While the world has been firmly focused on the humanitarian crisis in Europe stemming from the Syrian conflict, the African nation has slipped further into its own crisis with donations drying up as fast as their lands.
A team of Australian-based Save The Children frontline aid workers has been urgently dispatched to the country to tackle an “unprecedented” drought, the worst in 50 years, where more than 400,000 children under five are severely malnourished and one tenth of the population can no longer feed themselves.
The aid group has appealed to the United Nations to urgently increase emergency funding to the $1.4 billion drought appeal which is so far only one-third full.
The so-called “biblical” Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s claimed the lives of one million people but prompted the world into action through the Live Aid concerts.
Speaking via telephone from the country, Australian Save the Children staff told News Corp Australia the Federal Government needed to urgently give $20 million as its “fair share” to the developing crisis.
“The scale of this emergency is enormous, and if the rains don’t come soon the impact will unfortunately get even worse,” said Canberra aid worker Greg Takats who is leading emergency teams now in isolated areas of eastern Ethiopia.
“I have witnessed skeletons of livestock that have perished from the lack of rain and food. Vast areas have turned to dust. We must act now to prevent further suffering. The international community, including Australia that knows well the impact droughts can have on local communities, must step up and urgently increase funding towards Ethiopia’s drought response.
“Australia gave generously to the East Africa food crisis in 2011 by providing more than $140m in funding, however is yet to directly contribute to the current $1.4bn Ethiopia drought appeal. This is Australia’s chance to help the drought affected people of Ethiopia, where more than 10 million people are in need of food aid.”
The Australian group has reported locals eating seeds meant for planting, which would mean they will have nothing to grow next season, while others are selling off dying livestock to make enough money for hand-to-mouth sustenance and nothing to farm in future.
Drought conditions, triggered by El Niño, began in June of last year in remote North Eastern areas of the country, as well as many parts of Somalia and Somaliland, and have spread rapidly to the more populous highlands, leaving an estimated 10.1 million people in need of food aid.
According to the Ethiopian Government, an estimated six million children are now facing critical food shortages, although it is at pains to point out there is no starvation as yet.
The UN’s World Food Programme, the main provider of food aid, said it did not have enough money to provide aid much more beyond June.
“These contributions do not come close to meeting the $481 million which is required,” the WFP said. “Urgent contributions are essential now to be able to sustain the response.”