Ethiopia to establish a national command post to manage emergency food aid in drought hit areas

As Ethiopia is facing a new drought, a Horn of Africa drought, in its eastern and southern lowlands, the country’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDMRC) announced on Monday (March 6) that it will set up a national command post which will manage emergency food assistance in drought hit pastoral areas.Below average rains in these areas caused by the negative Indian Ocean Dipole and La Niña have led to new symptoms of drought. 

While United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres was in Addis for the 28th AU Summit, commending the Ethiopian Government and the humanitarian community for the successful response to the 2016 El Niño-induced drought in Ethiopia, he called for total solidarity with the Government and the people of Ethiopia as the country faces this new drought. The 2016’s El-Nino induced drought which could have been a cause for the loss of countless people’s lives was averted by the combined Government and partners’ effort. Mr. Mitiku said, the country was able to cope with the drought which affected over 10.2 million people and the experience learned from last year has created capacity to deal with the one that hit the pastoral areas. The most seriously affected areas are in the Somali Regional State; the lowlands of Borena, Bale and Gujji zones in the Oromia Regional State; and South Omo zone of the Southern-Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ State.

Deputy Prime Minister DemekeMekonnen, in an interview on Wednesday (March 08) has disclosed Government’s continued efforts in providing the necessary provisions towards addressing the emerging problem. He said, the government was currently focusing on delivery of potable water, food and fodder for livestock and the provision of health services for human and livestock populations.

The new drought is also affecting other countries in the Horn of Africa region resulting in food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition. According to the newly released regional appeal document , some 12.8 million people are severely food insecure and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the horn region, including 5.6 million people in Ethiopia, 2.7 million people in Kenya, 2.9 million people in Somalia and 1.6 million people in Uganda.

The drought has already resulted in critical shortage of water and pasture in the drought-affected lowland pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas leading to a sharp deterioration of livestock body condition (affecting milk production) and an increase in livestock deaths. This has devastating impact on both the livelihood of pastoralists and the capacity of pastoralist to feed their children, given the dependence on milk for child nutrition in these areas.

According to the latest Drought Response Situation Report, protecting livestock will therefore help save lives and protect livelihoods. In addition to livestock feed/destocking, food, nutrition, water, sanitation, shelter and Education in Emergency are among the most urgent needs.

Commissioner of the NDMRC, Mitiku Kassa noted the establishment of the command post aimed at addressing the gaps and occasional delays in the delivery and provision of aid. He said the government has allocated one billion birr in the first round to provide food assistance to drought affected areas. The government has so far spent 16.5 billion birr to cope with the drought and also appealed for additional 948 million US dollars to address food and non-food needs of these people. The commissioner also underscored that if the international community fails to provide the required aid, the federal government, in partnership with regional states will work jointly to avoid loss of a single life due to the drought.