Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller - Remarks at Member States Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia, New York, 23 April 2019

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 23 Apr 2019

New York, 23 April 2019

​As delivered [OPENING REMARKS]

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to chair this Member States briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

I am joined on the panel today by His Excellency Ambassador Taye Atskeselassie Amde, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations, and Mr. Aeneas Chuma, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Ethiopia.

They will share their reflections on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and their perspectives on the way forward.

Before I hand over the floor to the panel, allow me to make a few observations.

Ethiopia is grappling with an increasing number of people displaced due to conflict, who now make up the vast majority of the 3.2 million people who are currently internally displaced in the country. Weather-related disasters, including drought and floods, also continue to affect communities. Together, this means that 8.9 million people need humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia this year.

On 7 March, the Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan was jointly launched by Commissioner Mitiku Kassa, of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, and Mr. Chuma. The Humanitarian Response Plan seeks US$1.3 billion to reach 8.3 million people with assistance in 2019. But so far, the plan has received only $34 million, representing less than three percent of the funding required for the whole year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As April ends, the alarm bells are already ringing.

While $1.3 billion is required for the year, humanitarian organizations urgently need $333 million to cover the next three months. Without this funding, we will not have enough resources to continue to provide food, nutrition and health assistance to those most in need of this aid. These pipeline breaks are set to coincide with the height of the lean season and will risk increased hardship and suffering.

Further, meteorologists have warned that poor rains in April could lead to an unusual increase in hunger that is likely to peak from June to October. As always in these situations, the most vulnerable are internally displaced persons. Women and children will be especially hard hit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After multiple years of shocks, many affected communities have no coping mechanisms left.

While the level of need in 2019 remains comparable to the levels seen in 2018, the humanitarian context has shifted from the historical climate induced needs to those arising from inter-communal conflict. In other words, despite the abundant rainfall in 2018, humanitarian needs remain high in Ethiopia because there are growing pockets of inter-communal conflict that have spurred massive population displacements. In addition, Ethiopia is generously sheltering 680,000 refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, which is straining host communities and the basic services they rely on.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The time for us to act is now and the humanitarian community stands ready to respond. However, we need immediate funding to prevent humanitarian needs from spiralling out of control.

We also need strengthened engagement of development actors, in order to build resilience and reduce needs and vulnerabilities.


We have heard from our speakers here today about the grave humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and how the humanitarian community is responding.

Alongside the Government, the United Nations and humanitarian partners are making a real difference to people’s lives.

We heard about some of the work being done by the Government of Ethiopia to address people’s needs, including through its national strategy to support the over three million internally displaced people in the country.

I wish to congratulate the Government and the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for pushing for longer term, multi-year approaches to recovery and development. This will undoubtedly have a significant impact on reducing vulnerabilities in the future.

I also want to thank all donors for your sustained support to the Government and people of Ethiopia.

And I reiterate my call for Member States and donors to continue to contribute to Ethiopia’s 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan and to the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund, both of which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The situation in Ethiopia is urgent, but solutions are in sight. The humanitarian community is ready to respond, but needs access and the support of the international community to do so.

However, humanitarian action alone will not be sufficient. Investments in development initiatives aimed at building resilience in affected communities is essential to ultimately reducing needs and vulnerabilities.

Together, we can help ensure sustainable and meaningful change for the people of Ethiopia.

Thank you for your interest and continued support.

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