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Ethiopia

Drought is hell

‘Drought is hell, drought is the invisible enemy we cannot fight’ says Ungicha Dera, 36 from Maddo village in the Borena Zone of Ethiopia.

Ungicha Dera, 36, from Maddo village in the Borena zone of Ethiopia stands next to a UKAID and Trócaire-funded water structure built in partnership with CIFA. The pond fills after just 2 days heavy rain and contains enough water to support his entire village for up to 6 months. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire Ungicha Dera, 36, from Maddo village in the Borena zone of Ethiopia stands next to a UKAID and Trócaire-funded water structure built in partnership with CIFA. The pond fills after just 2 days heavy rain and contains enough water to support his entire village for up to 6 months. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire

The Borena Zone in Ethiopia has faced extended droughts since 2019. Many in the area are pastoralists who depend on their livestock but the drought has killed off many of their animals. On this World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, we listen to the stories of some of the people affected.

With support from UKAID, Trócaire and our local partner Community Initiative for Action came to Maddo and offered to support the construction of a water pond. “They paid us cash for labour to help build the water source and prioritised utilising the poorest people for the project. I was one of the labourers.”

Ungicha has been married to Loko Dera, his wife, for eighteen years. Loko is twenty-seven years old and they have six children: four boys and two girls.

“The water source now fills up in just one or two days’ heavy rain. That’s 10,000 cubic metres. However the pond is rarely full due to drought. The pond supplies water to 1500 households – almost 10,000 people not to mention livestock. Even though it is now full, the pond will be empty again in 1 months’ time, probably less.”

Before the water source, we used to send the women six hours walk away to the next nearest pond regardless of the women’s health and status. I remember one sad day a pregnant woman miscarried whilst carrying water home, it was tragic. The weight of the water, the heat, the distance. I remember that our children couldn’t concentrate at school, either, because they were so thirsty. But there was nothing we could do. Life was hell.

Ungicha Dera, 36, from Maddo village, Borena Zone, Ethiopia. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire Ungicha Dera, 36, from Maddo village, Borena Zone, Ethiopia. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire

“Now our children are no longer thirsty and do much better at school. Our women only need to walk ten minutes to collect water, saving an entire day for other activities. We have an emergency supply of water for our livestock to drink if needed. And our family income has increased now that my wife has more time to work.”

Maddo villagers fill jerry cans with drinking water from Trocaire-funded water structure. Borena Zone, Ethiopia. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire Maddo villagers fill jerry cans with drinking water from Trocaire-funded water structure. Borena Zone, Ethiopia. Photo: Barnaby Jaco Skinner/Trócaire

Trócaire partner Community Initiative for Action have worked in the Borena region for over ten years. They have worked on projects to manage water resources and increase communities’ resilience in the face of disaster. Their knowledge of the traditional background of the Borena community and the geographical area has been crucial in the effective design and implementation of projects like the water pond.

Ungicha says, “Thank you, we are so grateful for our bond with you, the Irish public. Please help us and others in Ethiopia to survive this drought.”

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