Ethiopia Food Crisis Reaches 'Critical Moment,' Warns Save the Children



By SaveTheChildren

As the impact of Ethiopia's worst drought in 50 years peaks over the next three months when the traditional "lean season" takes hold, the response of the international community will be critical, Save the Children is warning.

An estimated 10.2 million people, including more than 5.75 million children, will remain reliant on emergency food assistance until the main November harvest.

While much has been done to help those most at risk, Save the Children's Country Director John Graham has urged donors to "finish the job we started."

"Although the onset of Kiremt summer rains is a welcome relief, many families are already severely weakened, both physically and economically, by the devastating cycle of failed harvests," says Graham.

"How we respond over the next three months is absolutely critical to ensure that the collaborative work channeled into averting a major food crisis doesn't fall down at the final hurdle.

"The second half of 2016 really is the most crucial period of this entire response, after which we will know whether the collective humanitarian effort was adequate, or whether there were risky shortfalls in resource allocation and community support, particularly for the most vulnerable."

As the impact of last year's failed harvests and many months surviving on food aid intensifies over the coming weeks and months, Graham warns that the caseload of severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition cases is on track to spike in August.

"In the first three months of 2016 alone, there were 108,000 recorded cases of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and we know from speaking to staff in our medical clinics that this upsurge is set to continue throughout the summer months.

"We have come so far, we can't fail now – we have to make the finish line," he adds.

In a new Save the Children report, Two Years of Drought Response in Ethiopia, Graham reiterates that two years on from the start of the food crisis, the El Nino-related drought is still affecting children and their families in many ways including food insecurity and malnutrition, water shortages, and the severe disruption of education for more than one million children.

"Help is still urgently needed to support the government over the coming months of scarcity and beyond. Even after the situation stabilizes, it will take two or three years for families and communities to fully recover, and even longer to continue making improvements," says Graham.

"More than $5.5 million has been raised by the public for Save the Children in Ethiopia, which is a staggering amount and has certainly helped to save lives, but we are still appealing to donors and the international community for $2 million in funding to help us to finish the job we started.

"We recently began a large-scale seed distribution scheme, mainly in the severely drought-hit areas of Amhara, Tigray, Southern Nations Regions and Oromia, in an attempt to help 76,000 households reduce their dependency on emergency food aid and humanitarian interventions," Graham explains.

"We are also implementing 'cash for work' programs, supporting families who have lost their livestock, implementing food distributions and water trucking, as well as training community-based health workers to treat malnutrition and intervening to save livestock and crops where possible."
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