Droughts seriously impact on health

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 July 2011

In the Horn of Africa, increasingly frequent drought episodes punctuated by ever shorter recovery periods have exhausted the coping capacity of communities in a region where resources and services are already scarce. The resulting depletion of household resources is having a serious impact on the general health and nutritional status of the population.

The vicious cycle of hunger- ill-health- poverty means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack of water and population displacements, which result in precarious sanitation, further increase the risk of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and measles have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia. The effects of the drought are also aggravated by weak health care systems, with limited human resources and medical supplies and low immunization coverage.

The areas most severely affected are also those suffering from some of the highest disease burdens in the region. For example, in Somalia, child health is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is estimated at 88 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality at 142 per 1000. In the first half of 2011, at least three Somali children died of malnutrition every day. In parts of Southern Somalia, one in three children is malnourished. Continue reading

Ethiopians in need of food aid due to La Nina

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 April 2011

By: Aaron Maasho

More than two million Ethiopians are in need of food aid due to drought caused by one of the worst La Nina weather phenomenon in a decade, the United Nations said.

Oromiya Region, Ethiopia. Photo by Andrew Heavens

La Nina, which was blamed for Australia’s floods this year, is an abnormal cooling of waters in the Pacific Ocean that wreaks havoc with weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region, and has brought poor rains to the Horn of Africa.

The U.N. humanitarian affairs office (UNOCHA) said the March-May rainy season had largely failed in Ethiopia’s lowland areas, and appealed for $75 million in food and other assistance to meet the needs of two million people.

“Pasture and traditional water sources un-replenished by rains have been depleted in most of the affected areas,” UNOCHA said in a report released late on Wednesday.

“Animal body conditions are declining rapidly, resulting in lower livestock prices at market even as the price of staple cereals is increasing.”

An additional one million people are also seeking relief aid throughout Ethiopia — one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid, receiving more than $3 billion in 2008, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). Continue reading

Scale of Ethiopian dam building alarms environmentalists

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 March 2010

At the foot of a towering gorge slicing through southern Ethiopia the Omo river suddenly disappears into a tunnel bored into the rock face. Excavators claw at the soil and stone in the exposed riverbed beyond, where a giant concrete wall will soon appear in the ravine.

At 243 metres the Gibe III dam will be the highest on the continent, a controversial centrepiece of Ethiopia’s extraordinary multibillion-pound hydroelectric boom.

The building of Gibe III is anticipated to reduce the water level of Lake Turkana

The country that prides itself as “The Water Tower of Africa” plans to end an energy shortage by building a network of mega dams on the web of rivers that tumble down from its highlands.

By 2020, with the help of Italian and Chinese construction firms, Ethiopia will, it hopes, have increased its power generation capacity 15-fold and become a significant exporter of electricity to the region.

“For a developing country like ours the dams are a must,” said Abdulhakim Mohammed, head of generation construction at the Ethiopia Electric Power Corporation (Eepco). “Power is everything.”

But the pace and scale of the hydro projects have alarmed environmental groups, who say proper impact assessment studies are not being carried out.

Gibe III, which will have a generating capacity of 1,870MW – double what was available in all of Ethiopia last year – has sparked the greatest opposition.

This week a coalition of campaign groups, including International Rivers, based in California, and Survival International, launched an online petition with the aim of stopping the dam, warning of potentially disastrous social and economic effects for tribes downstream.

“It’s an unnecessary, highly destructive project,” said Terri Hathaway, Africa campaigner for International Rivers. Continue reading