Close to five million children risk going hungry as the result of a worsening food crisis in Ethiopia brought on by a severe drought across normally green and productive regions – making this natural disaster the worst in recent history, warns Save the Children.
Three hundred and fifty thousand children are already severely malnourished, which if left untreated, can cause stunting, physical and mental delays in their development, or death.
This year's drought, which has been caused by a particularly strong El Nino phenomenon, has directly affected more than 8.2 million Ethiopians across a huge area roughly the size of Texas, leaving them food insecure and dependent on food assistance from the government and international aid organizations. In addition, the enormous gains made in food security, education and health over the years risk being reversed as a result of this extreme climatic event.
John Graham, Save the Children's Country Director in Ethiopia says: "The failure of the Belg rains earlier this year as well as the usually reliable Kiremt summer rains has had a devastating impact on Ethiopia’s harvest. Entire families have lost their incomes and food supplies, leaving the lives of millions, especially children, in the balance."
The Ethiopian government has committed an unprecedented $192 million to combat the crisis as part of a huge national effort mobilized to mitigate the drought, but more support is urgently needed from donors and the international community to help the government stop the situation from worsening.
"The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. We now face the results of poor harvests across the country, and the next small harvest is not expected until June 2016," adds Graham.
"The Ethiopian government is doing what it can to respond, diverting funds from road building and other projects – but international donors must also provide more relief now so that we can meet the needs of people affected by this incredibly serious drought – especially vulnerable children – before it’s too late."
Save the Children is working in over 70% of the worst-affected districts, providing food, water, medicine and crucial support to families who have lost their incomes. The organization is also training community-based health workers to treat malnutrition, and supporting families that have lost their livestock and livelihoods with cash-for-work programs.
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