Ethiopia: Reversing Effects of Drought through Concentrated Efforts


Climate Change has become a global phenomenon that is subsequently triggered by various man-made and natural factors. Deforestation and industrial wastes and pollutants have continued to increase carbon emissions which have caused global warming. In the post industrial situation, countries are being forced to face the grim reality of climatic changes that are affecting government development plans and the daily life of the ordinary citizen.

The El Nino has significantly impacted weather patterns in Ethiopia this year, limiting agricultural production, straining livelihoods and exacerbating food insecurity among vulnerable households.

The projected levels of need for emergency food aid 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. This number will rise to 10.2 million as of January 2016, according to the revised Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) launched this month.

As a nation that had to sustain recurrent climatic changes including the current drought induced by the El Nino, Ethiopia is conducting its development programmes in two prongs. Engaged in rapid development programmes crowned with double digit scores, the country is busy conducting nationwide relief programmes with better institutional and programmatic capacity to mitigate the adverse effects of El- Nino.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Ethiopia as among the five fastest growing economies in the world. After a decade of continuous expansion (during which real GDP growth averaged 10.8 per cent per annum), in 2014/15 the economy grew for its 12th consecutive year posting 10.2 per cent growth. Expansion of the services and agricultural sectors account for most of this growth, while manufacturing sector performance was relatively modest.

Economic growth brought with it positive trends in reducing poverty, in both urban and rural areas. While 38.7 per cent of Ethiopians lived in extreme poverty in 2004-2005, five years later this was 29.6 per cent, which is a decrease of 9.1 percentage points as measured by the national poverty line, of less than 0.6 USD per day. This has reduced further to 22 per cent by 2014-2015.

This situation has positioned Ethiopia in a better place, allocating 192 million USD to deal with the emergency. Despite Ethiopia has continued to be the fastest growing economies in the world and this development improved its capacity towards handling emergencies such as drought, but, these are the direst conditions ever recorded in parts of Ethiopia and it is clear that there is an urgent need for all donors to step up and do what they can.

The drought has affected the entire socio-economic fabric of 8.2 million people in different parts of the country. That number has now increased to 10.2 million. The drought has particularly affected Afar State, Eastern Amhara, East and West Harerge zones and Arsie Zone.

To address the immediate food needs, the government of Ethiopia has already allocated more than 200 million USD. The government has been transporting 222,000 tons of food on the 20th of November by railway. Additional 405,000 tons is to be imported over the coming months.

As the drought situation is expected to last between 9 months and probably a year, the government alone cannot handle the relief programme single handed.

International donor agencies, the private sector and various local institutions in the country can contribute their part through the coordination of responsible government institutions. The government estimated that emergency response amounting to 1.4 billion USD will be required to deal with the crisis.

Saying Ethiopia is now better able to cope with this situation than previously due to the improved early warning system, the establishment of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), and serious engagement by the Government of Ethiopia to analyse and response to the on-going crisis caused by El Nino, donors are reluctant to extend sufficient assistance to the country.

 Although the agencies and the UN systems seem to be willing to support government efforts, their response was rather lukewarm at earlier stages of the drought but some partners like the World Bank have agreed in principle to continue to provide support. The government is distributing its own emergency food aid because pledges made by donors have not yet been delivered.

Engagement of many of international, government and private donor agencies are preoccupied with the influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and from several other countries in the Middle East and the ongoing terror threats from ISIS is another reason seems to lower donors’ response to the drought.

Efforts to minimize the effects of the drought situation demands multi-sector approach and concerted efforts of all concerned bodies. It is particularly important to provide support to the needy population right in their own domiciles to avoid any level of displacement that could trigger increase in school drop outs and spread of drought induced diseases.

Reports from the Ministry of Industry show that the nation is using the private food processing industries to produce more supplementary food that could be utilized to feed children in therapeutic feeding units and for those that are treated at their homes.

Among the efforts of the government towards effectively meeting the needs of the population in drought affected areas, the country’s flagship social safety net programme, the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is one.

As part of the drought response, the government has planned to benefit 7.9 million people from this programme. This will help to markedly reduce the dependency syndrome among the beneficiaries and also contribute to the fulfilment of the ongoing regular development programmes in the country.

Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is a large national social safety net programme that responds not only to chronic food insecurity among the poor, but also to shorter-term shocks, mainly droughts.

It targets a highly climate-vulnerable population, offering a practical model of how social safety nets can be designed to meet the social protection needs of the most vulnerable, while simultaneously reducing the risks from disaster and climate-related impacts.

The PSNP incorporates a number of features, such as: public works activities geared towards improving climate resiliency; a risk financing facility to help poor households and communities to better cope with transitory shocks, including households outside of the core programme; and the use of targeting methods that assist the most climate-vulnerable community members to obtain the full benefits of consumption smoothing and asset protection.

The programme also works through, and focuses on strengthening, existing government institutional systems at all levels- rather than creating separate systems.

Apart from handling the ongoing drought situation in the country, it is equally important to compile the lessons learned from the drought situation and integrate them into the development programmes of the country and to address any future climate change induced drought and related undesirable consequences.

Furthermore, universities and institutes of higher learning in the country may be engaged in need based researches particularly on the effects of climate change and the solutions thereof.

To the dismay of any person with a reasonable level of thinking, some foreign media centres and local media outlets are trying to politicize the situation and are busy shifting blames but the crux of the matter is timely action to ease the plights of our compatriots.

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