Djibouti is one of the smallest countries on the African continent. Situated between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, the total population is approximately 820,000 people. These factors alone make it an easy country to overlook in the context of the current drought. Next to the emergency crises in Kenya and Somalia, the needs of the drought-affected population may seem insignificant. Yet this is not a sufficient reason to neglect Djiboutians who are asking for help.
The IFRC together with the Djibouti Red Crescent have been undergoing an assessment throughout the country, and the needs are quite real. In Garabtisan village, northern Djibouti, there are approximately 1500 people - including 300 children - who have been facing a drought for the past five years.
“There is no public school for our children”, explained Madina, a mother of nine children. “We used to have a Koranic school, but the last wind storm knocked down the tree where lessons took place. Now, there is no place for children to learn.” It is a symbolic loss for this community who are on the brink of an emergency crisis.
In Garabtisan village, women such as Madina have only 40 litres of water for a period of 2 to 3 days to support the needs of an entire family. The nearest water source requires that women walk the distance of 23km, or they wait for water delivery from the military stationed nearby. But with a community of 1500 people, it is simply impossible for the military to adequately service the needs of Garabtisan village without support. In addition to high food prices, geographical isolation and the depletion of livestock, their situation is increasingly desperate.
Access to health care is another critical problem for women and children in Garabtisan village. When a child falls ill, the community is unable to respond. Each month there are approximately 6 to 7 births, with a loss of 2 to 3 children. The mobile health clinic provided by the Ministry of Health faces significant logistical challenges to reach the community as needed.
Yet the people of Garabtisan have dignity. Their cultural traditions practice basic hygiene such as washing children’s hands before eating, or defecating away from the home. Madina clearly wants to be a good mother, and meet the basic needs of her children.
The Djibouti Red Crescent and IFRC recognise the clear needs in drought-affected areas such as Garabtisan village. The Government of Djibouti has claimed there are 120,000 in need of critical assistance in rural areas. This indicates that 1 out of 8 persons are in need of emergency aid.
However the response cannot be successful by one agency or government ministry alone. Joint action is needed in Djibouti, in order to meet the challenges of drought-affected communities. Although the figures may be comparatively small to the rest of the Horn of Africa, women and mothers in desperate need, such as Madina, should be enough to take action.
The IFRC has recently completed a needs-assessment in the drought-affected regions of Djibouti. For updated information on the response, please visit www.ifrc.org/horn-of-africa or contact the IFRC East Africa Regional Delegation.