THE worst drought in 50 years in Ethiopia (News, 20 November 2015) is already affecting more than ten million people, and up to 15 million are likely to face starvation in the coming months.
The United Nations has launched a campaign to try to bridge a $1.4 billion (£983 million) funding gap to meet the country’s urgent humanitarian needs. The prolonged drought in the country, which has been linked to the El Niño weather-system, has led to successive crop failures and livestock deaths. Neighbouring Somalia is also in the grip of drought, and the situation there has been exacerbated by war. About 40 per cent of its population is said to be in need of food aid.
Of Ethiopia’s 750 districts, 219 are now classed as “in severe need” — a rise of 18 per cent on the previous month. The country currently hosts more than 730,000 refugees fleeing conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
Ethiopia is more prepared to deal with drought than it was in 1984, when hundreds of thousands died. It has after invested in early-warning systems, but the strength of the latest El Niño phenomenon has proved insurmountable.
The head of East and Southern Africa for the charity Tearfund, Donald Mavunduse, said: “The scale of this disaster is incomprehensible. In a few months’ time, we estimate 15 million people will be in severe need; this is almost double the population of London. Ethiopia has fallen off the media radar, but we need to become aware of how extensive this humanitarian crisis is.
”At Tearfund, we are working together with the government, local partners, and other agencies to provide emergency relief to households, and build resilience across the country. We applaud the UN’s efforts — it’s vital the international community come together to help stop mass hunger from occurring again.”
In Somalia, the World Food programme and UNICEF are working to feed children, and protect them from dropping out of school and the risk of exposure to violence.
“The communities have lived through four successive poor rainy seasons. Their ability to cope with the drought has been stretched to the limit,” UNICEF’s representative for Somalia, Steven Lauwerier, said. “Our concerted efforts are needed now to save the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families. Any delay from the international community will put their lives further at risk of hunger and disease.”