Livestock faces decimation in East Africa drought crisis as UK charity announces emergency relief effort

from Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad
Published on 16 Feb 2006
London - Thursday 16 February - A UK veterinary charity today gave details of the drought affecting desert nomads living on the borders of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya which is now escalating into a full-scale emergency. SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), which returned from the Mandera district of North-East Kenya yesterday, revealed that 70% of cattle, 60% of camels and 90% of donkeys have already died of starvation. With no rains likely until mid-April, the charity is launching a relief effort before the livestock is totally wiped out.
Many parts of the region have seen no rain for 16 months, and along with the water shortage, there is now an acute lack of feed and forage for animals, resulting in such huge numbers dying. Where rain has fallen, it has been below normal, and did not replenish already dried-out waterholes, which are now experiencing ever-increasing demand from nomads and their animals. Water in pans at key sites like Lulis in the Banissa district of Mandera, is only expected to last another 2-3 weeks, and is facing increasing pressure from nomads trekking to the water-hole with their animals from as far away as Somalia and Ethiopia. This in turn has led to in-fighting over water access and even fatalities.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is struggling to establish what numbers of people might be involved, but their remit does not encompass livestock. This is despite animals having an absolutely fundamental role in the lives and culture of desert nomads. In the absence of any foreseeable humanitarian response including livestock within their provision, SPANA has agreed to commit immediate resources via the UK on-the-ground charity Practical Action. This will pay for substantial transhipments of fodder and forage to the area which Practical Action will distribute.

Jeremy Hulme, chief executive of SPANA who has just returned from the region said: "The response to this crisis has to build in a longer-term capacity for the affected families to meet their needs. The people affected are not farmers who can simply return to their homesteads and pick up again once the rains come. These are people whose culture and social structure can only be sustained if there is a relief effort in parallel with the humanitarian response which encompasses their livestock."

"For too long now there's been a mind-set amongst those involved in emergency relief response which results in little value being placed on the role of working animals and livestock. Helping animals and helping people are not mutually exclusive activities, and if anyone doubts that they should speak to the thousands of families who have been forced to drop out of their nomadic lifestyle because of this drought."

SPANA's help is being increasingly requested in emergency situations. It has provided assistance in the form of veterinary staff and treatment following the conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq and Zimbabwe. It has also provided emergency assistance following the earthquake in Al Hoceima, Morocco in 2004 and flooding in the Tatwine Valley in Morocco in 2005.

For More Information - Simon Pope +44 (0)20 7831 3999 / +44 (0)20 7269 2689 or +44 (0)7811 404 874 or

Notes to Editors

Hi-res photos and broadcast quality mini-dv B-roll footage available. Shows nomadic people, carcasses of dead animals, starving cattle / camels etc.