Ethiopia and Kenya

Drought In Africa; A Bitter Harvest, October 2006

The skeletal acacia trees that surround Magado village, a tiny isolated community in Southern Ethiopia, are testimony in more ways than one to the drought that has destroyed the lives of its inhabitants. The bare branches and parched earth are evidence of the six months of rainless heat that has wiped out 70 per cent of the livestock owned by the 11 million nomadic pastoralists spread across the Horn of Africa in the worst drought for a decade.

Humanitarian aid to Africa has grown almost six-fold in the past eight years from $946m (£556m) to $5.6bn (£3.3bn). Magado’s share of this windfall came too late.

No one in Magado has died from starvation. In March, long after the cattle were beyond salvation, emergency food aid arrived which kept the pastoralists alive. By the time the October rains arrived, however, the inhabitants of Magado had cut down five men who had hung themselves in acacia trees. They had killed themselves because of the shame and despair of watching their cattle dwindle and perish before their eyes.

The village is grim proof of an international community failing to provide help when it is needed most. Across the Borena lands, it is estimated that 150,000 cows have died, two thirds of the entire stock.

  • A young boy with what remains of his herd. Kate Holt.
  • A cattle herder with his son and the remains of their herd. Kate Holt.
  • Galamo Dima, 45, a village elder shows the beans that she now sells to survive. Kate Holt.
  • Galamo Dima, with her son and daughter in their families hut. Kate Holt.
  • In Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya, the severe drought has led to increased pressure on grazing land. Kate Holt.
  • A cattle herder at a borehole. A severe drought is having a devastating impact on the livelihoods of thousands. Kate Holt.
  • A father with his family shows what remains of their food ration for the month. Kate Holt.
  • A woman and her daughter in a hut in which they are now living with eight other members of their family. Kate Holt.
  • A group of armed men stand guard over what remains of their herd of cattle. Kate Holt.
  • As a result of a severe drought in Southern Ethiopia, women have to walk many miles to collect water. Kate Holt.
  • A cattle herder with the remains of his herd, walks towards a drinking hole. Kate Holt.