The lack of infrastructure, access to markets and alternative employment opportunities apart from agricultural production and livestock herding, leave the Ethiopians with nothing to fall back on when the rains fail. Furthermore, the failure of International trade institutions to regulate the world's coffee market has led to a dramatic fall in coffee prices. In the past three years Ethiopia has lost almost US$167 million in export revenues from coffee, an export on which over 70,000 households depend.
Debt repayments add to the burden. Although Ethiopia is one of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries eligible for debt relief it is still expected to pay over half the level of debt service that it currently pays - more than twice the health budget.
With the next successful harvest not expected until the summer the international community must act fast to prevent this drought leading to famine. Christian Aid is lobbying major donors to pledge urgently.
As well as responding to the crisis through partners on the ground it is also carrying out research into how chronic food insecurity in Ethiopia can be addressed so that regular appeals for aid in periods of drought become things of the past.
There are three million HIV-positive people in Ethiopia. Christian Aid is supporting two new partners to reduce the spread of HIV and care for people living with AIDS.
Action for Development, is currently responding to the drought by providing sweet potato cuttings to 21,000 vulnerable families.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is also providing emergency support to 15,000 people living in rough camps in Oromiya Region who have fled the drought in West Hararghe.