Home Emergency Management News Long-Term Planning Key to Ethiopia Overcoming Severe Drought

Long-Term Planning Key to Ethiopia Overcoming Severe Drought

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Severe drought conditions hit Ethiopia hard in past two years

Ethiopia has been hit hard for the last two years by a severe drought that is affecting millions of people by causing food and water insecurity. Many of the nation's citizens are completely dependent on outside aid for food in order to eat and feed their families. Without enough food sources and humanitarian aid and workers to deliver the supplies, deaths are likely to occur, causing additional impacts from the drought.

Millions require food and other services

The overwhelming number of people in need of food assistance in the area is a staggering 10 million, which, according to USAID Director of Food For Peace, Dina Esposito, is three times higher than last year's numbers.

In addition to food assistance, at least 6 million people do not currently have access to water, sanitation, or hygiene services, while those suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition is in excess of 2.5 million people, many of whom likely need treatment.

With the June rains approaching, farmers, who have been without viable crops for two years, are eager to acquire seeds to plant new crops. The number of farmers who need seeds exceeds 1.7 million individuals. The hard truth is that more organizations need to send people to help distribute aid, including food and seeds, as there are simply not enough humanitarian aid workers to get the job done.

A call for help

Esposito strongly advised that, along with an additional number of aid and workers, protection of development gains is crucial to avoid yet another humanitarian catastrophe, which the world can ill-afford in light of other ongoing humanitarian issues. Workers are needed to distribute food, work in health care centers, and assist with long term development planning to encourage resilience.

Esposito also called on the Ethiopian government to cut through "bureaucratic red-tape and adjust protocols to allow for more rapid distributions of food and other supplies," and accept more international aid to help bolster staffing levels and improve response chain efficiency.

Long-term planning the key to self-reliance and resilience

Still, Esposito insisted that long-term planning is vital to continued development and self-sustainability. There have been some gains through a resilience program developed by USAID. Amid the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, made worse by El Niño, one organization, USAID, is seeking to ensure resilience through its Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development program.

Esposito described the program by noting that "it targets households depending on food assistance from the USAID-supported and Ethiopia Government-led Productive Safety Net Program and helps them "graduate," or in other words build enough assets so they are self reliant."

Program helps teach families income diversification

The USAID program helps teach individuals how to diversify their income sources to become self-sustaining, even during an extended extreme drought. Remote families are organized into community associations and trained in methods that help provide a wider expanse of financial products and services which provides greater access to an increased variety of goods. These may include better credit options, better performing seeds, and access to fertilizers.

It also teaches them how to find other ways to diversify and increase income, rather than relying solely on farming.  This reduces their reliance on a single source of income, helping them achieve self-reliance and become more resilient.

The program can only do so much, and in the face of increasingly difficult conditions, any meaningful gains may be overcome if enough humanitarian aid is not received. Avoiding a humanitarian crisis is critical, not only because it is the right thing to do to avoid loss of life, but for its other impacts that may occur, such as climate change refugees, political unrest, and extremism.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.