Ethiopia Famine & Drought

Ethiopia was one of the countries affected by El Niño 2015, resulting in very low rainfall during the spring season (belg) and summer season (kiremt).

The failure of belg rains, followed by the arrival of El Niño weather conditions in June, has affected the patterns of the summer rains that provide much of the country’s agriculture harvest and potable water. This combination has resulted in a slow onset emergency in Ethiopia that led to significant losses, including malnutrition and livestock death.

Recognizing the increased need, the Government of Ethiopia has initiated internal responses and issued calls for international assistance well into 2016. In August 2015, the government officially launched a Humanitarian Requirements Document mid-year review.

Without action, some 15 million people will require food assistance in 2016.

The number of hungry Ethiopians needing food aid has risen sharply due to poor rains and the El Niño weather phenomenon, with around 10 million people now in need, aid officials said. That number has nearly doubled since August, with the UN now warning that, without action, some 15 million people will require food assistance in 2016.

As a coping strategy to the drought, the Afars have begun travelling long distances to neighbouring regions in search of water and livestock feed, and selling their livestock (mainly goats) for very low prices. In the current situation, however, as the drought and livestock death is severe, households do not get income from sale of their livestock, and dependency on food aid from the government and other humanitarian organizations is the foremost survival strategy.

Another survival strategy is to reduce consumption units. Children and other dependents are sent to family or friends residing in areas less affected by drought or to wealthier kin with better capacity to cope with the food shortage.

The government of Ethiopia, with assistance from the international community and donor agencies, has been working towards providing emergency food aid and other support to the drought-affected communities. However, according to reports from the government and aid agencies, there is a huge gap between demand and supply, and the current provision only helps people avoid starvation.  There is a fear that if the upcoming short rainy season has lower than normal rainfall, the situation will turn for the worst. It is critical to help now and to continue to implement long-term solutions.

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