Story of Kulagalgalo from Ethiopia

Guest Blog by 
Syed Mohammed Aftab Alam, Cash and Vouchers Specialist (Global Lead)
Plan International Global Hub, Disaster Risk Management Department

Kulagalgalo is in a state of shock and gets emotional when she narrates that her husband is in a sick bed. She is from Melbana Kebele in Borena zone of Oromia. She had 81 cattle and of these, she lost 75 in a span of two days due to the ongoing severe drought. She struggles to narrate how it happened to her when she looks at the carcass of her cattle in the whole Kebele along with others who also lost their cattle. She had never experienced such a drought in her life. She has a family of 12 persons, 9 girls and one younger son. Five of the girls are married and she is disturbed that her son is unable to attend school due to lack of food at school and at home. She was happy with her husband prior to the drought managing the herd of cattle and their pride. They made a decent living.


The severe drought worsened in the months of January and February 2022 across parts of Borena zone of Oromia region. This was caused due a lack of rain during the last two shortrainy seasons (Hagaya) and main rainy season (Gena), pasture conditions in all Woredas of the Borena zone.

Impact of drought

Kulagalgalo’s Kebele is highly impacted by drought. They have been facing the severe drought and almost lost all of their livestock due to lack of fodder. One Durette Jaldesse from nearby Dubluk Woreda had come to Melbana with his herd of cattle in search of green pasture and water. He lost all his 108 cattle in one day and the carcass of livestock were crowded in the whole Kebele with Vultures fighting for the best piece accompanied by foul stink of smell spread in the environment. It was extremely disturbing site for me and team to see and walk in the Kebele with fear ofstepping on some of the remains of the decayed carcasses. Food intake by the community is reduced to one or maximum two times a day occasionally. Due to the current drought, massive soil degradation and the resulting pasture depletion are a typical feature of all places. This appears to have driven migration, forcing pastoralists to take their livestock to far-flung locations (out of the zone) in search of pasture and water.There are hardly any water supply and WASH facilities (SPHERE standard is a distant dream).

Zonal authorities in their presentation report more than 1.2 Million people and 6.8 Million livestock as affected. A total of 482,952 people are in need of immediate food assistance. Of this more than half a million livestock have died as of 2 Feb. Social Safety programmes have been stopped long back and one of the government representative accompanying the team said “government is planning to commence the Productive Safety Net Program soon”. While the community said “It is better it doesn’t start otherwise some of us, who are enrolled as beneficiaries under PSNP will be debarred from potential humanitarian aid”. Menstrual health and hygiene conditions are miserable due to lack of access to clean water, sanitary pads and above all cash. Government has done a rough estimate of 4.3 Billion Eth Birr or approx 84.7 Million USD for the livestock loss so far. There is a gap of more than 90% in terms of response to the drought impact.

CVA modality is increasingly becoming as one of the preferred modalities of responding to emergencies in Ethiopia and the Social Safety net programmes are also implemented through cash and food.

What next?

Plan International Ethiopia is conducting a feasibility assessment for Cash and VoucherAssistance through multi-sector market assessment, discussion with stakeholders including government authorities, mapping of financial service providers and close interactions with Communities through Focus Group Discussions. Plan International is also responding with health and veterinary support as an immediate response. There is a huge need and the response has been very minimal by all players. The key life-saving needs are food, livestock and their feed followed by integrated response under education and menstrual health hygiene. One of the elderly lady in Afar said “ you have been collecting all the information form us like what we eat, where we work, where we sleep, who is our husband, what does he do; but when are you going to respond? Our stomach will not be full with all these questions.”

CVA modality is increasingly becoming one of the preferred modalities of responding to emergencies in Ethiopia and the Social Safety net programmes are also implemented through cash and food. Kulagalgalo has plans to have good food at home with her family, she wants to send her child to school, treat her husband and purchase livestock for her livelihood. She prefers cash as soon as possible to meet all her primary needs.

I am leading the feasibility study in Oromia and Afar for the use of CVA modality and based on the field assessments, all the conditions for CVA including functioning markets, willingness of communities, willingness of government, presence of financial service providers makes CVA feasible for future interventions. Plan International Ethiopia has reached close to 400,000 beneficiaries through cash transfers since 2013 with a portfolio of 2.5 Million Euros. Of this 50 percent of beneficiaries are girls and women. The global CVA portfolio grew to 140 Million Euros by almost 20 percent in Financial Year 2021. As of now the CVA has been implemented in 33 Country Offices of Plan International.“I want to see CVA as a space for expansion and innovation that makes the right holders masters of their destiny and choice” rightly says Mudasser Siddiqui, Country Director, Plan Ethiopia

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