4.6 million children require life-saving assistance in drought affected Ethiopia

12th November 2015

DUBLIN, 12 November 2015 – The Ethiopian Government recently announced that 8.2 million Ethiopians – increased from 4.5 million in August 2015 – will require food aid for the remainder of 2015. Currently, 4.6 million children require humanitarian assistance, including treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

The 2015 rains (June to September) were late in the Northern and Eastern parts of Ethiopia. In the months that followed, these seasonal rains were also irregular in Central, Northern and Eastern parts of the country. This has led to the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation particularly in Afar and Northern Somali Region, where the belg (February to March) rains have also failed leading to critical water shortages and the death of livestock. The National Meteorological Agency forecasts that below average rains are likely to occur in North-eastern, Eastern and Central parts of the country, having a negative impact on meher harvest (starting from November). Above normal seasonal rains in South and South- Eastern areas are expected to lead to floods.

The drought has far reaching consequences for children’s wellbeing. Measles, one of the leading causes of child illness and death, has affected almost 7,000 children in the first 7 months of 2015. Over 735,150 children have not been able to go to school as a result of the drought. There are strong indications that all child protection concerns have increased due to the drought. Large numbers of children and women are displaced from their homes in search of food, livelihood and safe living spaces which make them especially vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.

Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, Peter Power said: “UNICEF is gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in drought-affected regions of Ethiopia. 4.6 million children are now in need of humanitarian support. As the situation continues to deteriorate, many children are out of school and at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. UNICEF is calling for increased funding and support, in order to avert a catastrophic loss of young children’s lives”

UNICEF is continuing to provide for the immediate needs of children and their families in key life-saving sectors, namely nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF continues to support the Government of Ethiopia to build disaster risk management capacity in regions affected by food insecurity and has prepositioned emergency life-saving supplies in Addis Ababa as well as three regional hubs to address the humanitarian needs of 125,000 people. In addition to regular nutrition programs, UNICEF has taken swift action to scale up its nutrition programs to treat severely malnourished children by procuring and distributing additional life-saving emergency nutrition supplies to affected regions.

UNICEF, the Federal Ministry of Health and NGOs are operating 35 Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) in remote, drought affected areas of Somali and Afar regions. The MHNTs are now reaching the most critical areas providing life-saving health care, routine vaccination, and treatment for malnourished children, and emergency referrals. In the coming months, UNICEF will support the Federal Ministry of Health to vaccinate 5.3 million children against measles.

UNICEF has deployed a deep well service rig to rehabilitate abandoned deep boreholes to provide clean drinking water in priority areas of Somali, Oromia and Afar regions. As a last resort, emergency water supply will be provided to the most vulnerable communities by water trucks. Flood mitigation and preparedness interventions are urgently required to reduce the impact of floods on the population.

UNICEF in Ethiopia currently faces a funding shortfall of US$36M, $10.6M of which is urgently needed to support immediate lifesaving interventions for women and children. UNICEF is accepting donations at www.unicef.ie.

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