Sunday, January 31, 2016

Parched Ethiopia in food crisis

Children most at risk as drought decimates crops, herds

A farmer shows his failed crop and dry, cracked soil in the Megenta area of Afar, Ethiopia. He said he had lost 100 percent of his crop.
DUBTI, Ethiopia -- Morbid thoughts linger on people's minds. The crops have failed and farm animals have been dying during a severe drought that has left Ethiopia appealing for international help to feed its people.

Mayrem Humeyisu talks about food supply in her neighborhood Tuesday in the rural village Dubti Woreda, Afar, Ethiopia. (By: MULUGETA AYENE) (Credit: AP)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is set to visit some drought-stricken locations in Ethiopia on Sunday as the government and its humanitarian partners seek financial support.
In the Dubti area of Ethiopia's Afar region, one of the hardest-hit regions, the river is slowly drying up, leaving the normally hot and arid land even worse off. Some worry that children may start dying.
"My child is severely malnourished to the point that he could no more do breast-feeding," said Fatuma Hussein, a 30-year-old mother who has spent two months at an area clinic trying to get her child treated for malnutrition. Health officials said her child's condition was serious because the mother had no food left at home and had been letting her older children share the enriched food provided for her weak son.
"They are asking me to stay at the clinic until my son's condition improves," she said, "but I couldn't. If I stay here, the rest of my children will die. If Allah chooses to take his life, then let it be."
The Ethiopian government and aid agencies say El Nino conditions triggered drought in Ethiopia that has left more than 10 million people without a steady supply of food, and it is estimated that there will soon be at least 400,000 cases in the country of severe malnutrition among children under age 5. Only a third of the $1.2 billion needed for emergency food assistance has been raised.
"I have been here in the country for 19 years, and I have seen a lot of droughts, but I have never seen one as serious as this," said John Graham, director of operations in Ethiopia for Save the Children. "Some analysts think the situation is even more severe than the 1984 famine, with more people affected this time. But the situation is different. The then-government was a big part of the problem, whereas the current one has acknowledged the problem early and has put a lot of its own resources. That's why we are not witnessing people dying."
Ethiopia, once known for severe famines, has been trying to shake off the stereotypes of poverty and scarcity, investing millions of dollars in infrastructure and energy projects that highlight the government's ambition for modernity. Ethiopia's famine in the 1980s was so severe that it spawned the 1985 Live Aid concert to raise funds to fight it.
Although the country has since increased its capacity to feed itself, the threat of hunger and starvation remains.
The U.N. said this week that El Nino conditions reduced crop yields by 50 to 90 percent in Ethiopia. In the Afar region, health officials are talking about a catastrophe if aid does not arrive soon.
Kedir Abate, a medical director at the Megenta Clinic in Afar, said 20 to 30 severely malnourished children are brought to the facility each week, with the number of moderately malnourished children rising so fast he fears they could slip into the severely malnourished category soon.
"Both children and pregnant mothers are in a high-risk situation here. The past two months have been the most difficult," he said.
In December, the U.S. government announced it would give $88 million to help feed hungry people in areas experiencing drought, bringing the total amount of humanitarian aid provided to the country in 2015 to more than $435 million. Other countries like the U.K. have also given substantial sums.
Yet some say they have yet to receive aid, or enough of it.
"We are getting [nothing] or very little help in this area. I fear that people could start dying if aid doesn't come soon," Sheikh Hamed Dawud, deputy administrator of the Megenta area, said. "Animals are dying, and crops have failed. We have nothing left here."
Aid agencies say demand for aid delivery elsewhere in the world means there is less attention given to Ethiopia.
"There is a great deal of strain on the international humanitarian system and on Save the Children's humanitarian work, as well," Carolyn Miles, Save the Children's president, told the Associated Press by email, citing the Syria crisis as a primary example.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ethiopia facing very hard conditions worse than 1984 crisis

Ethiopia’s hunger crisis eclipsed by turmoil elsewhere | Africa | DW.COM | 27.01.2016

Ethiopia’s hunger crisis eclipsed by turmoil elsewhere | Africa | DW.COM | 27.01.2016: "Ethiopia’s hunger crisis eclipsed by turmoil elsewhere
The food shortage in Ethiopia is getting worse. Aid agencies say up to 15 million people could suffer because of the El Nino-induced drought. Officials fear donors are neglecting the country in favor of others.

In December 2015, the Ethiopian government appealed for 1.4 billion dollars in aid (1.3 billion euros), but officials claim that only 180 million dollars has been received so far and that over 90 percent of the aid distributed is coming from government coffers.
The NGO "Save the Children" puts the international aid at "less than one third" of the requested sum, and last week stated that the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia is "a code red emergency and it needs to be treated like one."
"Apart from receiving, and listening to, information on [drought] from time to time, donor countries' immediate response is very sluggish" Alemayehu Berhanu, spokesperson with Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture, told DW's Amharic service. He added that over 60 of Ethiopia's donor partners knew of the looming crisis when the number of needy was still at 3.5 million people compared to the 10 million today - but few responded.
Syria or Ethiopia?
Mitiku Kassa, the commissioner in charge of Ethiopia's Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Agency, sees a connection between the slow trickle of emergency funds to his country and the response by donor countries to international crises in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. With many refugees entering European countries, in particular Germany, aid budgets are being diverted. "They [the donors] probably assume that the magnitude of the hunger problem in Ethiopia is less serious", Mitiku said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

Ethiopia's northeastern Somali region has not received rainfall for two consecutive seasons
One of the biggest recipients of foreign aid, Ethiopia has been accused of misspending aid money in exchange for political favors, causing a furious, if short-lived, outcry from donors.
Scientists say the current drought in Africa's second most populous nation has been triggered by El Nino - a warm weather phenomenon originating from the Pacific Ocean.
Generation hunger
New figures released by humanitarian agencies and the government of Ethiopia show that more than 2.5 million children are expected to drop out of school as a result of the drought, whereas 1.7 million children are in need of nutritional support.
NGO Save the Children last week warned that 350,000 babies are expected to be born into drought-stricken communities in the coming six months.
"If emergency funding doesn't escalate very soon, there is a real risk of reversing some key development progress made in Ethiopia over the past two decades, including the reduction of child mortality rates by two thirds, and halving the percentage of the population living below the poverty line", Country Director John Graham said.
The looming hunger crisis in Ethiopia is also trending on social media, with critics lashing out at the government for posting double-digit growth figures when at the same time millions of people go hungry. Kennedy Tamirat wrote on DW Amharic’s Facebook page: "This [the food crisis] is the real picture of our country. This is truth. But our government officials never want to see it."
Witnessing drought on the ground
After visiting Ethiopia's badly-affected Eastern Somali region, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) spoke of a "disaster in the making."
Ahmednur Abdi, NRC's Country Director told Deutsche Welle that the area had not received rainfall for two consecutive seasons. "In all my life, I have never experienced a worse drought," a 90 year-old woman in Sitti, a zone in the Somali region of Ethiopia, told the NRC team. Other residents recalled memories of the 1984 drought that left two million people dead.

The Ethiopian government has been criticized for embarking on huge infrastructure projects while ignoring the poor
"It is crucial that the drought-affected communities in Ethiopia are provided with timely assistance," said Geir Olav Lisle, NRC's Deputy Secretary General. “We cannot risk that the drought in Ethiopia is overshadowed by the Syria crisis and other ongoing emergencies," he added. "The outlook for 2016 is very grim," according to the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "Food overall will become harder to access if we continue to see prices rise, food stocks deplete and livestock become weaker, less productive, and perish." it said.
Ethiopians now await the arrival of the rainy season in March – if it arrives at all."

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Monday, January 25, 2016

El Niño leaves hunger in its wake in Ethiopia - SciDev.Net

E, HERE, DeLorme, MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS user community | Famine Early Warning Systems Network
Esri, HERE, DeLorme, MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS user community | Famine Early Warning Systems Network
IPC V2.0 Phase of Acute Food Insecurity
An estimated 10.2 million people are now food insecure in Ethiopia, as a result of an exceptional drought exacerbated by the El Niño event that began last year. The situation not only in the country but also across the whole of East Africa is predicted to worsen in coming months.
After peaking in late December, the warming El Niño phenomenon is slowly fading, with Pacific Ocean surface temperatures starting to decrease. But as public attention declines, a food crisis brought about by last year’s erratic weather is fast becoming an emergency.

Two walk past maize donated by the UN’s World Food Programme
Image credit: WFP/Melese Awoke
East Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, has experienced reduced rainfall in 2015. This has been disastrous for farmers and herders. Aid agencies have described this crisis as the most severe in 30 years — and many warn that the worst is yet to come.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network: “Poor households in southern Afar and northern Somali regions are already experiencing acute food insecurity, and the breadth and severity of impacts in central and eastern Ethiopia are expected to expand through much of 2016.”
The consequences of a lack of rain between June and September will be seen between now and March, during the main cropping season in northern East Africa. Traditionally, January marks the start of the harvesting period, when markets are usually replenished, but this year’s yields are predicted to be dire, and fodder scarce.

Failed sorghum crops in West Hararghe in eastern Ethiopia. Because of a particularly strong El Niño that began last year, the main harvest in affected areas is predicted to be well below average
Image credit: WFP/Melese Awoke
“Weather forecasts suggest that rain patterns may get back to normal this year, but, until then, the food crisis will remain extremely severe,” says Shukri Ahmed, a senior economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The agency recently issued an El Niño emergency response plan that targets pastoralists and herders, those who, it says, have suffered most. “The FAO is appealing for US$15 million, the bulk of which will be spent to support pastoralists whose livestock is debilitated,” Ahmed says. “We will provide cash as an incentive to slaughter the weakest animals and [to provide] food to the core breeding cattle, so pastoralists will be able to rebuild their herds.”
The FAO also plans to distribute seeds and encourage drought-resistant seed production at a community level.

Lule Dubet came with her ten children to Gurgur, 30 kilometres from their home in Ethiopia’s Somali region, in search of food. She lost 25 of her cattle because of the drought, and the remaining two are dying
Image credit: WFP/Melese Awoke
 According to Simon Langan, a researcher at non-profit research organisation the International Water Management Institute in Ethiopia, the crisis is systemic. “Maybe we should never have called [the phenomemon] climate change,” he says. “The words climate change suggest that something happens in an orderly fashion.” In a world shaped by progressive and even changes, adapting is fairly easy. “But, in fact, with events such as El Niño, we experience these huge variations, either too much rain, or indeed unpredictable rain,” he says. “It’s this uncertainty that unsettles people.”

Langan believes more research is needed to understand the interaction between food crisis and water systems, and that more should be spent on preventing rather than simply responding to crises.
“When thinking of drought-stricken areas, the mental picture that a lot of people have is of dry landscapes and dead cattle, but this is not necessarily the reality,” he says. “In many areas, water is present, but people lack the capacity to collect and store it.”
One way to improve this capacity would be by expanding small-scale irrigation. Farmers could use pumps to extract water from the ground during the dry season, when extra irrigation is needed.
Another idea, says Langan, would be to grow fodder in areas that remain fertile even when drought strikes. Supplies could then be trucked to struggling herders.

This water borehole has been installed as part of a new government pilot project that aims to help farmers practise irrigated agriculture in the village of Gabi in Ethiopia’s Somali region. Around 20 of this type of borehole are being used to water parched land in the region
Image credit: WFP/Melese Awoke
 Oxfam humanitarian manager Jane Cocking agrees that building resilience in the face of a food shortage is crucial in many ways, because crises are complex. “In this crisis, the impact of climate extremes is also tied to the impacts of conflict and development in general, so it’s very difficult to disaggregate the impacts of El Niño from other humanitarian impacts,” she says. In South Sudan, for example, conflict keeps disrupting trade, livelihoods and humanitarian assets, such as food stores.
Currently, Oxfam’s priority is to keep farmers on their feet by protecting their assets — whether livestock or crops — so that when the crisis is over they don’t have to rebuild everything from scratch. Cocking believes that this food crisis, despite being as severe as the one 30 years ago, is causing less damage because it’s better managed. “Humanitarian agencies and government have learnt from past experience and they are getting better at preparing for such events,” she says.

But East Africa still lacks wells and other forms of water infrastructure, and the impacts of climate-related extreme events and conflict highlight the need for greater understanding and research into systemic crises. 

Women and children wait for World Food Programme donations at a food distribution centre in Gurgur near Somali region, Ethiopia
Image credit: WFP/Melese Awoke
- See more at:

Ethiopia drought driving worst food crisis in 30 years, Save the Children says - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A farmer in his barren field in Sewena, Bale Zone, EthiopiaPHOTO: The drought is hitting farmers like this man and causing food shortages across Ethiopia.(Supplied: Kyle Degraw/Save the Children)Ethiopia drought driving worst food crisis in 30 years, Save the Children says - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "Ethiopia drought driving worst food crisis in 30 years, Save the Children says
Posted Sat at 1:31am

PHOTO: The drought is hitting farmers like this man and causing food shortages across Ethiopia. (Supplied: Kyle Degraw/Save the Children)
RELATED STORY: 10 million facing food shortages as drought grips EthiopiaRELATED STORY: El Nino floods could displace 100,000 in Ethiopia: UN
MAP: Ethiopia
The Save the Children charity says it has raised less than a third of what it needs to help Ethiopia cope with a drought which has left 10.2 million people critically short of food.

Experts say the drought is worse than the one seen in 1984, when years of conflict followed by a lack of rain led to a famine that killed up to one million people.

Save the Children President Carolyn Miles said she recently visited the country to see the extent of the problem.

"The scale of the need is really huge and has outstripped the Ethiopian Government's ability to do this on their own," Ms Miles said.

The drought has mainly been blamed on El Nino, a weather pattern causing rainfall to decline in some areas of the world and floods elsewhere.

Save the Children has been seeking $US100 million ($142 million) for the next 12 to 18 months, but so far has only $US30 million.

"One of the hardest things right now is getting the awareness up," Ms Miles said.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is also facing a funding shortfall.

It needs $US480 million ($685 million) to help meet the needs of about 75 per cent of the 10.2 million people at risk in coming months, but has raised just under $US60 million ($86 million), a WFP official said.

Save the Children has ranked Ethiopia a category one emergency, the same as the Syrian crisis.

Ms Miles said the Syrian conflict, rumbling on for five years, had "really stretched the humanitarian system", making it harder to find international support for Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was showing more openness than in the past in publicising the crisis, which could help.

"But because there is so much stress and strain on the humanitarian system, I am not sure how much of a difference that will make," Ms Miles said.

Ms Miles said Ethiopia was using its food reserves cautiously to make them last and that some families received rations for only some of their members.

Almost 5.8 million of those facing critical food shortages were children, with 400,000 severely malnourished or close to it, making them highly susceptible to pneumonia or malaria, Ms Miles said.

"We really want people to act now when we can actually save those children's lives," she said."

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia - Vatican Radio

Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia - Vatican Radio: "Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia

File picture of a woman and her children trekking to find water in Ethiopia where Caritas has warned of a possible famine later this year. - AFP

20/01/2016 17:22SHARE:
(Vatican Radio)  The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, says the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall. The United Nations has appealed for 50 million dollars in emergency funds to help Ethiopia cope with its worst drought in decades. Crop production has fallen up to 90 percent in some regions and failed completely in the east of the nation mainly as a result of the El Nino weather pattern.  Roy was speaking to Susy Hodges about the crisis.
Listen to the interview with the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy:   
According to the U.N. the current drought threatens food supplies for 10.2 million people in Ethiopia. More than a million people died in the east African nation during a major famine there in the 1980’s and millions more were made destitute.  
'We must act now'
Roy said he agrees with those who warn that Ethiopia could slide into a famine situation later on this year unless urgent action is taken by the international community to tackle these food shortages. “We must act now to prevent further tragedies,” he stressed.   
Roy explained that Ethiopia and other nations in the Horn of Africa have been plagued by frequent droughts over the past decades which mean that the population in this part of the world is often living on the verge of a near famine. However, he said that this year’s drought is the worst in 40 years and the Ethiopian government is “very concerned” about the food situation inside the country. Roy told us that the worldwide Caritas network is mobilizing to help provide aid to the population in the areas of Ethiopia worst affected by the drought and resulting food shortages. "

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Ethiopia drought 'as bad for children as Syria's war' | World News 2016-01-17

Ethiopian ChildrenThe UN says the worst drought in 30 years in Ethiopia means 400,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and more than 10 million people need food aid.

It has appealed for a $50m cash injection to help the country deal with its worst drought in decades.

Save the Children, the international non-governmental organisation, says the drought in Ethiopia represents as big a potential threat to children's lives as the war in Syria.

"We only have two emergencies in the world that we have categorised as category one. Syria is one and Ethiopia is the second. And so we've said we need to raise $100m for this response," said Carolyn Miles, chief executive of Save the Children, US.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Afar region in eastern Ethiopia, says the government and international donors have already put in hundreds of millions of dollars to try and help, but aid agencies say it just is not enough.

Mohammed Dubahala, a father of ten, used to have 53 cows; he has only five now.

He received two government food handouts over recent months but says it is not enough because of the scale of the drought.

"I am afraid for the people now and I am afraid for the children because there is no rain, and if there is no rain, people die. There is no food, there is no milk," Dubahala said.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

UN food agency calls for $50 mln to help drought-ravaged Ethiopia | Top News | Reuters

Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:31pm GMT

An unidentified government official sits on sacks of wheat donated by the U.S. at a food distribution point near Jijiga, eastern Ethiopia  in a file photo.  REUTERS/Barry Malone
1 of 1Full Size

ROME (Reuters) - Ethiopia faces its worst drought in decades, leading the United Nations food agency to call on Friday for an emergency cash injection of $50 million to help the country overcome the crisis.
Crop production has fallen up to 90 percent in some regions and failed completely in the country's east, a consequence of an El Nino weather pattern that has caused significant declines in rain in some parts of the world and floods in others.
The Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said the drought had decimated Ethiopian livestock and threatened food supplies for 10.2 million people. Access to pasture and water will worsen until the rainy season begins in March, FAO said.
"The outlook for 2016 is very grim," said FAO representative for Ethiopia Amadou Allahoury. "Food overall will become harder to access if we continue to see prices rise, food stocks deplete and livestock become weaker, less productive, and perish."
Brought to its knees by famine in 1984, Ethiopia's economy is now one of the fastest-growing in the world, leaving it better able to deal with such crises. Agriculture also plays a smaller role in the economy, but the FAO says it still provides half of gross domestic product and 80 percent of employment.
The agency's plan includes distributing seeds and animal feed, vaccinating animals, delivering 100,000 sheep and goats to vulnerable households and giving farmers cash for bringing weakened and unproductive livestock to slaughter.
Communities will be offered support with savings-and-loans schemes, irrigation projects, and education.
El Nino, marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causes both drought and flooding in Ethiopia. FAO said the latter was expected to be as destructive to agriculture as the lack of rain.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie, editing by Larry King)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Famine the Media Isn’t Talking Much About Yet –

web-africa-baby-infant-eye-famine-bowl-un-photo-stuart-price-cc: "A Famine the Media Isn’t Talking Much About Yet
Catholic agencies are responding to a growing hunger crisis in East Africa that is threatening the lives of millions

UN Photo/Stuart Price.
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It’s a crisis yet to make major headlines, but Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years is threatening the lives of millions of people and growing worse by the day.

The UN says 8.2 million people are in urgent need of food aid there, and almost a million have left their homes and villages in search of food. Government estimates are higher than that, and deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Fr. Haile Gabriel Meleku, fears the number could be much higher than government estimates. The Scottish Catholic Observer reports just in the last two months there has been a two million increase in the number of people suffering as a result of the drought.

Fr. Meleku says, “The catastrophe can be felt everywhere,” and conflict may develop as desperate people “struggle for dwindling resources.” Meleku described an increasing mass movement of people trying to find food and water, children missing school and the death of livestock. The famine is preventing  parishioners from getting to church, which for some can be a journey of up to four hours, and catechists who make a living as farmers are suffering.

Al Jazeera America spoke to a nurse who works at a center run by the Catholic Daughters of Saint Anne in northern Ethiopia. She says there is little they can do to help mothers who seek help because they cannot produce enough milk to feed their babies.

So far, the Ethiopian government, has managed to prevent the severity of a famine the likes of 1984, when more than a million Ethiopians died. But despite employing a food security network program developed since then, as well as using national food reserves and early warning systems, Ethiopia needs outside help.

“Information got to the world’s media late,” says Sebhatu Seyoum, social and development coordinator for the Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat (ADCS).

International Catholic charity’s Aid to the Church in Need (ACNUSA) Ethiopian bishops released a statement just before Christmas blaming “climate change and environmental degradation” for the current crisis.

The prelates cited Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato SiI, as laying out the scenario being played out in Ethiopia: “Many of the poor live in areas … affected by warming and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture. … They have no other financial activities or resoures that can enable them to adapt to climate change or face natural disasters.”

ACNUSA also reports that it just dispatched $500,000 in emergency support to Ethiopia to help relieve hunger in famine-stricken dioceses, many of which are located inTigray in the northern region of the country.

“We are a pastoral aid agency, but we are prepared to respond to all of the needs of the Christian community and other vulnerable citizens — just as we are doing in conflict-plagued Iraq and Syria,” said ACNUSA Executive Director Sarkis Boghjalian, adding: “Especially in this Year of Mercy, the faithful in the West must stand with the poor all around the world.”

To support agencies working to relieve hunger in Ethiopia, please visit

Aid to the Church in Need

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)"

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