, in northern Afdeera and Bidu, in border hills of Magaale where TPLF still have sway, Teeru and many more. Whatever support, APDA will carefully discern assisting the neediest and those ostracized from assistance.
- Our friends, the YOUTH
Realizing the organization neglect, APDA brought together a total 43 youth leaders (around 50% females) from nearby Samara, Logya and Dubte that they express their needs, frustrations and vision last Saturday. With enthusiasm, the youth explained how they came to fail their grade 12 exams, their feeling of exclusion from employment, suitable training, sports and recreation facilities and where they see their generation heading – all extremely informative. Being that for APDA, their words are now to be directive, firstly to be recognized in the 5 – year (2024 to 2029) strategic plan being reckoned on now. Having formed an action committee, they come invigorated to launch into the 2 issues synthesized as the most burning, that of stopping youth from chewing kaat and participating in education. The organization has begun a campaign to stop people from the semi-addiction of the amphetamine, kaat but banding with youth will most certainly empower this – kaat costs from $3.7 to $18.51 USD to chew for a day, depending on how far you are from the supply market – ridiculously unattainable under the above – mentioned situations. Aside from that, according to the main psychiatric hospital in Ethiopia, it is the cause of 93% of the country’s mental illness as well as dulling the intellect and drive to act positively. Then with the Ethiopian school year starting in just over a week, mobilization is certainly needed. Indeed, the mentioned cleaning agenda will be part of the action.
- Cooperative members, another great community pillar of workable solutions
With the now 28 cooperatives APDA has mentored into community economic action, a planned conference in October of their leadership with the government Bureau of Cooperative Management aims to create linkage and overall commitment to establishing a just food market for all. APDA wants to link in across the Region facilitating truck transport to remote areas as well as working on a plan to link in animal marketing and the produce of the horticultural plots so far established that a productive local economy is generated.
- As the schools return…
The plan to work on resuscitation of education that Afar children can grasp and learn is gradually coming to the fore with the Bureau of Education, Afar book writing and now the opportunity established through Samara University of the newly – opened Afar language and traditional learning center as a memorial to Jamal Abdulkadir Reedo, the linguist who with his friend, Dimmis wrote the first Afar grammar book. Education and the opportunity for rural students to continue to grade 12 through hostel living in school months must be the pinnacle of the 5 – year plan we are forming that human resource is structured. The ability to purchase exercise books is going to limit families in sending children back to school.