Ethiopia is experiencing one of the most severe La Niña-induced droughts in the last decades following three consecutive failed rainy seasons since late 2020. The prolonged drought is compromising fragile livelihoods heavily reliant on livestock and deepening food insecurity and malnutrition. The coping capacities of these already fragile communities that had not fully recovered from earlier droughts, and some affected by localized inter-communal violence, is being further eroded. More than 8 million people are currently affected across southern and south-eastern parts of the country, including Somali (more than 3.5 million people), Oromia (more than 3.4 million), SNNP (more than 1.1 million), and South West1 (more than 200,000 people) regions.
The drought is expanding to more areas affecting an increasing number of woredas as the weather conditions evolve and further impact the drought scale and intensity. The situation is not expected to improve rapidly due to the high probability of a fourth consecutive failed rains forecasted for this year. “Updated forecasts for April from the regional IGAD Climate Production and Applications Centre (ICPAC) point toward dry conditions in parts of Ethiopia, while April to June seasonal forecasts from ICPAC and global meteorological agencies (NOAA, ECMWF, IRI, UK MET, WMO) all show an increased probability of below-average rains in areas already affected by recurring drought and other food insecurity drivers (e.g., conflict, insecurity, displacements, and high cereal prices)2.” Should this happen, it will further lead to massive socio-economic consequences for these communities. Even with good rains however, the affected population’s recovery will take time, until which time they will require continuous support.
The level of livestock deaths is staggering. At least 1.5 million livestock have so far died for lack of pasture and water. Remaining livestock are very weak and emaciated with no or little milk production (the main source of nutrition for children). According to FAO, an additional 10 million livestock are at risk across affected areas. Water is at critical levels, also leading to increased risks of water-borne diseases. At least 2.9 million people require water tracking service in Somali and Oromia alone. The education of 514,018 children has also been impacted. These children have lost 4 to 5 months of their academic year, which almost accounts for half a term’s learning.
Meanwhile, at least 286,000 people who have the means to travel have migrated in search of water, pasture or assistance, leaving behind their elderly and the sick who are becoming even more vulnerable.
Worrying trend was reported about wild monkeys attacking children and livestock (shoat) in severely drought-hit Adadle district of Shebelle Zone, Somali Region. If confirmed, this represents another indicator of the gravity of the prolonged drought impact, where lack of pasture and vegetation is pushing wild animals to exhibit such unusual behavior for survival.
Humanitarian partners have prioritized drought response, re-programmed activities and scaled up assistance to meet the increased needs in support of the Government of Ethiopia. But given limited resources, the needs surpass ongoing responses. In Somali Region for example, partners are supporting 2.4 million people with a reduced food ration due to resource shortage; and more than 859,000 people in the region (of 2.6 million in need) remain unassisted with water trucking. An additional 200 water trucks are required to fill the gap. Similarly in Oromia Region, only 769,946 (of 2.5 million people in need) are being supported with water trucking service. An additional 124 water trucks are needed to close the gap. Although the Cholera outbreak in Oromia is currently under control, high risks are prevalent in four woredas of Bale Zone.
Humanitarian partners are calling for urgent additional funds to scale up mitigation and response efforts across all drought-affected regions in eastern and southeastern Ethiopia. At least half a billion US dollars are expected to be required to support the emergency response until June 2022.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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