After its worst drought in 50 years, Ethiopia is being lashed by floods

An cow in Gelcha village, in the drought-stricken Oromia region of Ethiopia.
An cow in Gelcha village, in the drought-stricken Oromia region of Ethiopia.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
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year of drought has left 10.2 million Ethiopians, almost a tenth of the population, without enough food. Now, heavy rains are flooding the country, displacing thousands and killing already weakened livestock needed to feed Africa’s second most populous country.

Ethiopia, one of the most promising economic stories on the continent over the past decade, is now facing a humanitarian and economic crisis reminiscent of the famine that hit the country in the 1980s after a similar drought. It’s an image the country has tried to distance itself from as it has transformed into one of Africa’s few hubs for manufacturing.

Floods could displace 200,000 people as well as worsen food insecurity caused by the country’s worst drought in half a century, according to aid workers. ”Roads are turning into raging rivers and our trucks carrying food assistance are unable to reach many communities,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said this month. Cows and other livestock, weak after months of drought, are dying in heavy rains that are expected to continue for at least a few more weeks.

The government and international donors have pledged over $700 million in emergency aid but experts say the country still needs $600 million more. Emergency supplies for flood-hit communities are running low, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia. Now, the IMF predicts economic growth of just 4.5% this year, down from a previous projection of 7%.

With attention focused on the refugee crisis in Syria, some fear Ethiopia is being ignored. “The Middle East and the migrant crisis has diverted attention from our partners,” said Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia’s minister for food security.