Ethiopia is currently experiencing the worst drought in 30 years, as failed spring rains combined with El Nino conditions to severely weaken the summer harvests that feed 80-85 percent of the country. However, experts have been quick to emphasize that the current situation will in no way reach the crisis levels seen during the 1984 drought and subsequent famine.
A press release from the Ethiopian Embassy in London, released on November 10, highlighted action that the Ethiopian Government has taken in recent months to prepare for the possibility of El Nino-driven food insecurity. The country has mobilized 2 billion Ethiopian Birr (around USD 94 million) to help hungry communities and has positioned food from the national reserves in areas throughout the country that are, or could be, affected by the drought. The press release does emphasize the need for international aid to replenish national food stocks, however, estimating the amount needed at USD 600 million.
The government has also kept its economic growth forecast at 10 percent for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Finance Minister Abdulaziz Mohammed has said that he does not expect the drought to divert significant resources from the country’s overall budget.
Ethiopia’s significant economic growth in recent decades puts the country in a better position to handle weather-driven shocks than it was in 1984. In addition, social safety net programs have been established to help protect vulnerable populations during lean harvests.
Despite the country’s progress, however, the UN has reported that about 8.2 million people currently need emergency food aid in Ethiopia. This figure could rise to 15 million in the coming year. Malnutrition rates have also risen; in September, these rates were 20 percent higher than in 2014. Approximately USD 100 million has been given by international donors since October, but continued aid will be necessary to prevent hunger-related deaths.
Read more media coverage of the ongoing Ethiopian drought: