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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 19:39 GMT
Herdsmen flee Ethiopia's drought
An Issa villager fetches water
People often walk miles to get water in eastern Ethiopia

The Ethiopian drought has hit a large swathe of territory east of Addis Ababa, stretching from the Eritrean border almost down to the Kenyan border.

One of the worst-affected areas is the Somali region bordering on Somaliland and Djibouti.

The United Nations Emergency Unit in Ethiopia says the situation in the Shinille zone, around the town of Dire Dawa, is deteriorating fast.

Usually the area receives a few days' rainfall in December - but this year it has received almost nothing at all, and it is drier than ever.

Pasture and water are drying up and Issa herdsmen have started to migrate.

Thousands of cattle are on the move - but there is no relief in sight.

The traditional refuge for Issa cattle during drought is practically bare of pasture.

Going south

Shallow wells are drying up, a number of boreholes are out of order, and herds have to travel long distances to reach water.

A herdsman digs water for his animals
Herdsmen have to dig ever deeper for water
Herdsmen - who usually find water by digging into dry river beds - now have to go down as deep as eight meters (25 feet), when water would normally be found at just two meters (7 feet).

Three men are having to go down the wells, throwing the precious water from one to another, until it finally reaches the surface, and can be poured into skin troughs for animals to drink from.

Hassan Farrah says he has not seen anything like it in his 54 years. Acacia trees are virtually bare. Camels are extremely thin and even goats and sheep are not in good condition.

The people from Shinille have already started to migrate.

Some left earlier this month and moved south through Dire Dawa towards Eastern Hararghe. Over 15,000 cattle have moved along this route.

Clashes

Dozens of animals that could not make the journey were slaughtered along the road.

Children in an Issa village
The men have left the villages
Another exodus is moving towards the coastal regions of Somaliland.

Villages are now mainly populated by women and children, with the men having left with their herds.

There are reports of clashes along the road between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, as Afar and Issa fight for scarce grazing.

This is a tough region and its people are resourceful, but already they are having to make long journeys even to find enough water for their own consumption.

Keeping their animals alive is vital if they are to maintain their way of life - but that is looking increasingly difficult as the current drought takes its toll on people and their livestock.


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07 Dec 02 | Africa
18 Nov 02 | Africa
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06 Aug 02 | Africa
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