WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Gayle Smith announced today that the United States is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Ethiopia to help avert a crisis triggered by El Niño. The drought follows successive poor rainy seasons and is one of the worst to hit the country in decades. The DART, an elite team of disaster experts, will provide technical assistance to the Government of Ethiopia, conduct humanitarian assessments, and coordinate with the Ethiopia Government and humanitarian organizations on the ground to bring vital humanitarian aid - including emergency food assistance, seeds to plant new crops, safe drinking water, and nutrition treatments - to those in need. Administrator Smith also announced $4 million in drought-tolerant seeds that will help ensure that over 226,000 households can grow additional life-saving food in the coming months.
Working with the Government of Ethiopia, the United Nations, and other partners, USAID has mounted an early and robust response that includes scaling up humanitarian assistance and modifying development programs to meet the immediate needs of those most impacted. The El Niño weather phenomenon is affecting multiple regions around the world, and the impact in Ethiopia has inflicted a particularly severe drought.
The United States has provided more than $532 million in humanitarian assistance to reach more than 4 million Ethiopians since October 2014, including emergency food assistance, nutrition and health support, and the provision of safe drinking water. USAID has tapped into pre-positioned relief commodities to help meet increased humanitarian needs and provide support to the United Nations to jump-start the pipeline of relief supplies. Additionally, USAID has activated emergency funds in development programs to help households meet their immediate needs without selling assets-such as livestock-that provide a source of income and nutrition.
“With the announcement of the DART, we are acting to prevent a major humanitarian crisis and protect Ethiopia's hard-earned development progress,” said Administrator Smith. “Other donors must also step-up their responses now.”
The Government of Ethiopia estimates that 10.2 million people are in need of relief food assistance in addition to the approximately 8 million people who are chronically food insecure and receive assistance through the Productive Safety Net Program (PNSP), which annually addresses these needs through the seasonal transfer of food and cash resources, as well as the creation of assets that generate economic benefit to local communities. Current projections estimate that hundreds of thousands of children may experience severe acute malnutrition in 2016, and 2 million people are in need of safe drinking water.
El Niño poses a threat to the livelihoods and well-being of millions against a backdrop of development progress in a country historically plagued by famine. USAID has supported Ethiopia's efforts to reduce extreme poverty and build the resilience of Ethiopia's most vulnerable people to help them cope with recurring droughts.
The worst impacts of this drought still lie ahead and the scale and severity of this crisis is expected to far outstrip available resources. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that $268 million is needed to help meet the needs of those affected over the next 3 months. It is imperative that the international community, alongside the Government of Ethiopia, mobilizes the necessary financial and human resources now to save lives and ensure that tens of millions of people are not plunged into extreme poverty.