Millions of Ethiopians Facing Severe Food Crisis

Following a prolonged period of severe drought caused by El Nino, the government of Ethiopia, along with a consortium of humanitarian organizations, has released a report outlining its plans to respond to an unfolding food crisis in the country.

Millions of Ethiopians Facing Severe Food Crisis; New Report Outlines Requirements and Response Plan to Save Lives

Following a prolonged period of severe drought caused by El Nino, the government of Ethiopia, along with a consortium of humanitarian organizations, has released a report outlining its plans to respond to an unfolding food crisis in the country. The Joint Government and Humanitarian Partners, which includes Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and 65 other humanitarian organizations active in Ethiopia, seeks $1.4 billion to provide 10.2 million people with emergency food assistance.

“Ethiopia is faced with a food shortage that could leave millions of people without enough food to survive next year,” said Matt Davis, CRS country representative in Ethiopia. “Time is running out and we need to act now to effectively resource the critical humanitarian gaps.”

The needed funding will cover emergency food aid for 10.2 million people; water, health and sanitation services for 5.8 million people and improved nutrition for more than 2.1 million people, including 400,000 severely malnourished children.

The current drought, the result of what experts are calling an unprecedented El Nino, is now considered one of the worst droughts in over 50 years. The two main rainy seasons, which supply over 80 percent of Ethiopia’s agricultural yield, have been poor or even absent in some areas, causing up to 90 percent crop loss in some areas.

“The majority of people in Ethiopia are small scale farmers who entirely depend on rain-fed agriculture. The lack of a harvest this year and uncertain weather predictions for next year present an existential crisis to them, not being able to feed their families,” Davis says.

For pastoralists, predictions are equally dire: nearly half a million animals are at risk of dying, and the prolonged lack of clean water and sanitation could lead to disease outbreaks that could endanger millions of children.

While there’s a robust network of humanitarian responders able and ready to scale up their activities immediately, those organizations as well as the Ethiopian government will need immediate funding to provide life-saving assistance like food, water and agricultural help for the next planting season.

“The infrastructure is in place with full support of the Ethiopian government,” Davis says, “but without the necessary funding, we can only reach a fraction of those who need help. The time to act is now – before images of disaster will make headlines.”

Under CRS leadership, a consortium of local and international partners is currently assisting 2.2 million people with emergency food monthly and – working alongside the Ethiopian government – plans to increase that number by 400,000 people.  This large scale humanitarian response will require an additional $150 million in funding. While the United States has generously funded assistance to Ethiopia, CRS is asking the U.S. government to significantly increase the budget of its Food for Peace program for fiscal year 2016 to avoid a catastrophe.

Over the last decades, CRS has also made strides in helping Ethiopians become more resilient to weather-related crises, using innovations like technology-based early warning systems, disaster preparedness programs and the introduction of climate-smart agriculture, increasing the number of people less dependent on outside help.

“The development gains we’ve made over the past decade could be wiped out if this crisis spirals further out of control,” Davis says. “In addition to providing food assistance now, we also have to continue the investment in longer-term programs that prevent people from needing assistance in the first place.” 

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnewsGoogle+Pinterest and YouTube.