• Ethiopia has been experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. The main rainy season (kiremt rains) that is vital for producing over 80 per cent of Ethiopia’s agricultural yield – in an industry that employs 85 per cent of the country’s workforce – failed in 2015, and a powerful El Niño weather event continues to wreak havoc on children’s lives and their families’ livelihoods.
• Humanitarian needs have more than tripled in the last year. According to the latest 2016 Humanitarian Requirements Document (released in December 2015), more than 10 million people (over 10 per cent of the total population) are now in need of urgent food relief assistance. And this year approximately 6 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water in Ethiopia as a result of the El Niño related drought.
• Some drought-affected areas received unusually heavy rains in April and May, which has led to flash floods and landslides worsening the already dire situation for affected communities. Casualties and injuries have been reported, as well as livestock deaths and road inaccessibility, which has impeded delivery of food and water aid.
• Malnutrition rates have greatly increased – 458,000 children are expected to be treated for severe acute malnutrition, a sharp increase from the 250,000 cases that UNICEF prepares for in a normal year. A further 2.5 million children and pregnant and lactating women are expected to be treated for moderate acute malnutrition.
• Other humanitarian shocks: In a country that already hosts the largest refugee population in Africa (734,931 as of April 2016) there is a concern that the slow onset drought emergency could lead people, particularly pastoralists, to move in search of food, water and pasture from one region to another. As experience tells, this could trigger tensions between various ethnic groups in some regions, as it recently has between Oromo and Somali ethnic groups. It is expected that some 485,000 people will be affected by flooding of which 150,000 are expected to be displaced. Displacement, due to flooding, drought or conflict, will lead to critical needs for food, shelter and non-food items.
• How the El Niño related drought in 2016 compares to the Horn of Africa 2011 food crisis: During the Horn of Africa crisis, 4.5 million people in Ethiopia were in need of food aid compared to 10.2 million this year. In 2011, the total severe acute malnutrition (SAM) cases were 328,750 compared to the projected 458,000 cases for 2016. The numbers of refugees being hosted by Ethiopia has more than doubled since 2011 too – approximately 300,000 in 2011, to 734,931 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and elsewhere as of April 2016.