Notes on the Ethiopian Drought

Posted by Natacha Soto on Thursday 3rd March 2016

During her visit to Ethiopia in February, Ethiopiaid Board member Alex Chapman was updated by a number of agencies working on the ground and had this to say about the current situation in the country due to drought:

The worst affected areas are in the east of the country. The pastoralists were hit very hard from July 2015 onwards and at least half million animals died during this month. As the situation wasn't considered an emergency at this time, pastoralists delayed the sale of their livestock meaning that when they eventually took their animals to market the prices had dropped (an animal worth Birr 2,000 was now worth Birr 200).

The Ethiopian government did an assessment on the situation in August 2015 and appealed to the international community for aid. Since then, the government have put $381 million towards the crisis but they estimate they need $1.4 billion.

During December 2015 alone, the Ethiopian government bought 2 million metric tonnes of food on the global commodity market causing the prices to go up. 

In January 2016, a roundtable with the UN, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other donors was held to call for more funds. USAID pledged $97 million and Japan pledged $27 million. Still more is needed and these funds will take 2 to 3 months to come through and then they will have to buy food on the global market.

For this reason individual donors are considered more valuable than institutional donors as it is a more rapid response. $1 now from an individual is worth the same as $10 of institutional funding because of the time it takes to monetise the pledge.

In the drought affected areas small scale farmers are producing 50% less yield. There is an over dependency on rain fed agriculture and the soil is poor quality and so thin it gets blown away. Months have passed and there is still no regular water supply. There is no way for the population to recover until the end of 2016 and that is if the rains don’t fail again.

Agencies on the ground are seeing malnourished pregnant and breastfeeding mothers which is a very worrying sign. Malnourished children in a drought situation are more common but malnourished pregnant women is deeply concerning.

Unfortunately, because of a number of international crises, such as the refugee crisis in Europe, response to the situation in Ethiopia has been slow. A big commitment is needed by March/April as the situation is going to worsen and peak around August/September. There is not going to be enough food in the country to feed everyone and food prices are going to spike which will affect the poor.

Other knock on effects of the drought will include: more internally displaced people, more migration to the cities in search of work, more children dropping out of school to earn money and supplement the family’s income and an increase in traditional practices like child marriage as families struggle to survive.



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