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Drought affecting pastoralist livelihoods in Afar

ADDIS ABABA, 18 January. Increasing livestock deaths are threatening the livelihood of nomadic pastoralists in Ethiopia's drought-hit Afar region, the UN and aid agencies said on Tuesday.
19 January 2005 - IRIN
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)

Paul Herbert, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs in Ethiopia, said drought had continued to whittle away the assets
of Afar pastoralists. It was vital, he added, to prevent more livestock
deaths and protect the dwindling wealth of herders in the region.

"We do think the situation is continuing to deteriorate," he told IRIN.
"There needs to be some very quick action. Food is needed, but the
critical problem is with livestock and what to do in terms of providing
fodder and water."

Some 1.2 million people live in Afar, a lowland region bordering Djibouti
and Eritrea, covering 270,000 sq km - about one fifth of the entire

"There needs to be more assistance than we have actually planned for
because the situation has gone to the worst case in Afar region," Herbert

He said donors had traditionally been slow to respond to threats to
livestock, saying large-scale cattle deaths also occurred in 2002, again
undermining the Afar's assets.

"The livestock early warning system really did not work well this time,"
Herbert added. Satellite imagery also failed to detect increasing animal
deaths in the region.

"The livestock are the basis of the Afar's livelihood and if they loose
their livestock they loose their livelihood," he added. "Their whole
livelihood is dependent on livestock. This is also their main food
source - not the meat but the milk and the milk products from their
animals and this is particularly critical for their children."

He said the prices of the animals had dropped in the markets due to “poor
condition", which meant the Afar could not sell their animals to buy other

"This emphasises the urgent need to adopt new strategies - different
strategies to address the long term development requirements in the
pastoral areas," Hebert noted.

Improved livestock management, he added, would help to control animal
numbers and make better use of limited pasture. Incentives for better
pasture management and early warning were crucial to help the region.

The Afar Pastoralist Development Association, which works across the
region, also reiterated growing concerns for the impact of the drought.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has requested funding to help
support the growing numbers of cattle that are dying in the region. As
yet, however, the numbers of people who need food was unclear, according
to Herbert, although 352,000 were receiving food aid in Afar.

An action plan to combat the situation had been sent to the federal
government's disaster prevention and preparedness commission from the
regional authorities, he added. It will spell out specific needs and the
number of people in need.

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