International Red Cross, Switzerland
Ethiopia: drought victims increase as situation worsens
20 August 2008
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is launching a revised emergency appeal for 8.1 million Swiss francs (US$ 7.9 million / € 5 million) to support the Ethiopian Red Cross Society in assisting more than 76,000 people severely affected by drought in the southern Wolaiyta region.
Over the next six months, the Red Cross will provide emergency food and relief assistance, early recovery activities including improvement of access to safe water, and hygiene promotion.
The operation, which was launched in May to help some 40,000 people in Damot Pulasa, has now been extended to respond to the needs of an additional 36,000 villagers in neighbouring Damot Gale.
“Over the past two months the situation has worsened and living conditions have deteriorated. People have exhausted all their resources and are unable to feed themselves. We must step up our response,” says Lorenzo Violante, IFRC’s drought operations manager in Addis Ababa.
Food prices have risen by 330 per cent after a year of adverse climatic events. Floods in 2007 and water logging caused by the Meher rains destroyed most of the maize, millet, wheat, haricot and teff root crops. Failure of the Sapian, an extension of the Meher rains, has accentuated the crisis, and the 2008 failure of the Belg rains has resulted in catastrophic food insecurity and water shortages.
In Damota Pulasa, nearly half of the 54 hand-dug wells and 13 of the 39 shallow wells are out of operation. As a result, people must walk long distances to fetch water and the health of the population - particularly that of children aged under five years and of pregnant women and lactating mothers - is at risk.
“There are more than 16,000 acutely malnourished children in Damot Gale and Damot Pulasa, of whom 1,614 receive intensive care in therapeutic centres across the two regions. The situation can only deteriorate if we are not able to intervene efficiently,” warns Fasika Kebede, Secretary General of the Ethiopian Red Cross.
The Ethiopian Red Cross operation is designed to complement support from the government and other humanitarian organizations helping the families of children being treated in the therapeutic centres.
Food and seed distributions are underway in the two regions but more help is needed. The revised appeal will allow the procurement and distribution of 10,000 sheep as well as agricultural tools to prevent further damage to people’s livelihoods.
Longer term needs will be addressed through the IFRC’s Africa Food Security Initiative, a five-year plan covering 15 countries – including Ethiopia – which will develop food security programmes.
The Times, UK