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Drought in Ethiopia
The Oromo Liberation Army and Tigray Defense Forces in Ethiopia are actively in conflict with the Ethiopian government and have received labels as terror groups in the country. However, due to the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, the groups have been working to establish a nationwide truce to allow humanitarian groups to provide aid to the affected areas of Ethiopia where people do not have access to food and resources. The drought is the worst the nation has seen in the past 40 years and has contributed to more than 20 million people needing dire assistance this year. The impact of the drought on the already impoverished country has been so drastic that the role of the military structures in Ethiopia is changing with the idea of a potential truce to improve the impoverished conditions during an ongoing conflict.

Ethiopia’s Conflict

Millions of Ethiopians have been displaced due to the conflict between rebel groups, including Oromo Liberation Army, Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Force which has been ongoing since November 2020. The war has political roots, such as an election, power struggle and claims of marginalization of certain minorities. Both sides have engaged in war crimes resulting in genocide, sexual violence and widespread looting and destruction of property. In addition to these direct results of war, humanitarian crises and famine have also come to light due to environmental and economic factors.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, ordered offensive forces to fight the rebel forces. The government intervention and blockades in Tigray have limited access to 9.4 million people across northern Ethiopia in need of humanitarian aid. Road access for supply trucks with medicine, nutritional supplies and general aid has had its limitations due to such blockages, further exacerbating the famine.

The Impact of the Drought in Ethiopia

In addition to the ongoing Ethiopian conflict, the drought has played a part in increasing humanitarian needs across Ethiopia. The worst Ethiopian drought in decades has led to widespread harvest failures and livestock deaths decreasing food insecurity, increasing famine and increasing acute malnutrition in the country.

Required humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia will be 40% higher in 2022 than in 2016 as a consequence of the El Nino drought. The ongoing Ethiopian conflict in northern Ethiopia is further increasing the severity of the situation, as it is currently affecting more than 8 million people. As the drought in Ethiopia continues to ravage more parts of Ethiopia, this number will likely increase.

The Ceasefire

In March 2022, the Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian government established a humanitarian truce to prevent mass starvation in the northeast region of the country – almost 40% of Tigray’s 6 million people are victims of famine. The purpose of the ceasefire was also to allow emergency humanitarian aid the opportunity to relieve the pressure of the refugee crises, mass displacement and critical environmental issues. U.N. fuel shortages have added to the issue as aid workers had to travel by foot to deliver supplies. However, the added safety of a ceasefire has enabled aid workers to make unrestricted deliveries, presenting a semblance of hope for faster recovery in the region.

Recent Developments

In August 2022, the U.N. called for another ceasefire after the northern region of Tigray saw more bouts of violence during the attempted ceasefire. Peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front will likely begin soon, but may now be pushed back or indefinitely postponed. Neither side will admit to commencing the attack, but the fighting has nonetheless increased tension between the groups. As a result, political negotiations and unrestricted access to those in need have halted with the return of fighting, as both sides have released opposing statements regarding further steps in the conflict.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Flickr

https://borgenproject.org/food-insecurity-in-africa/After little to no rain since 2020, the Horn of Africa drought is plaguing several countries, causing displacement in Ethiopia. The UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have been working with local disaster prevention centers to provide food, water and shelter to the thousands who find themselves within the affected areas.

Horn of Africa Drought: Zero Rainfall

Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts that have occurred in the last 40 years. “We have never seen a drought like this, it has affected everyone, we have named it ‘the unseen,” said Ardo who lives in the Eastern Somali region of Ethiopia.

The UNHCR has been working with local communities impacted by the drought by providing water, shelter and clothing. The U.N. agency and other regional disaster management organizations assisted more than 7,000 drought-affected households. However, despite the humanitarian assistance, the needs of the communities are steadily growing. “The most pressing issue here is a lack of water, as well as effective water management,” said Abdullahi Sheik Barrie, a field associate in the UNHCR office in the capital of the Somali region.

Following the deterioration of water sources, livestock is dying which removes people’s ability to provide for themselves. While the drought is predicted to continue during the next couple of months, Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR spokesperson announced the estimated cost to adequately address the crisis. “To deliver life-saving assistance and protection to some 1.5 million refugees, internally displaced people, and local host communities…UNHCR is appealing for $42.6 million,” said Mantoo during a press briefing.

Problem Solving

USAID is also providing assistance to people in the Somali region. The agency has declared a $488 million budget for providing humanitarian aid to Ethiopia. USAID’s funding will cover, “food supplies, including sorghum, peas and vegetable oil.”

Although almost 1 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the hopes of finding food and water, humanitarian organizations claim that this number will continue to rise and there is an approaching risk of a fifth failed rainy season. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the drought affecting the Horn of Africa a grade three health emergency which is its highest rating. “We don’t know where the bottom is yet for this crisis…the fact is that we are in a devastating situation already and the likelihood is that it’s going to continue,” said Michael Dunford, the head of the WHO in Eastern Africa in an interview with the Telegraph.

Lives At Stake

Abdul Risac, mayor of a small city in the Somali region called Buaro, told the Telegraph that his communities have no other form of income and lack proper methods to deal with this drought. Selma, a 20-year-old mother of two who recently arrived at a displacement camp once had 100 goats and sheep but now has none. “We realized we couldn’t survive so we came to this place, ” she said to the Telegraph.

Selma also added that her family, like many others, can only return to their homes if they acquire livestock. “It’s my dream to return, but now we’re goatless and have no way of breeding more animals. It’s hard to know what our options are. All I know is being a pastoralist,” she concluded.

While the Horn of Africa drought is expected to persist, the UNHCR and USAID are providing their support in the form of life-saving funding for internally displaced persons in Ethiopia.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in EthiopiaThe Horn of Africa continues to be a part of the world that suffers from food insecurity as a result of drought and conflict. Ethiopia, a core part of this region and its issues, has over 7.8 million people who are food insecure. This is attributed to the cumulative effect of worsening food production over the years and long-lasting regional conflicts that have exacerbated living conditions. The issue is particularly detrimental for the population dependent on subsistence farming and the nomadic community.

The top 10 facts about hunger in Ethiopia listed above cover relevant facts that cover the historical impact of food insecurity and the current challenges.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Ethiopia

  1. Thirty-four years ago the most catastrophic famine hit Ethiopia painting the nation in the image of poverty, drought and hunger in such a huge way that the government to this day works on reversing this perception. However, this proves difficult because three decades had passed from this moment, and the United Nations announced that 15 million people will need food aid in 2015.
  2. The general trend of increase in food insecurity is caused mainly by the weather. Low rainfalls during the past few years have led to disastrous harvests. Even at times when rain returns in some areas, the ramifications of the lack of rain is proving to be a prolonged crisis.
  3. Other elements that contribute to the issue of hunger are also mostly natural factors such as the decrease in land size and quality, animal and plant diseases and the destruction of vegetation and wild products.
  4. There are several actions being taken by governmental and nongovernmental entities to tackle the high level of food insecurity in Ethiopia, that have brought notable progress. These actions include food aid, an increase in productivity and in land cultivated, improvement of seeds and irrigation.
  5. The harsh effects of famine and drought resulting in prolonged periods of food insecurity, especially in the rural areas are directly related to the high level of poverty as more than half of the population lives on less than $1 a day. In addition, considering that 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas where birth rates are high and smallholder farming is the base of the economy, weather changes affect production immensely and the population in these areas is not able to cope with the situation.
  6. The political and economic instability that intricately creates regional conflicts is a huge factor for food insecurity. Although the droughts cause a decrease in food production, it is largely the human factors such as ineffective response to this occurrence that causes famine and starvation.
  7. The prolonged effects that don’t account for the immediate disaster of food insecurity are child malnutrition that causes Ethiopia a loss of 16.5 percent of GDP each year. This is reflected in the fact that 40 percent of children in Ethiopia suffer from stunting. This condition also accounts for 1.1 years less in school education that eventually reduces the workforce.
  8. Aid for the famine and other issues in the country, such as severe droughts in 2016 and 2017 and heavy rainfalls that caused the flooding in 2018, is continuous. Organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Food for the Hungry, Relief Society of Tigray and World Vision and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) aim to support the food-insecure population through long-term development interventions.
  9. Despite the gravity of food insecurity challenges Ethiopia is making an effort to eradicate hunger by addressing the low smallholder farmer productivity through policies that allow big investments in agricultural research and development, especially in the aspects of making improved seeds and breeds available along with better farming practices. Moreover, there have been efforts to give prompt access to high-quality inputs such as effective fertilizers.   
  10. Zero Hunger is one of the United Nation’s Global Goals that is particularly critical for countries like Ethiopia who not only struggle with the challenges of climate change that affect food production but also with political groups working to expand the famine and only offer resettlement as a solution.

Africa has witnessed drastic changes as a result of its fast-growing economies and improved agricultural production that has cut the number of undernourished people in the continent by half. Therefore, despite the hurdles that Ethiopia has faced in the past in meeting food demands, meeting the Sustainable Development Goal, which means the end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2o3o, is not an unreachable goal.

However, it will require a lot of work in smallholder farmers coping with weather changes such as droughts and flooding augmented by assistance from governmental and nongovernmental entities to bring a long-term solution.

– Bilen Kassie

Photo: Flickr