Many of the most vulnerable in Ethiopia are facing hunger and even starvation after another year of drought, low rainfall and failed crops. This is on top of the worst locust plague in 25 years, which destroyed crops across the country and left millions without their harvest after months of labour.
Communities continue to suffer from the devastating drought affecting the Horn of Africa and are bracing for a likely fifth consecutive failed season – with the October- December 2022 rains beginning poorly and forecasts indicating they are likely to underperform.
The livelihoods of vulnerable pastoralists and agro-pastoralists continue to be severely eroded driving food insecurity and malnutrition. It is estimated that more than 4.5 million livestock have died since late 2021, and at least 30 million weakened and emaciated livestock are at risk.
The drought is also causing a health crisis where health risks related to complications from malnutrition and disease outbreaks have increased at a time when access to health services has decreased.
Ethiopia has experienced multiple famines in its history. The 1983-1985 famine was one of the worst humanitarian events in the last century, with up to 1.2 million lives lost. Unless urgent action is taken now, millions in Ethiopia will be at risk of another devastating famine.
Conflict in Ethiopia and in Ukraine are affecting food security
Since 2021, conflict in Ethiopia has forced thousands of families to flee to safety. Conflict is one of the main triggers of famine as it can drive large quantities of people away from their homes, depriving them of food, farmland and clean water. Women and girls, in particular, may have to walk for kilometres in search of water, exposing them to further risks.
The war in Ukraine is also impacting food prices across Ethiopia. Countries in the Horn of Africa like Ethiopia depend heavily on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine. They also rely on fertiliser for their crops, making a shortage of this particular commodity a recipe for disaster.
According to the World Food Programme:
20.4 million people need food assistance
4.5 million people are internally displaced due to conflict and drought
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The impact of climate change on the food crisis in Ethiopia
As global temperatures soar as a result of climate change, unpredictable weather events will become increasingly common.
Many pastoralist communities in Ethiopia rely on consistent rainfall for their livelihoods. During the last three years, rainfall in many parts of southern Ethiopia has been erratic, with long periods without any rain. This means that farmers and pastoralists are unable to grow any crops or feed their livestock.
Communities have also experienced extreme weather events like the flooding of Lake Turkana, which displaced thousands of vulnerable people living near its shores.
Bute is a village elder living in southern Ethiopia with his wife, Burre. Bute was elected by his community members to represent their voices. They have a story they want to share with the rest of the world: they need urgent humanitarian aid now.
Bute and Burre have experienced many droughts, but this one is by far the worst they have seen in their lifetime.
Before the current drought, the couple had 2,000 livestock in two stables, including donkeys, goats and cows. The grass was green and there was plenty of pasture for their livestock. They used to harvest sorghum and maize, with enough water from the nearby river to irrigate their crops.
We used to have lots of milk and meat to eat, and now we have almost nothing. We feel very sad and frustrated. The life we used to live and enjoy is completely gone.
Bute and Burre’s family used to live near Lake Turkana, which provided water for their crops. But when Lake Turkana flooded, Bute and Burre lost their house, their crops and all their possessions overnight.
“We only saved ourselves and our children. It happened during the night, when we were asleep. It happened very quickly,” Bute said.
“The water came in the night while we were sleeping, we realised and then ran away holding our children. We didn’t have time to do anything, we could only run with our children and ourselves.”
Along with many members of their community, Bute and Burre had to relocate to drier, desert land. Due to the impacts of recurrent drought and desert locust-related damage, most people living in Bute and Burre’s community are heavily reliant on humanitarian aid for survival.
“Before, we could manage by selling our livestock, but now we are totally dependent on aid from organisations and the government. Before we could survive by ourselves with our livestock, but now we are completely dependent on aid. If it wasn’t for Caritas you wouldn’t find anybody around here.”
You can help fight hunger in Ethiopia
Caritas Australia is working with our partner Caritas Ethiopia to provide urgent food and trucking emergency water to the most drought-affected communities in Ethiopia. With no sign of the drought easing, many people in Bute’s community will be heavily reliant on humanitarian aid for survival in coming months.
Our partners on the ground are working to support vulnerable communities in Ethiopia through:
Emergency food rations
Clean water to vulnerable communities
Urgent cash assistance
The Africa Food Crisis is threatening to push millions onto the brink of famine. Across eastern Africa, over 81.6 million people are facing high acute food insecurity in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Donate to help fight hunger
The funds raised through this appeal will be used to provide immediate and longer-term humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea, through Caritas Australia’s local partners.
Where this is not possible, the funds will be used to provide immediate and longer-term development and humanitarian assistance to communities affected by crises in Africa. If any excess funds remain after a crisis, or if there are changes in circumstances beyond our control that limit our ability to use the funds, they are kept in the Africa Regional Appeal so that we can respond to ongoing development needs and future crises across all our regions.