Remarks by Peter Vrooman at the High-Level Event on the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia


Remarks by
Peter Vrooman,
Chargé d’Affaires a.i.,
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
at the High-Level Event on the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
January 29, 2017

(As prepared for delivery)

A year ago we gathered here to draw attention to the 2016 humanitarian appeal.  As Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said, we  marshalled the largest emergency drought response in history.  And while I wish we could be rewarded for those extraordinary efforts with a pause in humanitarian crises, nature has not been kind to the Horn of Africa.  We find ourselves yet again facing enormous humanitarian needs in 2017.

We know that the top-line numbers this year.  While they are – are below year’s appeal, they  still represent historically high figures if we look back to the last 10 years in Ethiopia.  I would highlight that the outbreak of Measles in some areas adds additional urgency to proactive immunization efforts among communities hit by drought and malnutrition.

As the Deputy Prime Minister highlighted, this year Ethiopia still has recovery needs from the El Niño weather event:  We know that it can take drought-affected households – particularly pastoralists — years to rebound in Ethiopia, as UN Under Secretary-General Stephen O’Brien underscored.  Many in the Afar and northern Somali region are still recovering from last year’s drought, while other areas in the Somali region have faced erratic rainy seasons and are only now recovering from the 2010-11 drought. We look forward to the Government’s plans to address the recovery, including the heavy debt burden faced by many households across Ethiopia.

There are real funding gaps for both the Humanitarian Response Document (HRD) appeal and the Productive Safety Net Program – a lifeline for nearly eight million Ethiopians that many of  us support.  There must be urgent efforts to increase transparency and coordination of targeting beneficiaries across these critical programs to ensure even greater efficiency and effectiveness, as UK Minister of State Patel also emphasized.

We are also increasingly concerned about the regional dimension of the current food security crisis, and are closely monitoring reports from the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) that famine is possible in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen in 2017.  Here in Ethiopia,we  must turn early warning information into early action, particularly if the spring rains fail in March.

The United States remains strongly committed to ensuring that humanitarian food and non-food needs of vulnerable Ethiopians are met.  We have provided over $800  million for the Al-Niño drought response in food, non-food and refugee humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia since October 2014 and we are mobilizing resources to respond to the 2017 HRD across multiple sectors.