UN Humanitarian Chief calls for urgent funding for Ethiopia’s drought to avert loss of lives and livelihood

(Addis Ababa, 31 January 2017): Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (USG/ERC), Mr. Stephen O’Brien has concluded a three-day visit to Ethiopia to see first-hand the impact of failed rains in the southern and eastern parts of the county and to attend the AU Summit. “I have just returned from Warder zone in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, where I saw the immense impact this drought is having on people’s lives, livestock and livelihoods. I also witnessed the commendable work of the Ethiopian Government and its UN and NGO partners to ensure that basic lifesaving services such as water-trucking, animal health and emergency nutrition support are provided to all those in need,” said Mr. O’Brien.

Below average rains in southern and eastern parts of the country caused by the negative Indian Ocean Dipole have led to a new “lowland” drought. Among the most affected areas are parts of Somali and Afar regions and a number of lowland areas of Oromia and SNNP regions. The new drought has led to severe shortages of water and pasture in the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. Deteriorating livestock body condition and severe loss of livestock, notably cattle and sheep) with dead carcasses strewn across two parched land, and camels and goats now skeletal herded around the few wells. High levels of acute and moderate malnutrition in 2.7 million children are of immediate and desperate concern. “We need to act now before it is too late. This is why I am calling on international partners to join the Ethiopian Government in funding the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document, which seeks US$948 million to assist 5.6 million people, whose lives, livelihoods and well-being depend on our support,” said Mr. O’Brien.

Speaking at a High-Level event on the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia on Sunday 29 January the Humanitarian Chief commended the Government and Humanitarian partners on the 2016 response to the El Nino drought that left 10.2 million people in need of food assistance. This new drought comes (affecting mainly the Ethiopian “highlands” areas) end to end with this 2015/2016 drought, so compounding the challenges for the international community to get behind the Ethiopian Government to meet the rapidly escalating needs. “On recently reviewing lessons from the drought response the humanitarian community has concluded that the Government and partners helped save countless people’s lives and averted a major humanitarian catastrophe in Ethiopia, all while also supporting one of the largest refugee populations in the world,” said Mr. O’Brien. “As effective as the humanitarian response to the El Niño drought has been, Ethiopian farmers and herders in affected areas are still living on the brink, unable to build back their livestock herds, or reinvigorate their small farms, and struggling to sustain themselves and their families.” “We have no time to lose. Livestock are already dying; pastoralists and farmers are already fleeing their homes in search of water and pasture; children – more often girls – are dropping out of school to support with household chores, and hunger and malnutrition levels are already on the rise and will only worsen if assistance does not arrive on time,, particularly among women who are more likely to suffer from health problems and malnutrition during droughts,” he said.

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