DROUGHT IS NOT just an absence of water. There are many ways a prolonged drought can set up a chain reaction which can see a community becoming dependent on aid and finding it hard to get its life going again.
Islamic Relief is very aware of what can happen when drought takes hold. And it is currently working in Ethiopia to ensure that a severe drought in that country does not drive communities under.
Many rural communities rely on tending livestock to feed themselves and engage in a little trade. Drought has seen some communities lose their animals, initially through lack of water for the beasts, but soon the land dries out and grass disappears – which speeds up the loss of livestock. These communities begin to rely on food aid, but the question is how, when the drought ends, they will obtain new animals so that they can resume their self-sufficient lifestyle.
Islamic Relief is on hand to help out. It will be using donated funds to buy sheep or goats locally – helping sustain the local economy and also ensuring that the animals are used to local conditions. In villages that are beginning to turn the corner, all female-headed households will receive an animal – with one in each village being male. Each animal comes with vouchers that entitle the owner to obtain free vaccinations for three months. The intention is to ensure the animal remains healthy until the owners can establish an income which will cover these costs.
This cycle is well underway in the Afar region of Ethiopia, where many communities are really struggling. Investigations by the United Nations suggest that loss of small animals and cattle due to drought it severe. Islamic Relief is making sure the emergency food supplies get through but it’s also looking for ways to help communities withstand periodic droughts.
In the developed world, we know where our water source is: the tap, and there’s little else to think about. In Ethiopia, the current drought has dried up entire rivers, removing water sources on which communities had relied for years. Islamic Relief has been constructing new boreholes to provide alternative water sources. It’s going further: a programme of upgrading water pumps with solar panels has helped ensure the boreholes are reliable. Solar panels are environmentally friends and also much cheaper for rural communities to run than having to rely on fossil fuels to power water pumps. The charity is also going to construct drinking troughs near the new water sources so that cattle can be watered more easily.
Islamic Relief is looking at other way to help communities develop their skills so they can produce new commodities from their animals and generate extra income which can sustain them through future droughts. The charity will also be helping local people reclaim land which had been lost to over-grazing, which will help sustain future herds.
Ethiopia has a system of local vets who work with the government to deliver basic animal health. This system has broken down in the Afar region due to lack of equipment and drugs. Islamic Relief is providing training and basic kits to get the local system going again.
As many countries have learned, the best form of defence is to be prepared. Islamic Relief is working with local communities to develop an early warning system for impending drought and to gain experience in planning to deal with these regular difficult weather conditions.
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