Millions at risk as severe drought hits Ethiopia – News24

Category: Ethiopian News 6

Addis Ababa – Around 4.5 million Ethiopians
could be in need of food aid because of a drought in the country, the UN has
said.

Hardest-hit areas are Ethiopia’s eastern
Afar and southern Somali regions, while pastures and water resources are also
unusually low in central and eastern Oromo region, and northern Tigray and
Amhara districts.

Reacting to the UN’s claims that the number
in need had increased by more than 55% this year, Alemayew Berhanu,
spokesperson for Ministry of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera that Ethiopia had
“enough surplus food at emergency depots and we’re distributing it”.

“When we were informed about the
problem, the federal government and the regional state authorities started an
outreach programme for the affected people,” he said.

In August, the Ethiopian government said
that it had allocated $35m to deal with the crisis that has been blamed on El
Niño, a warm ocean current that develops between Indonesia and Peru. The UN
says it needs $230m by the end of the year to attend to the crisis.

“The absence of rains means that the
crops don’t grow, the grass doesn’t grow and people can’t feed their
animals,” David Del Conte, UNOCHA’S chief in Ethiopia, said.

One farmer in the town of Zway told Al
Jazeera that he was selling personal belongings to stay alive.

“There is nothing we can do. We don’t
have enough crops to provide for our families. We are having to sell our cattle
to buy food but the cattle are sick because they don’t have enough to
eat,” Balcha, who has a family of nine, and grows corn and wheat, said.

El
Niño

The onset of El Niño means the spatial
distribution of rainfall from June to September has being very low. According
to the UN children’s agency (Unicef), the El Niño weather pattern in 2015 is
being seen as the strongest of the last 20 years.

Experts say it could be a major problem for
the country’s economy, as agriculture generates about half of the country’s
income.

Climate shocks are common in Ethiopia and
often lead to poor or failed harvests which result in high levels of acute food
insecurity.

Approximately 44% of children under 5 years
of age in Ethiopia are severely chronically malnourished, or stunted, and
nearly 28% are underweight, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Unicef says that about 264 515 children
will require treatment for acute severe malnutrition in 2015 while 111 076
children were treated for severe acute malnutrition between January and May
2015.

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