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Widespread drought leaves millions facing hunger
Many will remember BBC reporter Michael Buerk’s moving reports of the severe Ethiopian famine of 1984, which left over a million people dead. The images shot by Kenyan cameraman Mohammed Amin, together with Buerk’s powerful words, produced one of the most famous television reports of the late 20th century, and prompted a global humanitarian response. Now, with Ethiopia experiencing its worst drought since the 1980s, and millions of people facing severe hunger, the Ethiopian government is appealing for support to avoid a disaster on a similarly catastrophic scale. All We Can is already supporting its local partners to respond.
Poor rains in the spring of 2015 led to widespread crop failure in six regions leaving approximately 10 million people without enough food. This has been aggravated by the El Niño climate phenomenon, a seasonal warming over the Pacific Ocean which has caused a drought to occur across eastern and southern Africa. Current weather conditions have deteriorated and the UN report crop yields in the worst-affected areas of Ethiopia are down by 90% this year.
“The combination of erratic rains and El Niño have resulted in millions being put at risk of starvation in Ethiopia”, said Erica Bertolotto, All We Can Partnership Manager for Ethiopia. “Our local partners have reported increased pressure on the already vulnerable communities they work with, in many regions crops have completely failed. The majority of Ethiopians rely on agriculture to make a living, but much of the already limited farming land is suffering and people are struggling to eke out enough to live on. The situation is very serious.”
All We Can has been supporting its local Ethiopian partner, Sustainable Natural Resources Management Association (SUNARMA), since 2004. SUNARMA work to improve soil and water conservation and vegetable and livestock production in central Ethiopia. One of the areas they work in, Ankober Woreda, has been identified by the Ethiopian government as one of the regions most seriously affected by the drought. All We Can has provided £22,000 to SUNARMA to help provide nearly 3000 people with emergency food supplies such as wheat and oil.
SUNARMA will be working with other agencies and the local government to ensure that those most vulnerable to the impact of the drought in Ankober Woreda will be reached first
Ethiopia is not the same country as it was 30 years ago, when conflict and political factors exacerbated the famine. There has been significant progress and development since the 1980s. At a local level, All We Can has seen amazing changes through investment in sustainable agriculture solutions, and its partners have helped thousands of families improve their incomes and quality of life in recent years. The Ethiopian government has been able to set aside nearly £130m to deal with this current crisis, but it is not enough. The combination of the lack of rain and the El Niño climate phenomenon has taken its toll, and a global response is now required. As Erica Bertolotto explains, “One of the mistakes of 1984 was a failure to deal with the famine until it became a major humanitarian disaster. All We Can’s partners and the Ethiopian government are calling on the international community to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, to prevent this crisis from becoming a catastrophe.”
Image: People are being forced by drought to migrate to areas where there is water and food for their cattle. Ankober Woreda, Ethiopia. © All We Can/SUNARMA
Laura works for All We Can as the Communications Manager. She is also an internationally acclaimed photographer with a passion for women's rights. She is studying MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in her spare time and lives with her husband Stephen in Essex.