Ethiopia: New drought puts recovery and neighbouring countries at risk

30 January, 2017
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Credit: OCHA/C.Cans

2016 was a challenging year for Ethiopia. But 2017 could be equally dire, as the country has been hit by a new drought. As 2.4 million farmers and herders cannot sustainably practice their livelihoods and reinvigorate their already drought-stricken farms, the new drought is throwing an additional 5.7 million people into crisis.

At the launch of the Humanitarian Requirements Document, UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien called for US$948 million to meet people’s survival and livelihoods needs in 2017.

“We need to act now before it is too late,” he said. “We have no time to lose. Livestock are already dying, pastoralists and farmers are already fleeing their homes in search of water and pasture, and hunger and malnutrition levels will rise soon if assistance does not arrive on time.” 


Source: 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document

Back-to-back cycles of poor or non-existent rainfall since 2015, coupled with the strongest El Niño on record, led to Ethiopia’s worst drought in decades. The new drought has hit southern and eastern regions, and pastoralists and farmers are fleeing their homes to find water and pasture. 

The new drought extends beyond Ethiopia’s borders—in Kenya and Somalia, it has already pushed 1.3 million people and 5 million people into hunger, respectively. Severe water and pasture shortages in Somalia have resulted in livestock deaths, disrupted livelihoods and caused massive food shortages.

“Experts are warning of the imminent risk of famine if the next rains fail and the necessary interventions fail to materialize,” said Mr. O’Brien. “We need to ensure a successful response in Somalia, otherwise Ethiopia will be faced with an even greater number of refugees whose needs will be even more expensive to address.”

In Ethiopia, of the 5.7 million people who need emergency food aid, some 2.7 million are children, and pregnant and lactating mothers. Humanitarian partners estimate that 303,000 children are at severe risk of acute malnutrition this year if aid does not reach them on time. A total of 9.1 million people require access to safe drinking water, and some 1.9 million households need livestock support to survive.

National and international response to the 2016 appeal has been extraordinary and enabled humanitarian partners to successfully meet the needs of the most vulnerable people. Donors contributed $985 million to the humanitarian response effort, and the Government of Ethiopia released $735 million to fund critical aspects of the response. This generous financial support enabled humanitarian partners to provide 10.2 million people with food and water, and with seeds for the main meher (long rains) harvest and the belg (short rains) season, pulling the country from the brink.

But donors must now step up to meet the urgent needs in this fresh crisis. If the necessary funding is not received this year, the consequences will be devastating.
 

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