ADDIS ABABA – The United Nations (UN) has reported that Ethiopia has supposedly been hit by the worst drought that it has witnessed in 30 years.

The drought has been triggered by a lack of rain, which has resulted in severely low crop yields. In fact, crop yields are down by 90% in the areas that are worst affected by the drought.

While the Ethiopian government has set aside nearly $200 million, the UN estimates that the country will need a further $503 million to deal with a crisis of this proportion. As a result, the heads of four UN humanitarian bodies have appealed for massive international funding now to pre-empt the high risk of death and large scale suffering later.

“We know this is coming. We know how to prevent it. We simply have to act, now,” they said.

“So far, donors have provided an additional $200 million in aid, but there are early indications that the amount needed to make sure lives are not lost could be around $1 billion. Ethiopia needs that money now, if we are to avert a second tragedy in 30 years,” they added, referring to the catastrophic drought that killed hundreds of thousands from 1983 to 1985.

The four senior officials – UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Stephen O’Brien, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake – stressed that Ethiopia is far different from 30 years ago and its Government is now leading the way with decisive action.

“With the leadership of the Government and the support of the international community, Ethiopians can survive this crisis without witnessing a repeat of the devastating famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives 30 years ago,” they said, noting that back-to-back droughts exacerbated by the strongest El Niño phenomenon on record have pit 10 million people in need of Government support.

“The Government has raised the alarm and international aid agencies have tried to mobilise funds and action. But with multiple crises around the world and record numbers of people displaced by conflict, they have had limited success. There are many claims on donor funds and by global standards, Ethiopia does not look urgent,” they wrote.

“By the time it looks urgent, it will already be too late. We must not repeat the mistake of 30 years ago, when the world ignored the unfolding crisis for far too long and only heeded the alarm when the situation was beyond control. This time, we need urgent, rapid action to scale up our support to the Ethiopian Government and people.

“And the good news is that we have every chance of success. By investing now, we can safeguard three decades of development and billions of dollars of assistance that have helped Ethiopia to become one of the most successful economies on the African continent.”

The Global Panorama