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Millions of people in urgent need of food as persistent drought continues, Ethiopia


The worst drought in the last 30 years continues affecting Ethiopia and millions of people are currently in urgent need of food aid, General Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary announced on January 31, 2016.

According to UN figures, at least 10.2 million people require food assistance and the numbers could likely double over the next few months when one-fifth of the population may suffer hunger.

Persistent drought conditions are likely induced by the El Niño weather phenomena. A lack of rainfall and floods have affected large portions of Africa, and the region of Ethiopia is of special concern.

"People of the country are facing the worst drought in 30 years… the scale of emergency is too much for any single government," Ban said.

"Immediate support will save lives and also support the impressive development that Ethiopia has made during the last decade," stated Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister. He also warned his country had less than half of the $1.4bn needed at its disposal.

"Last year Ethiopia was hit by one of the strongest El Nino events on record… the scale and severity of humanitarian needs have significantly increased," he added.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing countries, home to an estimated 85 million people. The population has doubled since 1984 and is projected to more than double again by 2050. Despite recording double-digit economic growth over the past decade, more than 20 million people are living below the poverty line, according to the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2012-2015.

Nearly 10% of the population remains chronically vulnerable to food insecurity and dependent on national safety-net programmes. Every year several million people require emergency assistance to meet their basic survival needs. It is undergoing a large economy growth currently but has struggled greatly to change its image after the 1984/85 famine caused by extremely dry conditions at the time, media reports.

Video credit: BBC News via YouTube

However, the current situation greatly resembles the 1984/85 post-famine as thousands of people have already fled from the areas that suffered the strongest blow from the ongoing drought. Almost 100 000 people from Ethiopia and Somalis have travelled to Yemen by boat during 2015, UN reported.

"Those who remember Ethiopia in the 1980s may feel a disturbing sense of deja vu. The country is once again facing devastating climatic conditions: rains have failed; millions of people need food aid; children are suffering from severe malnutrition," said the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The next month will be critical for Ethiopia as people eagerly wait for the forecast rainfall.

"If these rains fail we will likely see the number of people needing food continue for another year, with tens of thousands more children falling into severe acute malnutrition. We need action," said John Graham, the Save the Children aid agency’s chief in Ethiopia John Graham.

The situation is also grave in southern Africa, where 14 million residents face hunger after a long drought period which devastated the harvest. 2.8 million people face hunger in Malawi, after little rainfall during 2015. 1.9 million people are affected in Madagascar and 1.5 million in Zimbabwe.

The UN already warned about famine in South Sudan at the end of 2015. Tens of thousands of people in the region are likely starving to death in the areas out of reach for aid workers due to conflicts in the region. The war in this region triggered a widespread humanitarian crisis as about 2.3 million people have been forced out of their homes and 5 million are in urgent need of food aid.

As of January 30, 46% of the 2016 Appeal (US$1.4 billion) was funded, leaving a significant gap of $714 million. The Government alone contributed $381 million to the response, including $272 million in 2015 and 109 million so far in 2016, OCHA reported on February 1, 2016. 

Featured image credit: BBC News via YouTube

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