After Somalia and Kenya, Ethiopia is now on the brink of famine. The latest climatic shock threatens millions of people, who depend on livestock and agriculture for their survival.
In Ethiopia's vast Harargue region in the east of the country, the third consecutive rainy season is bringing more drought. A threatening context for the entire sub-region, where agricultural regions in Somalia and Kenya are already suffering from prolonged aridity.
During the last drought in Ethiopia five years ago, the government distributed food and fodder for livestock. But today, while the north of the country is engulfing the rare emergency reserves due to the Tigray war, the inhabitants of Harargue are in turn threatened with famine.
More than 6 million people in Ethiopia will need emergency humanitarian assistance before mid-March, UNICEF announced on Tuesday. In neighboring Somalia, according to the NGO MillSomali Consortium (MSC), 7 million people are watching an imminent famine. In two separate press releases, the NGOs plead with international donors to help prevent this humanitarian crisis.
"This could be the region's worst drought in 40 years," the MSC said. “We are only a month away from the long dry season, and I have already lost 25 head of cattle,” an Ethiopian herder told UNICEF. “There is no pasture, not enough food for our own families,” he laments.
Severe drought in #Ethiopia's lowland regions of Afar, Oromia, SNNPR and Somali regions is drying up water wells, killing livestock and crops and pushing millions of children and their families to the brink. pic.twitter.com/Zrob9GOEh2
— UNICEF Ethiopia (@UNICEFEthiopia) -
NGOs call for urgent international intervention
UNICEF estimates that more than 150 children in eastern Ethiopia have dropped out of school since November to help their families fetch water and other chores. “We have animals dying at an impressive rate, which is increasing every month, and the death of animals means a lack of food for children, for families,” said Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia.
It would be necessary, according to the UN official, to rehabilitate the wells and to convey the water towards the systems of health and nutrition, in emergency. Without forgetting the humanitarian aid, necessary to prevent deaths from starvation in the arid region.
For Rotigliano, this problem is completely dissociated from the conflict in Tigray, in northern Ethiopia. "Our response [l'UNICEF, ndlr] continued in Ethiopia, in the drought-stricken regions in the south-east," he explained on Tuesday.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), durable solutions are planned. Nevertheless, international action aims to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. FAO recalls that the intervention of NGOs saved more than a million people in 2017.
“It is time to invest more in addressing the drivers of hunger and building people's ability to continue producing even when hit by shocks like drought, so that inevitable shocks do not turn inevitably lead to humanitarian crises,” said the director of the FAO Office of Emergencies, Rein Paulsen, on Monday.