Feeding Ethiopia’s drought-affected families

Published: 24 May 2016 9:46 CET

By: Marjo Leppanen, IFRC

Ethiopia is currently experiencing its worst drought in 50 years with 10.2 million people in need of urgent humanitarian food assistance. The drought is linked to the El Niño phenomenon which has resulted in failed rains leading to very poor or no harvests for farmers.

In December 2015, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an Emergency Appeal to assist the Ethiopia Red Cross Society in delivering life-saving support to more than 35,000 people affected by the drought, particularly in the Afar region, which is considered one of the most vulnerable and most affected areas in the country. The Appeal of 2.2 million Swiss francs focuses on health, water and sanitation, food security, and livelihoods, and targets malnourished children under five years and pregnant and lactating mothers.

In late April, a supplementary food distribution for 3,000 people took place in the Bidu area of the Afar region, with each person receiving 12.5 kilograms of corn and soya bean blend, and 2 litres of cooking oil, enough to last two months.

“Completing distributions in such remote and hardship conditions is very demanding for both staff and volunteers of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society,” said Marjo Leppanen, IFRC surge support delegate. “The temperature during the day rises to 40 degrees Celsius with very little possibility of shade.  The motivation and determination to help those affected by the drought is high.”

Many of the people living in the area are pastoralists and livestock is one of the main livelihoods. According to local community leaders, a significant amount of cattle has been lost, and the number of goats is decreasing as the areas suitable for grazing are reducing. “I really admire the strength and resilience of people to survive in these harsh conditions,” added Leppanen. “But more needs to be done as the true impact of El Niño becomes known.”

The Emergency Appeal runs through December 2016 and is currently 71 per cent funded.