April 28, 2006
A rainbow over Gode
The first ever rainbow marked the end of a flood. This latest one might, just might, mark the beginning of the end of a drought.
I've spent most of this week in Ethiopia's stunning Somali region. We were staying in Gode, a divided wild-west-style town with half the signs in Amharic, the others in Somali, about 150 kilometers away from the border with Somalia.
Most of the people in the surrounding countryside are pastoralists who have been struggling along for more than a year without any significant rainfall.
That was until Tuesday afternoon when a huge double rainbow formed north of the town. The sky had been full of dark clouds for days. But they had always passed over Gode to dump their water in other luckier parts of the region. Before Tuesday you could actually see the rain falling down far, far away on the horizon. Every morning, a new line of sheep, goats and camels left town following rumours of green pastures beyond Denan, an even smaller settlement 80 km to the north.
Then at around 5.30pm a dust storm exploded over Gode. Just after dusk there was a huge crack of thunder and lightening and the rain came pelting down. It kept falling all through the night, right up to 7am on Wednesday.
When the sun rose, it was clear that most of the water had been sucked up by the dry earth. There were lots of puddles but nothing like the muddy devastation you would expect after such a downpour.
If the rain keeps going for a couple of days, someone told me, then the first green shoots of pasture should start appearing on the outskirts of town by the beginning of next week. If the rain keeps going for a few weeks, he added, then the government, the development agencies and the pastoralists themselves might begin talking about the end of the drought.
Not that anyone was dancing in the streets on Wednesday. There were still lots of malnourished children in the hospital (with around two new cases coming in a day according to the administrators). About half the schools were still closed (after children were taken out of classes to work to supplement the family income). And the fields were still littered with the bones of sheep and goats (collectively known as shoats) that had starved to death over the last three months.
There was also the possibility that the rain might stop again and the drought might continue. And there is always next year. And the year after that. Having said all that, the water that fell through the night from Tuesday to Wednesday morning still felt like a blessed relief.
Posted by aheavens at April 28, 2006 4:49 PM