Vincentian Lay Missionaries – severe drought in Ethiopia
Our Vincentian Lay Missioners have been quite active in Ethiopia and drew attention to the suffering there in their Facebook page.
Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in decades, with more than eight million people already in need of food assistance as a result of weather conditions that are set to worsen, the aid agency Goal has warned.
The failure of two consecutive rainy seasons, including the summer rain that normally feeds 80-85 per cent of the country but was exceptionally weak this year, has devastated livelihoods and greatly increased malnutrition rates in six Ethiopian regions.
The United Nations has said the level of acute need has already exceeded levels seen in the Horn of Africa drought of 2011, which led to a famine that claimed an estimated 200,000 lives in neighbouring Somalia, and the drought is projected to become more severe next year.
“The concern is that if there is not a timely response the situation will deteriorate,” said John Rynne, Goal’s director in Ethiopia.
More than 80 per cent of Ethiopia’s population works in agriculture, leaving the country particularly vulnerable to drought and climate change. The current crisis is linked to the strength of this year’s El Niño, a water-warming weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, which has led to sharply reduced rainfall levels across densely populated swathes of the country.
The Ethiopian government announced this month that about 8.2 million people were in need of food assistance, up from an estimated 4.55 million in August. A further 7.5 million are receiving cash and food under the Productive Safety Net Programme, a scheme that helps chronically poor rural households survive during the lean summer season.
The effects of the drought could be widely seen, Rynne said. Some schools and health facilities had closed due to lack of water and school attendance rates had fallen because children were required to help move livestock to pasture and distant water.
“Another issue would be forced migration. The male member of the household might go to an urban area to find daily work on building sites, leaving the wife and young children at home in quite a vulnerable situation,” he said. “What we see is that people’s coping mechanisms regularly involve the selling of vital assets – agricultural tools, seeds and so on. So it has a very negative impact.”