Ethiopia has warned that its supply of emergency food aid will be finished by next month. Nearly 16 million people need urgent assistance as drought continues to parch the breadth of the Horn of Africa.
The number of drought victims in Ethiopia has reached 7.8 million people, according to the government. Mitiku Kassa, the country’s disaster relief chief, said the Horn of Africa nation needed more than $1 billion (893 million euros) for emergency assistance.
Cows are dying in huge numbers as the expected seasonal rains have not been enough to bring relief. In the past two months, the number of people facing severe hunger has risen by two million people.
Kassa said the risk of acute food and nutritional disaster was very high.
And, given the slow pace at which aid has arrived, conditions could be dire by mid-July, said Ahmed Al-Meraikh, a UN humanitarian envoy. “Our main concern should be for this drought in Ethiopia not to degenerate into a famine,” Al-Meraikh said.
The drought has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Many Somalis have sought refuge in Ethiopia. Donor fatigue and similar crises in several other parts of the world are to blame for the slow response, Al-Meraikh said. Apart from the drought, Ethiopia is facing an outbreak of what the government has called watery diarrhea. Critics, however, say it is a cholera outbreak.
John Graham, the Ethiopia country director for the aid group Save the Children, said he was concerned by the lack of resources. “It is very worrying,” Graham said. “These people are not going to be able to continue to survive in these dilapidated displaced people’s camps.”
“It could get very much worse,” Graham said. “We are also worried that some of the children affected by the drought may die.”
Deaths in Somalia
At least 14 people, mostly women, were killed after being caught in crossfire between two groups of government soldiers. The incident took place on Friday at a food distribution site in Somalia’s southwestern city of Baidoa, police and witnesses said.
Colonel Isaq Hassan said the fighting started after some soldiers tried to steal food aid as people were lining up to receive it. Other soldiers tried to stop their colleagues, triggering a gunfight. Twenty people were injured, some critically.
Somalia is one of four countries – alongside Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen – that the United Nations named in a $4.4 billion appeal for aid to deal with the drought.
Jeffrey Labovitz, the regional director for East and Horn of Africa at the UN’s International Organization for Migration, said the IOM intended to reach out to the nearly 2 million people most affected by the drought – particularly in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.
“In the coming months, we are likely to see many more needing humanitarian aid and being displaced, due to the poor rains,” Labovitz said.
This year’s drought is different from the one that took place in 2011 and killed 260,000 people, mostly in South Central Somalia, according to the United Nations. The current famine is affecting a larger part of the country and putting more people at risk. Seven hundred thousand people have been displaced within Somalia so far.