Posted Sunday, August 21 2011 at 12:38
Emaciated livestock and animal carcasses dot the sand around the village, which some residents have fled in the wake of a severe drought in the Horn of Africa that has left some 12 million in danger of starvation.
“We have been badly hit by the drought. You can see the effects. Our animals have been decimated. We don’t have water and our children are dying of malnutrition,” said Houmed Mohamed, a local elder.
A government crisis unit recently distributed food to some 300 families in Garabtisan which is expected to sustain them for the coming weeks.
According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, 146,000 people in Djibouti are affected by the drought that is also ravaging parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia — the worst-hit country in the region.
Garabtisan is in one of the hardest-hit regions in the small Red Sea state, with no hospitals and little relief aid coming in.
Vegetation has withered and its two water pans dried up. Life here is more than a struggle.
Djibouti is mostly arid and has no key industries, but hosts the largest overseas French army barracks and the only US military base in Africa.
“It is very difficult to survive in this drought,” said Moumina Barkat who recently lost her baby to malnutrition. “We no longer worry about our animals, but about our lives.”
A mobile medical team has been deployed to the region, but malnutrition seems to be spreading.
“There are deaths every day,” said Abdourazak Daoud, the administrator of Tadjourah, where Garabtisan is located.
The region’s nutrition coordinator Hassan Ismail said the drought has worsened since April. Two seasons of failed rains in the Horn of Africa region have caused the worst drought in decades.
“Since April the situation has been deteriorating. The number of children dying of severe malnutrition is rising every day,” Ismail said, adding that 30 of the 65 children recently examined in the village were malnourished.
“It is true that drought is the first cause. But mostly there is the problem of lack of water supply,” added Ismail.
Some Garabtisan villagers have fled to Balho near the Ethiopia border in search of water as the borehole there and a healthcare centre for children provide some respite