January 17, 2023

Ethiopia: Millions in need of urgent food assistance

Anima*, 40, and her four-year-old son, Mohamed*, standing in front of their family's tent in a camp where they were displaced due to the drought © Save the Children

Idi Amara in Ethiopia

Save the Children in Ethiopia says consecutive droughts caused by five failed rainy seasons have left 12 million Ethiopians facing starvation as conflict and forced displacement exacerbated the country’s hunger crisis.

More than half of the estimated 22.6 million people facing severe food shortages are reeling from climate shocks coupled with conflict, inflation, and forced labor.

Ethiopia faces one of the worst food crises in the world, with 3.9 million children severely malnourished, about half of all undernourished in the entire Horn of Africa.

The deaths of more than 4 million cattle have depleted the main source of nutrition for children in Ethiopia, milk.

Amina, a 40 year old, is a herder who lives in a camp for displaced people in the Somali region.

She arrived at the camp a year ago with her eight children after a drought killed her herd. Before the drought, she was a proud herder of 100 goats, 20 camels, and a donkey until a drought devastated 90% of her herd, forcing her to move to a camp.

She said: “The animals started to die one after the other and when the donkey died, I knew it was time to leave the village. Without the donkey, we could no longer fetch water to drink.”

Amina* is one of 534,000 people forced from their homes due to drought, living in displacement camps and dependent on food aid from the government and humanitarian organizations to feed their families. She says that without milk from her herd, her nutritional options are limited.

“I cook for them Injera (Ethiopia’s a sour fermented pancake-like flatbread), sometimes boil the wheat for lunch and in the evening make them some porridge from wheat flour. This is all we eat. I know that the dry season is coming and I am worried… my children’s physical appearance has changed — they look healthy but they are becoming thin,” Amina* said.

Severe drought in Ethiopia is likely to lead to severe and widespread food shortages until at least mid-2023, despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, with millions unable to generate an income and food source. This could lead to an increase in the number of people facing Crisis or Emergency (IPC 3 or 4) food insecurity in most parts of Ethiopia, while also causing food insecurity, high levels of malnutrition and even death.

Save the Children’s Country Director for Ethiopia, Xavier Joubert, said: “There is no end in sight for the hunger crisis and hope is slowly fizzling out as families enter the January to March dry season with little hope for rainfall. Estimates show that the March to May 2023 rainfall will also be below average, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of emergency food aid and driving many into catastrophic levels of hunger.

While our teams are on the ground and doing whatever they can for children, there’s no doubt that the need has grown to an enormous scale. Additional funds, particularly to support longer term resilience programming, are desperately needed in order to expand operations and reach the most vulnerable children and their families, and help them cope with multiple and frequent humanitarian shocks in the future.”