Emergency intervention is a key component of SPANA’s work, with the charity’s vets and partners delivering help in many of the world’s most insecure and dangerous regions. In recent years, SPANA has led emergency campaigns in locations including Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and Syria, getting help to animals in need wherever and whenever it’s needed.
Natural disasters, extreme weather and conflict are a fact of life for many in the developing world, as growing insecurity and climatic events such as the El Niño phenomenon continue to hit the poorest communities particularly hard.
Working animal owners are often amongst the most vulnerable, with few reserves in times of crisis. When a working animal is lost, so is their livelihood. In some cases, particularly among the nomadic pastoralists of east Africa, livestock and working animal death is a precursor to famine and humanitarian tragedy.
The issue is highly relevant to the international community, including governments and aid organisations. For instance, in 2011, following severe drought, many people in the Horn of Africa lost their livestock. They had nothing left, no means of making a living, and in many cases they became institutionalised within aid camps. For many years SPANA has been one of the few organisations supporting feeding programmes for livestock. The investment needed to provide an animal feed programme is so small compared to the cost of emergency relief for starving people.
Ethiopia Emergency Campaign 2016
Following the most severe drought in Ethiopia in over 50 years, last year SPANA undertook an emergency feeding programme in Afar, one of the worst hit regions. Local people in Afar are mostly pastoralists who rely entirely on livestock for their livestock and for produce such as milk.
In total, SPANA fed 7837 livestock and working animals belonging to the poorest families over a four month period, distributing more than 150 tonnes of feed.
SPANA also put in place longer-term measures to assist people and their animals in the region long after the end of the drought. The charity planted 10 hectares of drought-resistant grasses to provide an ongoing, local food supply for livestock.
During the emergency, SPANA highlighted the lack of attention being given by the international community to tackling livestock deaths. Many of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia depend on livestock for both economic and food security. SPANA warned that the failure to learn from the mistakes of the past and to take action to protect existing herds could lead to a complete collapse in livestock numbers, pre-empting a devastating humanitarian crisis across the country.