Ethiopia seeks donors to meet drought needs

Reuters
Tuesday, February 02, 2016

ethiopia-us-aidOGOLCHO, Ethiopia – Ethiopia urged international donors on Sunday to offer aid promptly for relief operations to support 10.2 million people critically short of food, and said it was committed to allocating as much of its own funds as necessary.

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen was speaking beside UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a tour of an area where one of the worst droughts in decades has left children malnourished, killed livestock and damaged livelihoods.

The relief operation by the government, World Food Programme (WFP) and charities needs $1.4 billion this year. The government says donors have covered about 30 per cent so far. The WFP says $500 million is needed to continue operations beyond April.

“Our government is committed to allocating the budget and mobilizing any resources to the target groups,” Mr Demeke told reporters at a food and cash distribution point in Ogolcho, a region south of the capital Addis Ababa.

“The action of the international community is very critical and that should be on time,” he added.

The drought is as severe in some areas as the one in 1984, when conflict and failed rains caused a famine that killed a million people. Ethiopia now has one Africa’s fastest growing economies, but the crisis is still straining the nation.

The government spent $272m last year on relief and has allocated $109m so far this year, a hefty burden in a country which remains one of the poorest in Africa per capita and where many people rely on subsistence farming.

Before flying by helicopter to Ogolcho, Mr Ban met in Addis Ababa with government officials, U.N. agency staff and representatives of donors, such as the EU and the US, both major contributors.

“We are doing all we can, mobilising necessary funding,” Ban said, praising the government for taking the lead while noting that “they have limited resources.”

Mr Ban, in Ethiopia for an African Union summit that ended on Sunday, toured a small health post in the Ogolcho area where children are checked for malnourishment.

Ogolcho is in Ziway Dudga district, where the main harvest almost completely failed last year. More than 65 per cent of the district’s population is dependent on relief food assistance. The north and east of Ethiopia have also been badly hit.

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