To address the shortage of drinking water, the government rents distribution trucks to provide water to various remote areas in the Oromia region. Three times a week, the truck dispenses water by digging a hole in the ground, placing a plastic covering and creating a small pond for residents to fill their containers. | A man carries his portion of rationing of wheat for his family. Each day, about 900 households are provided wheat, oil and split peas for a month to support their food needs.
The suffering may be evident sooner than that, according to the World Food Program (WFP), one of the major providers of the food rations being handed out to patiently waiting people at centers across the country.
The agency estimates that unless new money comes in by the end of February, those centers will stop providing the monthly ration by May, and at that point the real disaster will occur.
“Because in May, if we run out of food, we start having a pretty immediate spike in severe malnutrition,” said John Aylieff, WFP country director, referring to the swollen bellies and listless children long associated with droughts. “We have a chance to stop this — we have a chance to keep Ethiopia on its development trajectory — but the window we have to work with is very small.”
“There was no rain, no pastures. The ground became like sand,” recalled Asha Abdelahi at the Aydora camp in the middle of a flat, scrub-filled desert, describing how her herd of 200 sheep and goats has been reduced to just five. “The animals started dying, so I carried my children here.”
“Here” is a collection of small buildings, a children’s clinic and a school under a grove of acacia trees more than 60 miles from the nearest city. It is home to more than 8,000 people. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced by the drought since the summer.
For now, the children are filled with energy, badgering visiting reporters before getting shooed away by stick-wielding elders. But it is a precarious life, and should the trucks carrying the sacks of grain be interrupted, it could rapidly deteriorate.
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