‘Over 22 million in Ethiopia facing severe food crisis’

Back-to-back droughts causing food emergency, children at high risk of death from malnutrition, says non-profit

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 18 January 2023
Almost four million children in Ethiopia are severely malnourished, accounting for around half of the people suffering from malnutrition across the Horn of Africa. Photo: IStock

Over 22 million people are facing severe food shortages in Ethiopia due to back-to-back droughts caused by five failed rainy seasons, according to non-profit Save the Children

More than half of these 22.6 million are reeling from climate-induced shocks with conflict, inflation and forced displacement, causing further misery and children facing increased risk of death from malnutrition, it further said. 

Read more: Nearly 1.5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition as Somalia drought worsens

The Tigray region of Ethiopia continues to experience one of the worst food security emergencies globally. Food consumption deficits are expected to be the most severe in the southern, southeastern and northern parts of the country located in the Horn of Africa, it added.

Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in northern, central, southern and southeastern Ethiopia through at least May 2023, even with ongoing assistance, according to Famine Early Warning Systems Network by the United States Agency for International Development. 

Almost four million children in Ethiopia are severely malnourished, accounting for around half of those suffering from malnutrition across the Horn of Africa. 

Millions are unable to generate income and access food due to the drought, which is likely to lead to widespread and severe levels of food shortage through at least mid-2023, the non-profit said. 

Southern and southeastern Ethiopia are of extreme concern, as a record-breaking drought is forecast to continue in this area through at least mid-2023. 

Some of the most severe drought conditions are observed in the Borena zone in the Oromia region and in Dawa, Liban, Afder and parts of Shabelle zones in the Somali region.

In these areas, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected across the projection period, signifying that worse outcomes would be likely in the absence of current and anticipated humanitarian food assistance.

Since 2021, 4.5 million livestock have died, according to the regional government's estimates. Livestock deaths have dried up milk, the main source of nutrition for children.

Read more: Drought in the Horn of Africa: More than 18.5 million in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti face humanitarian crisis

Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s director for Ethiopia, said:

There is no end in sight for the hunger crisis and hope is slowly fizzling out as families enter the January to March dry season with little hope for rainfall. Estimates show that the March to May 2023 rainfall will also be below average, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of emergency food aid and driving many into catastrophic levels of hunger.

The non-profit appealed to donors for more funds to expand operations and reach the most vulnerable children and their families and support longer-term resilience programming against multiple and frequent humanitarian shocks in the future. 

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