Emergency food will run out in drought-hit Ethiopia by next month, warn aid agencies

June 22, 2017 10:30 pm

This picture taken on June 9, 2017, in Wender shows a child carrying a bag in a camp for displaced people. (Photo by AFP)

International aid agencies have warned that will run out of emergency food aid by next month for nearly eight million people hit by severe drought.
The agencies said on Thursday that the drought had already forced 7.8 million people across Ethiopia to rely on emergency food handouts to stay alive.
“We’re looking at the food pipeline actually breaking, so the food is running out in about a month’s time,” John Graham, country director for Save the Children, said, adding, “After that, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Somali people of Ethiopia’s southeast say the drought has left no person untouched and spared no corner of their arid region.
The ongoing drought has killed livestock, dried up wells and forced thousands into camps. Around 465,000 people have migrated to an estimated 250 camps in the region.
In the drought-ravaged eastern town of Warder, hundreds of displaced families crowding a ramshackle camp said that handouts of rice and sugar were becoming less frequent.
“Skipping meals is common,” AFP quoted Halimo Halim, a grandmother living with her children in a shelter made of sticks and pieces of plastic, as saying.
“Skipping is the order of the day,” she added.
In Warder, those uprooted by drought are wondering how long they can survive on unreliable food handouts.
“Some support was there, but it cannot substitute for our dependability on our livelihood,” said Sanara Ahmed, who was affected by drought. 
The settlements are often located near water sources, but that presents its own problems. In Warder, aid workers are present around the clock at nearby wells to make sure people drawing water chlorinate it before they drink it, lest they contract “acute watery diarrhea,” which has broken out in the region.

This photo taken on June 9, 2017 shows people displaced by Ethiopia’s drought walking at a refugee camp in Warder. (Photo by AFP)

Droughts are common in Ethiopia as a famine in 1984-85 killed hundreds of thousands.
The Addis Ababa government and the international community have mounted impressive efforts to curb starvation in the past years. The government spent an impressive $766 million fighting one of its worst droughts in decades in 2015-16.
This year, however, economic growth has slowed, due in part to a series of violent protests spurred by long-simmering grievances against Ethiopia’s one-party state.
Donors have also been distracted by other regional crises.
Ethiopia’s western neighbor, South Sudan, has suffered four months of famine and extreme hunger. To the southeast, Somalia is suffering from a severe drought, with warnings it could tip into famine. 
Mitiku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission, has confirmed that donors aren’t responding to the country’s emergency as they have in the past.
“They are stressed with the needs, especially from those countries which (have) declared famine,” Mitiku said, adding, “That is why it is underfunded.”
Mitiku noted that if the international community did not send more money, the government would be “forced” to tap its development budget for drought relief in July.
But the UN says that may be too late with a lead time of about four months required to procure emergency food.
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