Ethiopia says 10 million people need urgent food aid by January


The Ethiopian government has voiced alarm over the food crisis caused by a crippling drought plaguing the Horn of Africa state, saying over 10 million people, mostly children, need emergency food aid by January.

Director of the Ethiopian Disaster Relief Operation Mitiku Kassa said on Monday that the government is currently distributing its own emergency food aid, but it was not enough because pledges made by donor countries have not yet been delivered.

Ethiopia is struggling with its worst drought in decades due to the current El Niño, a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which may become the strongest on record this year since 1997-98.

Officials in Addis Ababa further said some said 10.1 million people, including nearly six million children, will need food aid by January. Aid groups also called for emergency funds to help boost food security in the impoverished African state.

“The worst drought in Ethiopia for 50 years is happening right now, with the overall emergency response estimated to cost $1.4 billion,” John Graham with the international charity Save the Children, adding, “We simply cannot sit back and wait until the situation has reached crisis point this time.”

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) deployed an emergency response team to help Ethiopia earlier as it has anticipated a surge in health risks because of food shortages there.

The world body’s public health arm has mobilized drugs, equipment and human resources to support the Ethiopian Health Ministry and its partners.

Ethiopia has estimated that the drought will continue well into 2016 and cited lack of transportation and food supplies as major obstacles hampering aid operations.

According to ‘Save the Children,’ some 400,000 children are at risk of developing acute malnutrition which can lead to stunting as well as physical and mental delays in development.

In 1984, Ethiopia suffered a famine that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and crippled the country.