The hidden drought

Famine in Ethiopia is real and the early signs are plain to see. Typical coping mechanisms of migration and reducing livestock holdings are already playing themselves out.

There has been an explosion of people migrating to the major centers, especially Addis Ababa, as people are looking for food and relief from conditions in the hardest hit regions. Farmers are selling livestock assets to buy food and many farmers find their livestock are in such bad shape that they cannot be sold.

From many of those living in the Afar region comes a common and ominous refrain: “The animals die first.” Those working for Canadian Lutheran World Relief’s partner in the area, Support for Sustainable Development, point out that historically the effects of a drought get worse from about January onwards, when people have used up all their reserve food stocks.

Already people are cutting back on food. For some a meal consists of coffee and bread, or injera — a spongy pancake-shaped bread — with a little salt, the usual accompanying vegetables and meat sauces are becoming less evident.

Medical clinics are receiving children suffering from malnutrition. 400,000 children are already in immediate risk.

In the Afar region, health officials are talking about a catastrophe if aid does not arrive soon. Kedir Abate, a medical director at the Megenta Clinic in Afar, said 20 to 30 severely malnourished children are brought to the facility each week, with the number of moderately malnourished children rising so fast he fears they could slip into the severely malnourished category soon.

The first short rainy season of the year did not appear and the fear is the effect of El Niño and changes in weather patterns will quash the next rainy season which is the critical one. The United Nations estimates such a situation could result in more than 15 million Ethiopians suffering food shortages, acute malnutrition or worse by mid-2016.

The U.N. said that El Niño conditions reduced crop yields by 50 to 90 per cent in Ethiopia.

This drought could impact Ethiopia’s long-term prospects, with significant gains made over the years in food security, education and health are now in jeopardy in parts of Ethiopia. “Consequences could ripple through generations,” says the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

Help CLWR respond to the Ethiopian Drought

Tom Brook

Community Relations Director

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Photo by Rev, Gerry Borkowsky

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