Agence France Presse
ADDIS ABABA: The number of hungry Ethiopians needing food aid has risen sharply due to poor rains and the El Nino weather phenomenon with around 7.5 million people now in need, aid officials said Friday. That number has nearly doubled since August, when the United Nations said 4.5 million were in need – with the U.N. now warning that without action some “15 million people will require food assistance” next year, more than inside war-torn Syria.
“Without a robust response supported by the international community, there is a high probability of a significant food insecurity and nutrition disaster,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a report.
UNICEF warns over 300,000 children are severely malnourished.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which makes detailed technical assessments of hunger, predicted a harvest “well below average” in its latest report.
“Unusual livestock deaths continue to be reported,” FEWS NET said. “With smaller herds, few sellable livestock and almost no income other than charcoal and firewood sales, households are unable to afford adequate quantities of food.”
El Nino comes with a warming in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and can cause unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.
Hardest-hit areas are Ethiopia’s eastern Afar and southern Somali regions, while water supplies are also unusually low in central and eastern Oromo region.
Today, Ethiopia’s government would rather its reputation was its near-double-digit economic growth and huge infrastructure investment – making the country one of Africa’s top-performing economies and a magnet for foreign investment.
Still, nearly 20 million Ethiopians live below the $1.25 poverty line set by the World Bank, with the poorest some of the most vulnerable to weather challenges. Ethiopia’s government has mobilized $33 million in emergency aid, but the U.N. says it needs $237 million.
Information Minister Redwan Hussein told reporters at a recent news conference that Ethiopia is doing what it can.