One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia – mainly in the north of the country – are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis after the drought cut production by up to 90 per cent in some areas.

By Christabel Ligami |

During my recent visit to Addis Ababa, one thing caught my eyes: the increased number of people on the streets begging for food and money. This is not the same Ethiopian capital I visited last year. It is very different due to a severe drought, and the government is trying hard to keep word from getting out.

I asked a fellow journalist from Ethiopia – I will not mention his identity for security reasons – if I could take a photo.

“The government doesn’t want us (media) to write about this, and especially if you are a foreign journalist, you will be in much trouble. Most of the local journalists here are in jail for reporting the hunger stories and other stories that the government is against.

“The government thinks by telling the hunger stories, it is an embarrassment to the country,” he says, echoing what I hear from other journalists as well as NGOs.

Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in at least three decades, with devastating effects on agriculture and livestock, whilst millions of people face food insecurity. More than 10 million people – one in ten Ethiopians – are said to need emergency aid due to failed rains.

The Ethiopian government and humanitarian agencies have said that Ethiopia needs nearly US$600 million in international humanitarian assistance. But critics say the government’s new leasing law for foreign concerns is aggravating the crisis by blocking livestock from grazing in areas less-affected by the drought.

One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia – mainly in the north of the country – are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis after the drought cut production by up to 90 per cent in some areas. That has caused a flight to the cities.

“Whenever the drought occurs in these areas, people migrate to areas less affected to look for food, and Addis Ababa is one of the areas they move to, especially those just in the outskirts of the city,” said Mitiku Kassa, the Commissioner in charge of Ethiopia’s Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Agency, in an interview with Equal Times.

According to the NGO Save the Children the number of those affected could be higher, considering that 7.9 million people are supported by the government’s safety net program that provides wheat, cereals and cooking oil. It says at least 6 million children are hungry.

Continue reading this story on Equal Times
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