Ethiopia is at risk of another famine—but this time it might go ignored

Another drought crisis has hit Ethiopia.
Another drought crisis has hit Ethiopia.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Heavens
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Africa’s second most populous country—and one of the fastest growing economies on the continent—is in the midst of what is said to be its worst drought in almost half a century.

The crisis has caused a food shortage that could affect 10.1 million people—almost a tenth of Ethiopia’s population—with 400,000 children at risk of malnutrition, aid organizations say. The country will need to spend over a billion dollars this year alone to meet the food needs of 18 million people, reports Bloomberg.

Unpredictable weather patterns, caused by what climate scientists are saying is the most potent El Niño system in decades, have limited the rains that typically come in October or November. The lack of rainfall has led to substantial crop failures and is also decimating agriculture—a part of the economy 80% of the country rely on to survive. Aid organizations say the situation could get worse in the next few months if support doesn’t arrive soon.

“Severe drought in some regions, exacerbated by the strongest El Nino in decades, caused successive harvest failures and widespread livestock deaths,” Stephan Dujaric, the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, told reporters. “Yet so far, less than 5 percent of the resources required for the first six months of the year are available.”

The crisis has revived memories of the 1980s when another severe drought led to a hunger crisis that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians. But unlike then when the global community eventually responded to the situation, there are fears that this time Ethiopia may not receive the urgent help it needs.

“There are so many other emergencies in the world, and donors will have to decide where to put their money,” Mario Zappacosta, an economist with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, told Bloomberg. ”There is some doubt that Ethiopia can pop up as a priority when you have Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and many other places in the world in bad situations.”