Mar 15, 2017

Ogaden: Restrictions by Ethiopian Government Exacerbate Humanitarian Crisis

Photo by Ogaden People's Rights


Civilians in the Ogaden region, the Somali region of Ethiopia, have been struggling with severe droughts and the consequent spread of hunger and Cholera, resulting in 300 deaths in the last week alone. The restrictions imposed by the Government of Ethiopia on the region exacerbate the situation: while limitation of movement bars access to healthcare facilities, trade embargoes cause critical food shortages. The agro-pastoralist community has been strongly affected, as there has been significant loss of livestock. Despite the fact that the country receives large development and humanitarian funds by a number of donors including the European Union, the Ethiopian Government’s inertia constitutes yet another grave violation of the rights of the already oppressed Ogaden people. More about the human rights situation in Ethiopia here.


The article below was published by Ogaden People’s Rights: 


The Ogaden region is currently experiencing one of the severest droughts alongside neighbouring Somalia and other surrounding countries. But due to the Ethiopian Government’s complete restriction of international media and NGOs, there is no telling just how severe the situation in the region really is nor the number of deaths that have resulted from severe food shortages and lack of access to healthcare. Through local sources we have come to know that up to 300 people have died from Cholera and lack of food this week alone, on top of those that have been reported dead last week.


The Ethiopian government has imposed a trade embargo and strict restrictions on trade and movement on the Ogaden region, exacerbating this crisis even further. Civilians are unable to trade with neighbouring Somalia nor gain access to necessary health care facilities. Around 7 million Somalis are estimated to inhabit the Ogaden region the majority of whom have been impacted by this drought. The most affected areas include the regions of Jarar (dhegahbuur), Qorahay (Qabridaharre) and Shabelle. Similarly deaths have been reported in Doollo, Afdheer and Liibaan regions. Villagers have reported the deaths of family members tending to their livestock found in remote areas days later mauled by wild animals. Pastoralists have lost many if not all of their livestock on which they depend upon for their survival, whilst the lack of an effective government response through food safety nets and preventing the spread of cholera has proved fatal for the agro-pastoralist community.


EU development assistance to Ethiopia amounts to an estimated 160 million euros every year. Similarly, in 2016, the United States alone spent more than 371 million dollars in foreign assistance for the country. Yet no steps have been taken by the government to tackle the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the region similar to the rest of the Horn. The gross mishandling of international aid and silence on the life-threatening condition of the majority of the population is not only atrociously inhumane, but tantamount to genocide. Somalia’s last famine in 2011 claimed over 260,000 lives, a repeat of this can and must be prevented through the provision of urgent medical relief and food aid to all those affected.


The structural measures (i.e. trade embargoes) put in place by the Ethiopian government which serve to starve out the population must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These measures continue to exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and must be dismantled.