High-level Roundtable Discussion on Humanitarian Response to El Nino Drought - Opening remark by Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Ato. Demeke Mekonnen

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Sunday, 31 January 2016, 10:00 - 11:30am, UN-ECA Conference Room I UN-ECA, Addis Ababa,

Opening remark by H.E. Ato. Demeke Mekonnen

Thank you Miss Ahunna, for the introduction.

United Nations Secretary General, Mister Ban Ki-moon

Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Miss Kyungwha Kang

World Food Program Executive Director, Miss Ethryn Cousin

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mister Filippo Grandi

European Community Humanitarian Aid Office, Director General, Mister Jean-Louis De Bower

The United States Agency for International Development Administrator, Miss Gayle Smith


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First and foremost, I would like to welcome you all, on behalf of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and that of my own, to this important roundtable discussion.

This roundtable is organized to discuss humanitarian emergencies in Ethiopia caused due to the El Nino induced drought and generate additional support for the 2016 humanitarian response operations.

Distinguished Guests,

As you may know, last year Ethiopia was hit by one of the strongest El Nino events in recorded history. Subsequently, the scale and severity of humanitarian needs has significantly increased due to combined effects of failed Belg and poor performance of Meher rains. Since January 2015, emergency beneficiaries increased from 2.9million to the current 10.2 million people.
This is not the first time Ethiopia's and Ethiopians' stamina is put to test with climatic hazards. Thanks to our strong spirited citizens and committed international partners, we have always come out stronger.

Given Ethiopia's geographical location and high dependency on agriculture, climate change pauses social, economic and humanitarian challenges. Thus, over the past two decades our focus has been on institutional and community level resilience building. If it hadn't been for such capabilities, consequences of the current drought, with more than 12% of the country's population being affected, could have already been devastating.

Distinguished Guests,

The humanitarian response during the year 2015 has faced serious constrains due to competing global. crisis around the world. This made Ethiopia the least priority country for humanitarian support.

Hence, the federal government so far has spent more than 300 million USD from its own budget. Regional governments have also contributed towards the response efforts. Above all, what is impressive is the reaction by the private sector and local communities: in different parts of the country businesses and public servants are making in kind and financial contributions. In recent weeks, the international community has also stepped up with generous contribution of around 570million US dollar.

Thanks to our peoples' resilience, our country's double digit economic growth and the international community's support, so far we have managed to contain the situation.

However, our problems are far from over, rather getting more complicated. While we have the system in place to handle regular hazards, which from time to time affects few million people, this one is of a different scale. More than 10 million people are affected, with emergency need for food assistance, water and sanitation, education, and health care services.

At the moment, out of the 1.4 billion dollar estimated for 2016 humanitarian response, there is a 54% funding gap. infrastructural accessibility and logistical issues still create challenges to make on time support delivery to some parts of the country.

Distinguished Guests,

If effects of this drought are not addressed now, it will have a lasting impact on the country. As you all know, Ethiopia has a critical role in the region's peace, security, stability, and economic development. Disregarding this drought will have negative consequences in the region and the whole of Africa.

Over the past two decades, we have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Our GDP has grown by leaps and bounds. We have invested in building strong systems and institutions. Investors are more and more confident in the country's resilience.

We don't want to lose our developmental gains and trajectory to this drought and we are determined to do what it takes to make sure this doesn't happen. Needless to say, we count on you, our international partners, to help us in our efforts to overcome this disaster.

On behalf of the people of Ethiopia and my government, I thank you all for your generous contributions and support during these difficult times. And I strongly urge for your further support and bold actions.

Now, please join me to welcome Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon to the podium to provide his opening remarks.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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