El Nino in Ethiopia: 10 million people in need of emergency food aid

Spokesperson available: Berhe Tewoldeberhan, Plan International Australia’s Disaster Risk and Resilience Manager. Contact Clare Price, Plan’s Media Manager on +61 490 252 743 or clare.price@plan.org.au to arrange. 

Ethiopia El Ñino photographs for publication available here: http://bit.ly/1SkX9hX

Over ten million people in Ethiopia are in need of emergency food aid, including 400,000 children, as a growing El Ñino weather crisis leads to severe drought conditions in the country.

It’s predicted that the number of those affected in Ethiopia will rise to 15 million throughout 2016, including 1.7 million children and lactating mothers, making Ethiopia one of the world’s largest food insecure populations. 

Children, pregnant and nursing women are a priority for Plan, as they are the most vulnerable groups in an El Ñino due to their high risk of malnutrition and death or injury as result of extreme weather conditions.

In the Ethiopian regional state of Oromia, sparse rains have led to a long summer, resulting in intense droughts and little food to harvest. According to the local government, nearly everyone living in the area has been affected by the crisis, with many children forced to drop out of school.

“I have 10 children, but it is becoming impossible for them to attend school,” reveals Tesfaye. “They have little to eat. I have 0.125 hectare of land which I used to farm. I would farm corn, teff, sugarcane and banana, but all the crops on my farmland failed to produce any harvest.”

“The impact of this El Ñino, which has been building since March 2015, is more disastrous than the extreme weather and drought that affected Ethiopia in 2011. This El Ñino is predicted to be the strongest in 30 years,” said Berhe Tewoldeberhan, Plan International Australia’s Disaster Risk and Resilience Manager from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. 

“In 2011, the world largely ignored the warnings about Ethiopia until it was too late and hundreds of thousands of people died. This time, the world needs to listen and act so we don’t see that happen again. In 2011, the Australian Government responded to the crisis in Ethiopia, in 2016 the Australian Government must respond again, and this time with more aid. They must act now before it is too late,” urged Mr. Tewoldeberhan.  

El Ñino – a phenomenon that brings extreme weather to many of the poorest parts of the world – is predicted to be at its strongest level in almost two decades. In some parts of the world, particularly in Ethiopia, it is triggering severe drought, while in others, including the Pacific and Asia, it will cause heavy rains that trigger dramatic floods.

Plan International Ethiopia is supporting children and pregnant women with food distributions, healthcare and health education. Drought-resistant seeds (onions, tomatoes, cabbage and sweet potatoes) have also been distributed to households.  

Editors’ notes:
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 77 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.