IRC Rebuilds Dams in Drought-ravaged Ethiopia, in Time to Capture Heavy Rains
Predicting the rainfall, the IRC began work last month on construction projects to capture rain water and rehabilitate water systems. Speaking from the town of Jijiga in the remote Gashaamo district, emergency coordinator Art Carlson said the IRC's recently completed hafir dam (an artificial pond constructed to collect rainwater) was already full and ready to serve the local population. He said construction of a second dam was underway, as was work on a number of birkas, which are cement-lined cisterns that are also designed to capture rainfall.
The IRC 's emergency program aims to increase, improve and protect water supply for the Gashaamo district, which is home to tens of thousands of refugees from Somaliland and Kenya, internally displaced Ethiopians fleeing war and searching for food and water, as well as a mostly pastoral indigenous population. The IRC is also monitoring the operation of several water tanker trunks, constructing drainage sites and sanitation facilities and providing for water chlorination.
The government of Ethiopia estimates that several million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in this area. Compounding the dire situation, Ethiopia is engaged in a raging border war with neighboring Eritrea.
Reporting on conditions in southeastern Ethiopia, IRC director of emergency programs Gerald Martone says the drought has resulted in an extraordinary loss of livestock, the main livelihood and means of sustenance in the Somali region. "Villagers often cite the death of camels as a proxy for the severity of water scarcity," he said in a report from Gashaamo. "The demise of these drought-hardy animals is a testament to the wrath of this drought." Martone also warns that local populations will suffer considerable increases in mortality and morbidity as the effects of heard depletion are realized.