The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it is providing nearly $97 million in additional food assistance to assist vulnerable populations in Ethiopia, including those severely affected by the impacts of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
The contribution provided by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace includes more than 154,000 tons of emergency food assistance to address food needs of approximately 3.5 million Ethiopians as well as refugees from Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea who have fled conflict in their own countries. USAID is contributing $58 million to its partner Catholic Relief Services for 105,700 tons of U.S. food; providing $19 million to the UN World Food Program (WFP) for its drought relief operation, and $20 million for its refugee assistance. The United States has also pre-positioned relief commodities in Ethiopia to meet anticipated increased needs from El Niño. USAID food assistance contributions have been early and robust, thanks to the early warning and careful tracking of the progression of El Niño in the Horn of Africa.
The El Niño has significantly impacted weather patterns in Ethiopia this year, limiting agricultural production, straining livelihoods, and exacerbating food insecurity among poor and vulnerable households. The projected level of need for emergency aid in Ethiopia has grown from 2.9 million people in early 2015 to 4.5 million people in August to 8.2 million people as of mid-October. As El Niño progresses into 2016, Ethiopia is likely to experience both prolonged drought and intense flooding that will further deteriorate food security.
“Improved early warning, the establishment of the Productive Safety Net Program, as well as serious engagement by the Government of Ethiopia to analyze and respond to the ongoing El Niño crisis means that we are not likely to see the kind of famine conditions we witnessed in Ethiopia in earlier decades,” said Dina Esposito, Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. She added, “While this is the good news part of the story, it is not cause for complacency. Given that we are witnessing the driest conditions ever recorded in parts of Ethiopia, we know the magnitude of the need will require far more robust support globally than what has currently been pledged. With these early contributions we aim to demonstrate the United States’ deep concern over rapidly expanding relief requirements and send a signal to other donors to respond generously as well.”
Since 2005, USAID and other donors have supported the Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). With the help of the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, the PSNP addresses the basic food needs of approximately 8 million chronically food insecure people by providing 4-6 months of timely and predictable transfers of food and cash resources each year to very poor households, in exchange for their engagement in public works projects. This program, which has led to improved natural resource management, nutrition and health education and establishment of savings groups has built the resilience of these communities and is helping many poor households withstand the worse impacts of this drought. Since summer 2015, USAID has provided nearly $246 million in food and nutrition assistance in Ethiopia.