Gaibo had been suffering from malnutrition for over a month before he arrived at a clinic which treats children in the town of Karat in Konso woreda in the SNNPR region on 01 August 2022. He was five months old, although his gaunt face made him look five years older. He had not eaten in days. Gaibo’s father could not afford a three-wheeled taxi to bring him to the health establishment, let alone a bottle of formula to feed him. He carried his child on his shoulders for long journeys as he walked on foot to the clinic.
The Konso zone found in southwest Ethiopia experienced three consecutive drought years and that has left Gaibo’s father and thousands of other people unable to provide for their families. The prolonged lack of rain caused an acute water shortage, claiming thousands of livestock and prompting famine. Cases of severe malnutrition and deaths directly attributable to the drought are being reported from the various villages of the Konso Zone since last month. A few days ago, BBC Amharic reported that thirteen children have died of starvation in Konso zone, citing the zonal administration representative, Tesfaye Chare. People affected by the drought in the area said that not enough aid has been forthcoming.
On the cracked earth, erosion-prone soils, enormous herds of emaciated cattle are seen wandering in search of water and skimpy grazing lands. The Konso live in a small range of mountains mainly of volcanic origin where farming is possible at higher altitudes.
Even though we are suffering from widespread starvation, sufficient aid has not been provided to us, Kuse Gewada a resident told VOA’s Amharic service. If conditions persist for even a month, the damage will be significant, Kuse said. Drinking water is becoming more limited, let alone food to eat, he said.
The drought is hitting the herds hard because of the shortage of water, locals say.
Another resident Guyo Kale said children, the weak, and the elderly are especially vulnerable and there are many who are staying at home as they are incapable of leaving home due to exhaustion.
The administrator of the zone, Dawit Gebeyehu confirmed that there is a severe drought in the zone and confirmed that the support being provided is a small fraction of what is needed, VOA Amharic quoted him as saying. The Disaster Risk Management Commission of the Zone announced that more than 190,000 people are in need of emergency food aid, but said that only 30 percent of the assistance is being provided.
The situation has also been worsened by security problems in the area, as Konso and the neighboring Derashe people are clashing regularly over contested territories.
The prolonged drought has affected all villages of the Zone, Dawit added but he said he has no reports of people who have died as a result of the drought.
The administrator of the zone said the zonal administration is making efforts to scale up deliveries of relief supplies by communicating with the federal government, but he said the most effective solution would be to increase crop production in the zone if the current Meher season brings good rainfall.
In the absence of timely aid from humanitarian aid agencies, Konso people living in Addis Ababa and all over the world are mobilizing and raising financial aid to help their compatriots affected by the drought back home. The Konso Development Association has been at the forefront of the effort, and only four days ago it managed to purchase from the capital and send 110 quintals of maize to Karat town.