News: UN says 11 million people food insecure as drought situation in Ethiopia continues to worsen, requires urgent response

Internally displaced pastoralist Abdullahi Gedi, 55, stands next to the remains of his dead animals in Babacada El-Bahay IDP site in Jijiga. Photo UNHCR

Addis Abeba – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) said 11 million people are currently food insecure as the recurring drought situation in Ethiopia has been exacerbating. The drought covers an area inhabited by 24 million people, in high need of an urgent response from the international community.

The adverse drought is deteriorating sharply, mainly affecting the southern and eastern parts of the country following the five consecutive failed rainy seasons and the looming “lean season” (period between harvests), stated an update released yesterday. Pastoralists who had barely had time to recuperate from the most recent severe drought of 2016–2017 and the ensuing locust infestation have been seriously affected causing the deaths of 6.85 million sheep since late 2021.

According to the report, pastures and water availability are depleted in the southern and eastern zones of the country further endangering the already depleted livelihoods; “Dire and complex conditions are expected to further drive humanitarian needs of the drought-affected population well into 2023.”

It is also recalled that humanitarian organizations aimed to assist more than 13 million Ethiopians in drought-affected areas with life-saving assistance including food, nutrition, health, and protection services in 2023.

Despite the pledges, an estimated $ 928 million was secured out of the 1.66 billion USD required for the drought response as of the end of December 2022 last year. Urgent additional funding is needed currently to scale up the response by humanitarian partners to support most, it said, “vulnerable populations across the highly drought-affected areas” in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

OCHA emphasized that five out of nine clusters assisted only 50 or fewer percent of the people targeted due to insufficient resources and access challenges in some areas in 2022.

The response to the drought-affected people in Somali, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions was inadequate in 2022, the report stated. Partners assisted an estimated 11 million people or 66% of the 17 million targeted population with at least one type of life-saving support during the time.

“Due to challenges facing humanitarian organizations, including security, limited capacity, and insufficient financial resources, 32% of the targeted 5.4 million drought-affected people in Somali had not received humanitarian assistance by December,” it displayed.

It is also mentioned that, in the same year, 34% in Oromia and 38% of the targeted 2.1 million in South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) did not receive humanitarian assistance according to the report.

Previously, the Oromia Physicians’ Association (OPA), a non-governmental professional association, reported that over 800,000 people need food assistance while over 3.3 million livestock has perished. The prolonged drought in Borana zone of Oromia regional state in Southwestern Ethiopia has apparently brought the most drastic impact on the health of the people. AS

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