ADDIS ABABA – A funding shortfall of US$158 million this year is threatening millions of people in Ethiopia who depend on food and nutrition assistance for their very survival.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that 700,000 refugees, 1.15 million children aged between 6 and 59 months, and 750,000 pregnant and nursing women will be at serious risk if additional funding does not materialize in coming weeks.
This funding crisis comes as Ethiopia is struggling to contain a four-pronged food security crisis linked to the combined impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating desert locust invasion, widespread flooding and rising food prices.
The shortfall to year’s end includes US$46 million to deliver life-saving food and nutrition assistance to acutely food insecure families and communities, US$68 million to sustain nutrition support for pregnant and nursing women and children and US$40 million for refugee food assistance.
If additional funds are unavailable in July, WFP will be forced from August to implement drastic measures, including cutting food ration sizes for refugees and reducing coverage of moderate acute malnutrition treatment for malnourished women and children.
“WFP is deeply grateful for the significant support received thus far from key donors, but much more is required. The food security situation in Ethiopia could not be more precarious.” said Steven Were Omamo, WFP Representative and Country Director in Ethiopia.
“The vulnerable people whom the Government of Ethiopia and WFP serve are struggling just to get by. They are utterly dependent on this support for their survival. Any suspension of support or reduction in rations will impact people’s health and well-being,” he said.
“Without additional funds, lives are very much on the line. Women and children deprived of treatment for moderate malnutrition will develop severe acute malnutrition and rates of sickness and death will increase,” he added.
When rations are reduced, families are compelled to adopt emergency survival strategies such as eating fewer meals. In the COVID-19 pandemic, families need more than ever to maintain healthy, balanced diets. Fears of ration reductions and suspensions can fuel insecurity and heighten tensions, particularly in refugee camps and local communities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, and as long as Ethiopia is struck by desert locusts, floods and high food prices, it is essential that WFP provides consistent and sufficient food assistance to the most vulnerable to avoid a humanitarian crisis becoming a catastrophe.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
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Edward Johnson, WFP/ Addis Ababa,
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