By Katy Migiro
NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Donors are not responding fast enough to an “unprecedented” drought in Ethiopia, where over 400,000 children under five are severely malnourished despite strong economic growth and big development gains over the last decade, aid agencies said.
Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, and 10.2 million people – one-tenth of the population – cannot feed themselves because their crops and animals have died.
“We’ve definitely been ringing the alarm since last summer but I think, sadly, sometimes it takes pictures of children suffering to get people to actually take things seriously,” Carolyn Miles, president of Save the Children in the United States, said after visiting Ethiopia’s Afar and Amhara regions.
About one-quarter of the $1.4 billion needed to respond to the crisis has been pledged, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, but most of these contributions have not yet been paid.
In a malnutrition centre in the northeastern lowlands of Afar, Miles met a little boy who had been admitted for severe malnutrition for the second time in two months.
“Sending kids back into a situation where they don’t have enough food to really stay out of severe malnutrition, some of those kids are really suffering,” she said.
Ethiopia is the charity’s humanitarian priority globally.
Africa’s second most populous nation has been hit by two consecutive failed rains, most recently due to the El Nino weather phenomenon – a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific – which is causing hunger around the globe.