By Martin de Vries, a Canadian Red Cross aid worker currently in Ethiopia as part of the Africa drought response
 
What a difference a day makes!

On Thursday, we descended 700 metres from the Wolaita highlands to the district of Bele in Kindo Koysha, Ethiopia. The long, unsealed road was heavy with white dust that caked the car and occupants whenever another vehicle passed us.

On the midlands plain of Kindo Koysha, the land was arid and dry – farms small – their round thatched houses sitting in the bare, grassless patch of land, waiting, waiting for the rain. Animals moving slowly looking for any patch of green to eat.People were coming from four to five kilometers away filling up bright plastic water containers with the fresh clean water provided by the Red Cross water truck. At one of the water distribution points serviced by the Ethiopian Red Cross, people were coming from four to five kilometers away filling up bright plastic water containers with the fresh clean water provided by the truck.

The local administrator informed us that the situation has been getting gradually worse over the past 10 years – the droughts are coming more often now. The current dry period has been made worse as the farmers had not yet recovered from the previous one.

The Canadian Red Cross is supporting the Ethiopian Red Cross to expand its drought relief operation in Kindo Koysha. That day, we received confirmation from the Ethiopian Red Cross headquarters in Addis Ababa that another two water trucks would arrive next week. We also discussed what assistance could be provided to help the animals recover, such as special nutritious fodder and veterinary drugs. It was also agreed to provide soap, 20-litre jerry cans and disinfectant to ensure that the precious allocation of water for each of the 5,500 families would be clean and free of disease.

That night while we were in Sodo, capital of Wolaita Zone, the air was heavy with anticipation. A great dark mass of cloud appeared and gradually filled the sky, flashes of lightening momentarily lit up parts of the great heavy rolling cloud. Then the rain came, big splashes hit the dry ground, then more, then more. There were whoops and shouts in the township as the population got joyously wet for the first time since December last year. And the rain kept coming all that night and into the morning.

The rain had come to Kindo Koysha. By the sides of the road, children were filling up bottles with the silty, yellow ground water, others were holding out water pitchers from the houses, letting the rain fall directly into the containers. The rain gradually tapered off by midday as we arrived in Bele, the earth was wet, drenched, for the first time this year. Farmers were already starting to turn over the soil for the first planting.
The Water Office representative and local Red Cross emphasized that much more rain would be needed before the crisis would be resolved.
Has the drought ended? Not by a long way.

The Water Office representative and local Red Cross emphasized that much more rain would be needed before the crisis would be resolved – for this year – at least. The Canadian Red Cross continues to support the Ethiopian Red Cross with the emergency water trucking while also looking for ways to ensure that the communities are more resilient in the future - through the rehabilitation and drilling of bore holes in the region.

As we drove back to Addis that day, the sun and heat was already creating a thin mist above the soil as the ground water evaporated.

Canadians can donate to the Africa Drought Appeal to support these efforts.