File/Photo WFP/Petterik Wiggers

COVID-19 Propels 9.8 Ethiopians to Seek Food Aid

ADDIS ABEBA – The number of people in need of emergency food aid has increased by more than 9.8 due to the impact of COVID-19.

In a joint statement made by the government and its development partners, up to 16.5 million people are in need of emergency food and non-food assistance.

This could cost up to 1.65 billion US dollars, they said in their appeal to the international donors on Tuesday.

The spike in humanitarian needs is mainly due to COVID-19-related multi-sector impact, the statement said adding that 506 million US dollars of the $1.65 billion revised appeal is for COVID-19 impact response.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020, the major drivers of humanitarian need in Ethiopia were, and continue to be today, food insecurity, displacement, disease outbreaks, rain shortfalls in some parts of the country and floods in others.

In addition, the worst desert locust infestation reported in 25 years hit Ethiopia and neighboring countries in late 2019 and continues to affect many communities to date, leading to livelihood loss and deepening food insecurity.

Head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, Mitiku Kassa, said, like many countries around the world, Ethiopia has been dealing with the unforeseen threat paused by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.

“The Government of Ethiopia has been taking the necessary measures to prevent further spread of the virus and boost mitigation and preparedness measures,” he said. “COVID-19 is our immediate focus”.

“However, we will not lose sight of the multi-faceted and simultaneous humanitarian challenges across the country, including food insecurity, desert locust, floods and protracted displacement,” he continued. All these are further compounded by the pandemic”

On her part, Dr. Catherine Sozi, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis first in the country where weak health systems are being stretched beyond capacity.

“The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has been drastically increasing since the second week of May,” Dr. Sozi said. “Gains made in other health outbreaks also risk relapsing”.

“COVID-19 pandemic is also an economic crisis,” she continued. “Income losses as a result of slowing economic growth and unemployment threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of food-insecure and vulnerable Ethiopians.”

“Today, more than ever, the Government and people of Ethiopia need the steadfast support from international partners,” she said.

“The country needs urgent additional financing to not only control the pandemic before it further spreads across the country but to also mitigate the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the already dire humanitarian context,” added Dr. Sozi.