This time last year a letter from the GOAL Ethiopia Country Director went out to our supporters highlighting the grave situation the country was facing. In 2015 and 2016, Ethiopia suffered from one of the worst droughts on record – primarily affecting the central and northern parts of the country. A ‘super El Niño’, exacerbated by climate change, caused the 2015 spring and summer rains to fail. In a country where 80% of the population depend on rain-fed agriculture for their daily food as well as their livelihoods, lack of rain means potential disaster.
10.2 million people were in need of emergency humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia last year – that’s twice the population of Ireland. The Ethiopian government and NGOs mobilised a response team and emergency funding – and your support was vital. NGOs like GOAL worked tirelessly alongside local authorities and communities to roll out emergency food aid for more than 10 million individuals, ensure over 5 million affected individuals had water and provide emergency seeds for 1.7 million vulnerable farmers. Thanks to established Early Warning Systems that allowed us respond in time, and generous funding donations from our public supporters and international donors, a disaster was largely averted.
In 2017, Ethiopia is once again facing a disaster. This time it’s the south-east of the country, where again, failed rains have left communities desperate. It is estimated that 5.6 million Ethiopians are in need of assistance this year – including 2 million people in need of safe drinking water. It’s easy to become fatigued hearing about one drought after another across the world. But the truth and injustice of the matter is that global climate change is exacerbating the situation here causing more intense and more frequent droughts that communities cannot escape from.
Ethiopia depends on its rains. When it doesn’t rain, harvests fail – leading to household food insecurity and loss of incomes. When it doesn’t rain, wells and water points dry up – leading to lack of drinking water for humans and animals. When it doesn’t rain, pasture doesn’t grow – and livestock have no food. Food insecurity and insufficient water mean malnutrition and health problems. Loss of incomes mean families are often forced to sell off productive assets like cows and goats, plunging them further into poverty. In GOAL’s area of operations, we are seeing the effects of this drought on a daily basis – thousands of livestock have died, children are malnourished and their health is suffering due to water-related diseases. Schools have been forced to close and women and children are forced to spend large parts of their day just walking in search of water.
The government has already mobilised funds and is coordinating a response, but resources are limited. They rely on donors and organisations like GOAL to assist. GOAL is responding by implementing nutrition programmes to reach severely malnourished children. We are vaccinating animals against disease and ensuring water reaches affected villages. Our communities need us and we will continue to respond. We cannot do this without you.
Thank you so much to everyone who has already given to GOAL’s East Africa Emergency Appeal. Please continue to support our operations in Ethiopia and across this region during this time of crisis.
Lesley Ann Devereux