10 million people facing food emergency in Ethiopia as El Nino bites

A girl walks past the carcasses of goats
A girl walks past the carcasses of goats in drought-stricken Ethiopia, where 10 million people are thought to be at risk. Photo: Seifu Asseged/Save The Children UK

Addis Ababa: December 8, 2015 – The toll from Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years is escalating, with officials dramatically increasing their estimate for the number of people facing critical food shortages.

Two months ago the Ethiopian government said about 8.2 million people would be in need of emergency food assistance in 2016, but this week it lifted the estimate to 10.1 million. Aid agency Save the Children estimates about 5.75 million Ethiopian children will be affected by the worsening food crisis.

The El Nino effect – caused by warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean – has been blamed for the failure of this year’s rains across a large portion of Ethiopia, triggering what the United Nations calls a “slow onset” emergency. El Nino has also caused a drought in Papua New Guinea and unusually warm, dry weather across much of Australia.

Bale Zone farmer
A farmer in his barren field in Sewena, Bale Zone, Ethiopia. Photo: Kyle DeGraw/Save The Children UK

The Ethiopian government had allocated over $US200 million ($273.7 million) of its own resources to emergency relief so far this year but in the latest humanitarian assessment, published this week, it calls on the international community “to stand with the people of Ethiopia at their time of need”. It says the emergency response will cost another $US1.4 billion.

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