Once more Ethiopia, Somalia and its neighbours face a horrific drought. Watching some clips on BBC news I was struck by the numbers of children surrounding each woman. It made me check population growth figures and Ethiopia is at a whopping 5.4 while Somali is on 6.4.
On average a woman in Ethiopia has 5.4 children. And see the figure for Somalia above. It’s a staggering number. If this is the average what sizes are some of these families?
In a predominantly agrarian society the family will want to live off the land as much as possible. This includes tapping into natural water supplies such as wells, but also affects the shrub and tree density as these resources are depleted to allow the family to cook its food and warm themselves in the cold weather.
Add to this the additional foods that have to be grown, the extra grazing for livestock and so many more contributing factors and one can see that this mass of humanity is seriously affecting the situation and contributing to the conditions that lead to droughts.
It’s not that I am not sympathetic to the plight of these people. I can think of nothing worse than not being able to care for my family. I cannot imagine the horror of seeing ones children die of hunger and thirst in front of ones eyes. Unimaginable.
And there is also no doubt that the disaster facing the Horn of Africa is most certainly caused by low or no rain fall. But a lower population growth would have been able to cope better, work towards mitigating the effects such as planting drought resistant crops and conserving the meager water resources more effectively.
But at some stage Ethiopians and their neighbours will need to take responsibility for what they are doing. The West will again bail out the people with emergency food supplies, refugee camps, temporary school facilities, shelter etc. Isn’t it time the Horn of Africa started working towards their own solution.
And the main focus needs to be on women. What assistance and guidance can be given to help women have less children? More education and legal rights for women to be able to determine their own destiny might be a long term solution. Better health clinics to allow women access to birth control and other health related services in the short term.
Whatever can be done one thing is certain. Focus on the women and help them to improve the lives of their families. It will make a huge difference to people of the Horn of Africa. Let’s face it the predominantly male run governments are certainly not doing enough to look after their citizens.
Of course this could be considered a drop in the ocean. Something that will not make much of a difference. Who can fight against natural disasters. And other arguments. Well, human beings are resourceful given the right resources. Give women an education and you will see the situation change dramatically. It’s done it for Europe and America. Let it happen in Africa too.