#EthiopiaDrought: PM Abiy says drought-induced hunger costing lives of children, elderly; asks Ethiopians to help affected communities

Hana, a 49-year-old grandmother in Somali region, looks over at the cattle who haven’t survived the 2021/2022 drought. She lost 17 of her cows. Photo: WFP/Michael Tewelde

Addis AbebaIn a statement he released late this evening, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the hunger induced by the current drought is “making us lose the lives of children and the elderly,” and cautioned that “if we wait until the rainy season arrived, we will lose many of our loved ones.”

PM Abiy criticized that “drought comes naturally, but hunger is the result of our laziness.” “Drought is a natural occurrence, but hunger is man-made; it is created by our laziness and poor agriculture policies,” he said.

“The issue of food security, the journey of sustainably parting company with hunger and disease isn’t something to be left for a few or an temporary agenda”, the PM said, “it is a common issue that we must overcome together as a nation.” However, this can can only change if ”we uncover it and study it, not if we hide it,” he said, adding: “the choice we have is one: to work together to bring a lasting solution.”

This is the first public statement the Prime Minister released in relation to the drought affecting in particular Oromia and Somali regional states as well as parts of SNNPR.

“AS we strive to find a lasting solution to the famine, we must do what we can for those in need. I take this opportunity to make my call.” The PM said that there was no enemy as drought and famine that have tested Ethiopia in its history, “as has been the case every ten years. “Foreign invaders who came to colonize us did not really test us as do famine and pestilence,” PM Abiy said, adding that food insecurity has caused child stunting, driven the youth to migration, the suffering of the elderly, the perishing of livestock.

The Prime Minister asked Ethiopian banks to serve farmers and pastoralists who have saved their money with them in the last two decades. “Just as you have made a difference by financing the construction sector, so should you devise ways to finance the agriculture sector.”

He promised that the government would provide variety of incentives for investors in the areas of supply of seeds, agricultural inputs and equipment. Investors and farmers who engage in large scale irrigation and improved farming activities will be encouraged in many ways, he said.

Worst drought in decades

Ethiopia is experiencing a prolonged drought after three consecutive failed rainy seasons since late 2020 affecting 6.8 million people living in Oromia, SNNP, Southwest and Somali. Several areas in eastern and southeastern Ethiopia, including in the regions of Somali (10 zones), Oromia (8 zones), Southwest (1 zone) and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples – SNNP (7 zones) are experiencing sever drought. “People living in these same areas have barely managed to recuperate from the severe drought in 2017 to witness again such harsh conditions, the first signs of which started appearing towards the end of 2020. The conditions continued to worsen with the successive failed seasons in 2021. The next season in March/April 2022 might also be well below normal, making it the fourth consecutive failed rainy season thus leading more people into an alarming situation,” the UN said.

A recent FAO assessment estimates that at least US$53 million is required only for the agriculture sector to safeguard 360,000 core breeding animals belonging to 180,000 households, treat 4.5 million heads of livestock and vaccinate 6 million cattle and 10.5 million small ruminants belonging to 435,000 households in the affected areas. More than 260,000 livestock have already perished across Somali, southern Oromia and SNNP regions in January alone, and additional 2 million livestock are at risk across affected areas. AS

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