Red sand, a green plastic chair, tea with camel milk. A child approaches and looks at me with curiosity. Holding a yellow jerry can with a red cap, he lifts it up and starts to speak to me. "He’s asking you if you want camel milk", says Abdi, a local researcher who has been acting as our translator during this phase of our research in Ethiopia.
We are in the town of Warder, in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Curious, I ask the boy some questions. His name is Bashir (anonymised) and he is 10 years old. I take a sip of tea and look again at the jerry can. "How many litres of camel's milk can that hold?" I ask. "Three litres" Bashir answers. When I ask him where he's from, my translator's expression turns to mild bewilderment as he translates the boy's answer: "I walk about two hours to sell milk here".
A quick clarification later and it turns out that he actually walks two hours to Warder and two hours back home. Bashir makes this trip every day in order to help his father and his family, who lost many animals to drought and became displaced.
This is the very human face of drought displacement.
The makeshift tents of those displaced in Ethiopia’s Somali region; the dry canals of Southern Iraq; the crowded urban settlements of Burco, Galkayo and Qardho in Somalia; and the increasingly fragmented farm parcels of the Maradi region of Niger: The four target countries of this research – Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, and Niger – present striking examples of how drought and water scarcity are forcing hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes and ways of life.