Prolonged Drought ‘Pushing Families in Ethiopia to the Brink’

​​​​​​ADDIS ABABA – Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have brought on severe drought in lowland areas of four regions in Ethiopia drying up water wells, killing livestock and crops and pushing hundreds of thousands of children and their families to the brink, according to a UN agency.

At least 6.8 people in Afar, Oromia, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNPR) and Somali regions project to be in need of urgent humanitarian aid by mid-March 2022.

“The impact of the drought is devastating,” said Gianfranco Rotigliano, Unicef Ethiopia Representative.

“Children and their families are struggling to survive due to loss of livelihoods and livestock,” Rotigliano said. “We are also witnessing major displacement out of affected areas.”

The most severely impacted regions are the lowland areas of southern and eastern Oromia and Somali regions.

There is a significant lack of clean water and the food security is deteriorating rapidly leading to an increase in malnutrition cases,  said the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Tuesday.

“In drought-affected areas in Oromia and Somali around 225,000 malnourished children and over 100,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women need urgent nutrition support,” Rotigliano continued.

“The lack of clean water is further exacerbating the situation for children and women. If children are forced to drink contaminated water, it puts them at risk of various diseases including diarrhea which is a major cause of deaths among children under five.”

To date, in the drought-impacted areas in Oromia and Somali regions, some 4.4 million people are currently facing critical water shortages.

Children are also missing out on an education due to the drought.

Over 155,000 children in the lowlands of Somali and Oromia regions have dropped out of school so they can help fetch water – often travelling long distances – or look after other children while their caregivers try to find water for their families and cattle.

Children who are out of school are at risk of exploitation or are being pushed into dangerous coping mechanisms, according to the UN Agency.

In response, Unicef said it is “working tirelessly to provide life-saving assistance” to those desperately in need in close coordination with the local authorities.

This includes the rehabilitation of boreholes and water schemes, emergency water trucking, treatment of severely malnourished children and providing emergency education and child protection support, says the agency whose drought response appeal for impacted areas in Ethiopia stands at $31 million.

Unicef’s appeal is in addition to the overall humanitarian appeal of 351 million USD.


Featured Image: A woman walks with her starving donkey in Sagalo village, Korahe zone, Kebridahar woreda (district), Somali region, Ethiopia, 21 January 2022 [Photo UNICEF Ethiopia/Mulugeta Ayene]

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