"Cattle - the backbone of the pastoral Borana economy - are lying dead everywhere," reports Paul Barker, CARE's director in Ethiopia. "Nearly all of the ponds have dried up and well levels are far below average for this time of year."
Working in the southern rural province of Borana, CARE gives families corn in exchange for weak, but healthy, cattle that can no longer be sold at the markets. Some regions of Ethiopia have yet to see a drop of rain since the new year began. The areas of land fit for grazing are rapidly dwindling and the cattle being exchanged for corn would not survive until the hoped-for spring rains.
Through a food-for-work project, communities help slaughter and process the cattle into dried beef jerky, which is then distributed to poor families as a high-protein supplement to their diets. To provide longer-term food security, CARE also is helping identify markets for the jerky so families won't lose both their livestock and income during future droughts.
In addition to the cattle and food distribution programs, CARE is using large tankers to provide more than 13,000 gallons of clean water daily to people living in isolated communities of Borana. While CARE's projects now are reaching more than 70,000 people in southern Ethiopia, that number soon will double.
"CARE is helping people obtain water and food at a time when these basic necessities are becoming increasingly scarce," says Barker. "We're providing clean water to people who would otherwise be forced to walk more than 12 miles just for muddy pond water.
"For some regions in the south and east of Ethiopia, this is the fourth consecutive rainy season without substantial rainfall," he adds. "If the conditions persist and aid is not significantly increased, the few reported drought and hunger-related deaths will rise sharply."
CARE is one of the world's largest international relief and development organizations, with projects in more than 60 countries. CARE began working in Ethiopia in 1984 to distribute food during the famine. Since then, CARE has continued to distribute food and offer other emergency assistance. It has expanded its development work to include small economic activity development, agriculture and natural resources, and reproductive health.