SCHOOL BACKPACKS VERSUS WATER JERRICANS
There are 3 million Afar people spread across 3 countries in the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. In the northeast of Ethiopia, in the area of Semera, Afar children are happy to go to school. But each day, they are unsure if they will be able to attend class as for months now, they have had to carry out a vital task first: searching for water.
For their families and for themselves, to bring to school with them.
In the arid territory where they live, they have been suffering the most severe drought in 50 years according to the United Nations.
In the fields around the main river, named the Awash, everything appears to be fine – corn is everywhere. It is just strange seeing camels and cows grazing in the fields.
But if you look closer, you can see that the plants are very small. This is the green drought – the area experiences a period of limited rainfall which causes new but insubstantial plant growth.
Scientists say that the El Niño phenomenon is responsible for this tragedy.
So, people let their camels and cows wander into the fields and graze the plants.
It is January and Afar has not received one drop of rain for the last 3 months.
Schoolchildren leave their small villages early in the morning, when the sun is not too harsh yet. Many will walk for an hour before reaching the first pump, which is 1 kilometer away from the school. If they are lucky, they will find water. If not, they will have to walk another 5 kilometers – for nearly 2 hours – to get to another pump. Provided that the well is not dry or the pump is not broken, they will then be able to go to school with their yellow jerricans filled with water.
In school, the water is used to do some cleaning – dust is everywhere and covers the children’s faces. It is also used for the toilets and of course for drinking, as temperatures can rise up to 40 degrees. The children must also save some water so they can keep hydrated on their way ba