Because of dried water points and lack of vegetation for livestock, many families are leaving their permanent homes in search of better access to food and water. In turn, this will disrupt the beginning of the school year next week for thousands of children who are displaced far from their communities. 

The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to El Nino-induced weather patterns (drought in the North and flooding in the South) that negatively affected harvests and food supplies. Following the failure of the seasonal rains earlier this year, the typically strong June-September rains have failed in some areas for the first time since 1989. With over 80 percent of the population dependent on rain-fed agriculture for food and income, this will have devastating implications for the food security of millions of people.

 The Government of Ethiopia has announced that a staggering 10.1 million people will face critical food shortages in 2016, including more than *5.75 million children.

An estimated 400,000 children are now also at risk of developing severe acute malnutrition in 2016, which can lead to stunting, and physical and mental delays in development.

âThe worst drought in Ethiopia for 50 years is happening right now, with the overall emergency response estimated to cost $1.4bn, so the world leaders meeting at the Paris climate talks this week must take the opportunity to wake up and act before itâs too late,â warns John Graham, Save the Children's Country Director in Ethiopia.

10.1 million people are in need of humanitarian food assistance

0.4 million children with Severe Acute Malnourishment

1.7 million children with Moderate Acute Malnourishment 

$297 million USD in response funds (2015-2016) has been committed by the Government of Ethiopia

$1.2 billion USD have been requested from the international community in order to fully fund humanitarian requirements in 2016.

Ethiopia: “It’s Heartbreaking to See my People Suffer Like This”

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Seifu Asseged

Communications Coordinator

Ethiopia’s Somali Region

February 18, 2016

I will never forget the smell.

The stench of rotting animal carcasses, spread across the barren land.

I remember watching large animals – cows and donkeys – take their last gasping breaths.  RS106115_IMG_9277

After months without rain there was nothing left for them to eat – the grass and tree leaves they normally lived on had all but disappeared. The worst drought to hit Ethiopia in more than 50 years had left them too weak to live.

It was more than three months ago, and yet I can still remember that smell vividly. It was everywhere.

I was born here in Dire Dawa in the east of the Ethiopia. In a few devastating weeks last year, the surrounding areas lost more than 100,000 of their livestock. Pastoral families are still feeling the impact.

I work in these areas, travelling regularly to see the communities hit hardest by the drought. Yesterday I met a group of six families who’d walked for three days to make it to a dusty roadside in the middle of the desert.

Here government water trucks would bring them water every second day, and they received food rations of various grains – a far cry from the camel milk and fresh meat they were used to eating.

A few skeletons remain, but most of the dead livestock have been cleared and destroyed as part of a Save the Children cash for work programme.

Now the challenges are different, and the needs even more pressing.

Six months ago the number of people in need of food aid in Ethiopia was 4.5 million, but that figure had increased to more than 8 million by October. Now it stands at 10.2 million.

What’s more, 400,000 children could fall prey to severe malnutrition in 2016.

Save the Children is among the main aid agencies screening for and treating severe malnutrition, but as long as they are returning home to families who are relying on food aid, I worry that children will remain at a terrible risk.

It is heartbreaking to see my homeland, and my people, suffering so much right now. I have never experienced anything like this drought before.

People tell me they don’t understand the weather any more. When it rains, it comes in patches. And while, in the midlands of Ethiopia, areas are still green and lush, some communities I visit haven’t seen rain in almost two years.

Part of my job is to document the drought and those people affected by it – to share their stories with the rest of the world.

After one assignment last August, my team discovered an entire community in desperate need of water. Within days I had organised for large quantities of water to be trucked to that area, reaching thousands of people.

Sometimes telling these stories can bring vital, practical outcomes for people in need. Sometimes they change the world.

I hope this story will fall somewhere between the two.

To learn more about our response to the Ethiopia Drought, click here