The Horn of Africa region has been struck by a drought that has left millions in Somalia, South Sudan, parts of Kenya and especially Ethiopia in need of food aid. This has been the consequence of failed rains caused by fluctuations in ocean temperatures, a phenomenon known by meteorologists as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).

Ethiopia’s commissioner for disaster risk management Mitiku Kassa said that although in some areas food will run out by the end of June, the number of people affected will be around 1.7 million and that it is expected that the donations will hopefully solve the problem. However, The UN’s World Food Programme had predicted that 7.8 million people affected by the drought would be left without food.

Both John Aylieff of the World Food Programme and John Graham of Save The Children have stressed the criticality of the situation: once all the food is gone people will become severely malnourished, especially children and it is not clear what will happen next.

Many Ethiopians still remember the drought that caused a famine 30 years ago causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the famous Band Aid and Live Aid concerts. Since the 1980s, a lot has improved especially in terms of how money is being spent to face emergency situations like these: the Ethiopian government is currently able to set aside around £127m for such emergencies. This represents a significant improvement but it is still far from enough according to the UN.

In fact, although it is being handled much better than in the past, the situation it is still critical and numerous children have already died of starvation (two babies every day) leaving grieving parents behind.

The drought is also forcing people to flee their homes after their livestock has died, especially from the South Eastern part of the country, the most hardly hit area. As humanitarian agencies play a crucial role in providing support to the victims, for now the government is fearing donor fatigue. International donors have already planned to donate 1.8 billion dollars to help the country for the first 6 months of this year but the UN says only half of that money has actually been donated so far.

At Bread and Water for Africa UK, we know how important it is to help communities be in control of their own future. By taking a more holistic approach and investing in long term initiatives, we are empowering grassroots organisations to become more resilient and better equipped to face situations of crisis like this.

Photo Credit: Reuters

Sylvia Costantini is the CEO of Bread and Water for Africa UK.

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