By Kathy Mueller, Canadian Red Cross

Deep in the heart of the district of Kindo Koysha in southern Ethiopia, the road system is rudimentary. Little more than dirt paths, these well used networks of tracks connect one community to the next. Vehicles are attention-getting. It is donkeys and carts, livestock and people which tread these quasi roadways on a daily basis.

When the Ethiopian Red Cross Society wanted to start distributing emergency water rations to the most vulnerable of families in these hardest to access communities, getting there was a noted challenge.

But, with people like Yonas Bade on hand, it was a challenge that would be quickly overcome. Like other families in the village of Sorto and beyond, Bade, his wife, and ten children are feeling the effects of the ongoing drought.

“Before, we were able to eat three meals a day. We ate whatever I was able to grow,” says Bade. “But now, even eating once a day is becoming very difficult. If it continues like this indefinitely, our lives, my children’s lives, my livestock’s lives are at risk.”

The maize, teff and sweet potato farmer was able to sow and cultivate last year but, like other farmers, says the harvest has been shrinking for several years now.

When Bade heard about the Red Cross plan to distribute water, he wanted to ensure his village was on the truck route.

“For the water truck to come to this village, there was no road for it to travel,” explains Bade. “I used my own donkey and cart to put down stones to make a small road and I organized people here to help.”

Now, the truck comes, delivering water every four days, sometimes longer. Because his family is  larger, Bade receives 60 litres of water. “Every day, a family can consume more than 20 litres of water. Now, that 20 litres has to last many days,” says Bade. “It’s very stressful.”

Despite being heavily impacted by the drought, Bade continues his volunteer work with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, helping to organize villagers to ensure water distribution is carried out in an orderly fashion. He draws his motivation from his faith. “As the bible says, your problem is menial compared to others, so you have to help others with their survival. It’s my place to assist others.”

Since 2015, failed rains, combined with an El Nino weather phenomenon, have left millions of people across Ethiopia in desperate need of food and water. The drought has now shifted to the south and southeast. With crops unable to be sown, an estimated 5.6 million people will be in need of emergency food rations in the coming months.

Since beginning water distribution in Kindo Koysha, the Ethiopian Red Cross has reached more than 93,000 people with 1.3 million litres of potable water. The Canadian Red Cross is now launching a three month project to support the local National Society in expanding its water distribution across 16 kebeles (collection of villages) in Kindo Koysha. Fourteen water storage tanks will also be installed, and water purification tablets distributed.

For more information on how you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Africa Drought public appeal, which aims to support drought-affected people across eastern Africa, visit www.redcross.ca.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has revised its Emergency Appeal upwards to 13.7 million Swiss francs to support the Ethiopian Red Cross Society in assisting nearly 320,000 people through the end of 2017.  The expanded operations focus on health, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, nutrition and food security.