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Failing rains in Ethiopia (Photo Feature)

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Ethiopia, May 24, 2016: In 2015 the main rainy season failed in Ethiopia, ruining harvests and depleting water sources, leaving many children dependent on food aid for survival. One of the most powerful El Nino weather events in 50 years then exacerbated the drought, leaving children and their families struggling to cope.

Families are on the move across Oromia Region in central Ethiopia. Semi-pastoralists have been hard-hit by drought; cattle are dying and families are moving further and further distances in search of grazing land and clean drinking water.

 

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Water shortages are driving school drop out and can lead to disease when children drink from dirty water sources. This tank will last the community about five days but there are severe shortages across the country.

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The drought is having a severe impact on children’s futures. Mr Gurmeesso, the support officer at Haro Huba community school, says that classes should’ve started today but because of the drought there are few students — they have moved or are off in search of water.

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Iftu, 6, was supposed to start back to 2nd grade today. Instead she found that she is the only remaining student in her class. Iftu’s father says they will have to leave soon as they are now down to two cows. Last year eight died, and so far this year four have already passed.

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A young girl, Harko, 12, walks across former grazing land with her younger brother. She is no longer going to school as she is forced to go in search of water almost every day, travelling at night to avoid the heat and not returning until well into the afternoon of the next day.

 

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Families travel up to ten hours to get to this water point in Oromia Region, Ethiopia. The water is hot and salty and children drink from the same trough as their animals. Mothers report that children have diarrhea and back pains but this is the only water source for miles.

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But there is hope. Since this UNICEF-supported pump was installed two weeks ago, life has changed dramatically. One mother says families are joyful about the new pump and the children are now able to go to school instead of spend their days walking for water.

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Screening children for malnutrition is vital in drought affected areas. Mother Marianna is back at the health post for the next supply of emergency therapeutic food for her daughter, Tamina, 2.
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A baby has his arm circumference assessed with a MUAC tape measure as part of routine screening for malnutrition at this kebele (community) in Oromia Region, Ethiopia.

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Babies are also weighed as part of routine screening for malnutrition. Ethiopia has the health systems in place to cope with the food crisis but given the huge numbers affected — near on six million children — urgent funds are needed.
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Hawal, seven months old, was around 3.5 kilos when he arrived at the health centre in Oromia Region and now is receiving special therapeutic milk that UNICEF provides to health centres and hospitals in Ethiopia for severely acutely malnourished children.
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Almost every bed is full on the malnutrition ward in the local hospital. As a nurse attends a 5 year old with malnutrition-related edema, she says needs will only increase in the coming months.