Ethiopia has been repeatedly threatened by extreme hunger; the famine of 1984/85 when up to 1 million people died is to this day etched into the memories of Ethiopians and their government. El Niño induced crop failure and death of livestock leading to extreme hunger for upwards of 10 million people once again threatens Ethiopia.
(03/05/2016) Latest: Welthungerhilfe staff in the Afar region have reported that there has been rain. The cisterns built by Welthungerhilfe are filling up – people have some drinking water again. However, the rain will not yet improve the nutrition situation: it may be months until the livestock find sufficient food, be able to breed and finally give nutritious milk. The rain also brings a new risk: due to flooding, many people are losing the few belongings they had left.
Social protection to fight hunger
Ethiopia is unlike other sub-Saharan countries. It has recorded double-digit economic growth over the last decade, and the government has had a social protection scheme in place for the last ten years designed to protect the poorest people from starvation. Under this scheme, six million Ethiopians work for five days each month during the lean season on public works in return for 13kg of cereal and 4kg of pulses a month. Another million people who are unable to work because of age or illness get the food handout or the cash equivalent. Despite the scheme and the commitment of an additional 380 million dollars, the Ethiopian government needs the support of the international community because of the prolonged duration and scale of the drought.
Farmers and pastoralists are losing their livelihoods
The situation in areas where Welthungerhilfe is working (Amhara, Afar and parts of Oromia) is particularly bad. In Afar in particular, people are reliant on their livestock. Weak animals are dying from hunger and thirst. Farmers and pastoralists are trying desperately to sell them to raise enough money for food. But as is usual in these situations, the price of food is going up while the price of livestock in the market place is falling. Increasing numbers of children under two years age and women, whether pregnant or lactating mothers are presenting at clinics and feeding centers with severe acute malnutrition.
Planning for the future: help to self-help
Gaps are starting to appear in the volumes of food being delivered and in the coordination of the response to the drought as the sheer scale of need is starting to overwhelm the capacity of government and of the humanitarian actors. In some cases food has been delivered by the government to areas in need but has not been distributed to people because there is not sufficient money for transportation of food to local distribution points. In other instances, there is a shortage of special food required to help the recovery of children and women when they are acutely malnourished.
Welthungerhilfe believes in self-help. This is how we support the people:
- We are trying to raise money for providing seeds to people in time for the next rainy season (June, July and August). Without this help people will remain dependent on food handouts until the end of the year.
- We are also drilling wells for drinking water for people and animals.
- We are supporting Ethiopian organisations with whom we work to construct small irrigation schemes, small dams and ponds.
Ethiopia is threatened by the worst drought in 30 years. The cause: weather phenomenon El Niño. There has been no rain for a long time – and there is hardly any water left in Welthungerhilfe's water tanks.