Dead animals parched with hunger and thirst litter the ground near Godé, a village where the inhabitants’ survival and economy revolve around livestock. For more than a year, there has not been a drop of rain in this region.
“May God help us, may he send us the rain,” says a desperate resident who has lost his entire herd. The drought is hitting hard. Water wells dried up and millions of cattle died, resulting in massive population displacements. Animals that are not yet dead are so thin that they cannot be sold.
Children are the first victims of this famine. Some in a state of malnutrition are auscultated in a food distribution center. Mothers receive food supplements to enable them to feed their children.
“We meet some mothers who, because they do not eat enough, do not produce enough milk for their children”, underlines a pediatrician interviewed by franceinfo media.
UNICEF called for an immediate and strengthened humanitarian response to save the lives of millions of children, stressing that “nearly 10 million people, including 4.4 million children, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia”.
By the end of the year, more than 600,000 children will need to be treated for severe acute malnutrition in the four regions affected by the drought, estimates the UN agency which points out that malnutrition rates are increasing at an “alarming rate due to drought”.
Last May, the number of admissions for severe acute malnutrition in children under five increased by more than 40% compared to the same period in May 2021 in the Somali region.
The Somali region-based disaster risk management office said major crop losses had been reported in Fafan and Sitti regions. Losses of up to 70% of the expected sorghum and maize harvest, 30% of the expected wheat harvest as well as 30% of the expected onion and tomato harvest are reported in this part of the Somali region.
Nearly 4.4 million people are currently facing severe water shortages in the southern and eastern lowlands of Oromia and Somali regions, which are considered the most affected.
In Oromia, local authorities report an average of 70% crop loss.
“The impact of the drought is devastating. Children and their families are struggling to survive due to the loss of their livelihoods and livestock,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, Mr. Gianfranco Rotigliano.
The month of April is considered as one of the wettest of the year in Ethiopia, it hardly rained a drop of water. The drought led to societal breakdown and damaged the social organization of communities.
Since it is necessary to save the animals, essential to survival, the families separate by abandoning their villages. Even sick children are often neglected.
The situation is getting worse every day. Ethiopia, which imports 67% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. Because the war in Ukraine will further amplify food insecurity with rising fuel prices and reduced wheat imports.