The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal worth $2.2 million US dollars to enable the Ethiopian Red Cross Society to support more than 35,000 people in Afar and Somali Regions struggling with severe drought aggravated by El Niño and consecutive seasons of failed rains. The support focuses on health, water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods.
The 2015 belg (March–May) rains failed completely, the IFRC report says, and the main kirmet rains (June–Sept) have been both late and erratic, especially in the north and north-east of the country.”
Earlier this month, the Red Cross announced it was staging a special fund-raising exhibition and bazaar to raise a further 4m birr (nearly $200,000 US dollars) for emergency assistance to drought-affected people.
Ethiopia President Mulatu Teshome called on the public to support the National Society’s fundraising efforts, which would be undertaken partly a new SMS platform.
He urged government agencies, NGOs and the Ethiopian private sector to participate.
Ethiopian Red Cross Society Secretary General Frehiwot Worku said they had provided nearly a million dollars’ worth of assistance, particularly to vulnerable mothers and children affected by drought, and would continue as long as it persisted.
The society provided more than $300,000 US dollars worth of emergency food and non-food items in the second half of December to drought-affected people in Bidu and Eldar districts of Afar Regional State.
Relief items and food has been distributed to at least 41,000 people over seven months in Afar, Amhara, Oromia and Somali Region, helping people cope with the drastic consequences of sudden El Niño episode weather-shocks.
The society’s data suggests the number of people requiring food assistance might continue to grow to 15 million this year.
Senior UN figures jointly called for further global action in response to the drought. “Those who remember Ethiopia in the 1980s may feel a disturbing sense of déjà vu,” wrote Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Antonio Guterres, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
UN leaders said the number of people needing government help was now estimated at ten million, and forecasts indicated it could double within months.
Conditions for emergency relief had changed beyond recognition in the past 30 years. “What has not changed is the harsh and unpredictable climate that can cause sudden, sharp hunger in a country where more than 80 per cent of people depend on agriculture,” they wrote.
With multiple crises around the world and record numbers of people displaced by conflict, Ethiopia did not look urgent. “By the time it looks urgent, it will already be too late, but UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent and international and local charities are on standby to increase their help. All they need is reliable funding.”