The lack-of-water cycle

A rain-harvesting water tank installed with help from COCO

We have witnessed an admirable, and much needed, response by the NGO community to the latest episode of severe drought being experienced in the Horn of Africa. Emergency disaster relief is not an area within which COCO works but we have supported, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future, the implementation of schemes aimed at the provision of water in Kenya and Tanzania over recent years.

The real sadness underpinning the current crisis, aside from it being deemed the harshest drought for 60 years, and that 10 million people are set to be affected, is that the crisis has happened at all given that similar episodes have been seen with depressing regularity since the 1980s.

In our own small way we are helping to ensure this cycle is broken; but the problem is a big one. Access to water is an issue almost everywhere in the region from urban areas (for instance in Nairobi which is often subject to water rationing) to seemingly lush rural villages (where climate change can mean that these fertile areas may not stay that way for much longer).

The truth is that such big problems rarely have simple solutions. Much of the coverage in the media has underscored just how complex such development issues are. For instance, in the articles we have linked to this article you can find evidence for the following all having had an impact on this crisis:

  • The impact of conflict and resulting flow of refugees
  • Climate change
  • Forced eviction from ancestral land
  • The increased cost of food commodities on world markets
  • The difficulty NGOs have raising money when there is no ‘crisis’ to respond to
  • Population growth and birth control
  • Poverty itself

With so many factors feeding into the overall problem of drought, finding a lasting solution to break the lack-of-water cycle is not going to be easy. But what is clear is that the solutions that emerge from now on must take the long-term perspective and not allow the region to endure the effects of another drought anytime soon.

Suggested further readings include:

Baroness Amos calls for donors to ‘dig deep’ for drought in Africa

East Africa crisis could have been prevented with early action

Horn of Africa: From one drought to another

A crisis is a crisis – but there’s more to tackling famine than emergency aid