Good evening everyone and thank you very much for joining us on a Saturday evening.
The Horn of Africa is once again in the grip of a severe drought. I have just come back from the Somali Region, where I met the regional president, and visited an affected community in Bisle kebele. I spoke to women who had walked for five hours with their children to get help – food assistance and health care. More and more children are malnourished. People have lost their livestock and now have no means of support. Everyone I met spoke of the lack of water and the impact it is having on their day to day lives. Their very way of life is at risk. And whilst we all knew we need to do more now, we also need to plan for the longer term – to help people rebuild their lives when the situation improves.
Access to water and sustainable ways of harvesting rainwater in particular need to be developed in drought-prone areas to reduce reliance on water trucking, which is expensive and unsustainable.
Communities need better access to basic health services to stop preventable diseases from taking a higher toll on an already weakened population.
And children need to be kept in school. Schools need water and sanitation, so that they are not forced to close during periods of crisis.
It is the poorest who are the most vulnerable and I welcome the emphasis put by the Government on longer-term development and the need to build the overall resilience of the people.
Other countries in the region – Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda – are also suffering from the impact of the drought and we have seen thousands of Somalis fleeing across the border into Ethiopia and Kenya. We will need to increase our efforts in all these countries to get to those who most need our help. And we will have to ask our donors to do more. They have been generous with Ethiopia and I hope that that generosity will continue and extend to the neighbouring countries.
Thank you very much and I’m very happy to take your questions.
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