The Save the Children charity says it has raised less than a third of what it needs to help Ethiopia cope with a drought which has left 10.2 million people critically short of food
(SOURCE) Experts say the drought is worse than the one seen in 1984, when years of conflict followed by a lack of rain led to a famine that killed up to one million people.
Save the Children President Carolyn Miles said she recently visited the country to see the extent of the problem.
“The scale of the need is really huge and has outstripped the Ethiopian Government’s ability to do this on their own,” Ms Miles said.
The drought has mainly been blamed on El Nino, a weather pattern causing rainfall to decline in some areas of the world and floods elsewhere.
Save the Children has been seeking $US100 million ($142 million) for the next 12 to 18 months, but so far has only $US30 million.
“One of the hardest things right now is getting the awareness up,” Ms Miles said.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is also facing a funding shortfall.
It needs $US480 million ($685 million) to help meet the needs of about 75 per cent of the 10.2 million people at risk in coming months, but has raised just under $US60 million ($86 million), a WFP official said.
Save the Children has ranked Ethiopia a category one emergency, the same as the Syrian crisis.
Ms Miles said the Syrian conflict, rumbling on for five years, had “really stretched the humanitarian system”, making it harder to find international support for Ethiopia.
Ethiopia was showing more openness than in the past in publicising the crisis, which could help.
“But because there is so much stress and strain on the humanitarian system, I am not sure how much of a difference that will make,” Ms Miles said.
Ms Miles said Ethiopia was using its food reserves cautiously to make them last and that some families received rations for only some of their members.
Almost 5.8 million of those facing critical food shortages were children, with 400,000 severely malnourished or close to it, making them highly susceptible to pneumonia or malaria, Ms Miles said.
“We really want people to act now when we can actually save those children’s lives,” she said.