Keeping pastoralist children in school during drought

In the past few months, relief has come in the form of much-needed rain to many drought-stricken districts in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Following an extreme dry season in 2012, and two previous years of minimal rainfall, the need for rain was critical in communities that are supported through The Road Less Travelled (TRLT) project.

Before the rains, 24 water distribution trucks were being used in an effort to avert thirst. Many Afar communities were weakened by severe malnutrition, animals were too weak to collect and carry water for households, and communities were unable to reach markets and sell stock as the animals were too emaciated. There was a strong fear that livestock would die en masse, leaving thousands of households destitute.

Between March and May, rainfall in some areas has replenished water storages, however, much of the water is unprotected and highly exposed to contamination. This leads to an increased risk of waterborne diseases among an already vulnerable community. Health extension workers have been working with project-trained health workers to establish community-level sanitation, which is a huge challenge in itself given the Afar nomadic lifestyle.

Rain has provided temporary relief for some communities in the drought-stricken Afar region of northern Ethiopia in recent months, while other areas remain dry.
Image: AVI / Fran Noonan

Other areas remain dry, having received minimal rainfall in recent months, and communities have been forced to move far from their homelands in search of grazing lands for their livestock. With the health of the herd at the heart of the pastoralists’ livelihood, TRLT partner the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) continually monitors these conditions and supports displaced communities through animal feeding and treatment, and water distribution.

A flow-on effect of the drought is that many pastoralist school children are forced to abandon their studies. Continue reading