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East Africa drought: Here in Ethiopia, it's heading to the point of desperation

10 Jul 2011

A carcass of dead livestock lies near the road in BoranaI travelled from Nairobi to Borana in Ethiopia yesterday to interview older people affected by the worst drought to hit the country in more than 60 years.

Borana is a transitionary place. People stop here for months, often years, setting up small businesses but then when the drought comes they continue on the journey, which ends at the Kenyan border.

Things are not desperate yet but they are heading to the point of desperation.

On the road to Borana we saw the carcasses of cows and goats - livestock that is so essential to the livelihood and survival of the pastoralists of this area.

Most people we met are down to one meal a day. But the quality of this one meal is very bad - boiled maize or dried wheat, boiled.

Later in the day there may be black tea. No food rations have been seen yet.

There are goverment cash-for-work -schemes for which people are very grateful.

But funds are low. Food prices mean people get very little for their money - 1kg of maize which is enough for one family meal, costs 10 birr (40p).

We spoke to a woman of 65 whose seven children had all left in the last year for Kenya.

She was planning to make the journey on her own.

HelpAge works in Borana on a joint project with Cafod. The project aims to help thousands of pastoralists affected by the drought by providing cash transfers for them now and putting measures in place - such as digging and maintaining new water wells - to protect them from future drought.

Over the next few days we will be interviewing older people involved in this project to see how it is helping and to see what else people need.

We will send their stories to you soon.

HelpAge's work is supported by our sister organisation Age UK. Please donate to Age UK's East Africa appeal for vulnerable older people affected by the devastating drought in Ethiopia.

Age UK is raising money together with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for the East Africa Crisis Appeal. The DEC is a consortium of 14 aid agencies working together in times of disasters and emergencies.

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Author profile

Gacheru Maina
Country: Kenya
Job title: Regional communications officer, HelpAge

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.