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Millions at Risk as Drought Threatens Eastern Africa

FILE - A boy looks after his struggling animal in the Danan area of the Somali area of Ethiopia, which hasn't seen much rain in the past three years.
FILE - A boy looks after his struggling animal in the Danan area of the Somali area of Ethiopia, which hasn't seen much rain in the past three years.
Millions at Risk as Drought Threatens Eastern Africa
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Somalia, Kenya, and now Ethiopia are warning of a severe drought that threatens millions of people in eastern Africa.

In Ethiopia’s Somali area, people have seen the failures of what should have been three straight rainy seasons. Droughts do come and go over the years. However, the lack of rainfall has led to the driest conditions in 40 years in parts of Somalia and Ethiopia.

UNICEF is the United Nation’s children’s agency. Local Zaynab Wali told a visiting team with UNICEF that she and her seven children have never seen a drought like this.

She said the government gave out food and food for animals during the last drought five years ago. This time, “we don’t have enough food for our family.”

Children walk among the bodies of dead animals, which are dying from lack of food and energy.

UNICEF said on February 1 that more than 6.8 million people in Ethiopia are expected to need urgent humanitarian aid by mid-March.

Somalia Consortium works to improve international aid for Somalia. It said in a separate statement that in neighboring Somalia, more than 7 million people need urgent help. It is asking international actors to give much more to the country.

“We are just one month into the long dry season, and I have already lost 25 goats and sheep,” Hafsa Bedel in Ethiopia’s Somali area told UNICEF. She also lost four camels, a large desert animal, as well. She said there is nowhere for her animals to eat. She added that there is not enough food for her own family, including her six children.

UNICEF estimates that more than 150,000 children in such areas of Ethiopia have dropped out of school. They are needed to help find the limited amount of water and help their families with other work.

One young boy was seen supporting a work animal, a donkey. The donkey was once important for transporting supplies. But now, it had become too weak to walk on its own.

Gianfranco Rotigliano is UNICEF’s Ethiopia representative. He said during a meeting with the U.N., “We have animals dying at an impressive rate, which is increasing every month, and the death of animals means lack of food for children, for families.”

Rotigliano said some water sources were drying up or already dry. He pointed to the need to help improve these sources and to build new ones. He added that water needs to get to health and food systems.

Meanwhile, the country is experiencing conflict with fighters from the country’s northern Tigray area. It has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The areas experiencing drought are hundreds of kilometers to the southeast. Rotigliano said this conflict has had no effects on UNICEF’s response to the areas seeing drought.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

The Associated Press reported this story. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

drought – n. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain

humanitarian – adj. concerned with or seeking to support human well-being

goat – n. a small animal that is related to the sheep

sheep – n. an animal with a thick woolly coat that is often raised for meat or for its wool and skin

impressive – adj. deserving attention, admiration, or respect

source – n. someone or something that provides what is wanted or needed

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