In the wake of drought and many weeks of humanitarian relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, people in several regions of Ethiopia are in a fragile state, says Charles MacCormack, president and chief executive officer of Save the Children.
Just returned to the United States from a week investigating projects of Save the Children, one of the nation’s humanitarian partners and visiting feeding stations in Ethiopia, MacCormack spoke to VOA’s Henok Fente for the Amharic service about what he witnessed.
Drought and resulting food shortages that devastated parts of eastern and southern Ethiopia have reportedly spread to the northeastern region of Afar. The United Nations estimates more than 3 million people in the Horn of Africa face dire conditions. The situation has worsened with rising food costs and conflicts in the sub-region.
“It is very serious. Several different trends have come together. One is climate change and great uncertainty and changes in the rainfall. The second is the increased cost of foodstuff. The third is the fact that the worldwide food system is drastically stretched beyond anything anyone has known in a generation.”
MacCormack was in Ethiopia visiting drought-stricken regions and to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country with authorities. He said, what he saw in southern Ethiopia was that severe hunger has expanded the number of people who need emergency assistance.
“I saw thousands and thousands of severely malnourished children, many times more a number than what was the case even four months ago. I was in Ethiopia only four or five months ago, and there was really no sign of wide spread malnutrition.” But now MacCormack said thousands of family members with their severely malnourished children are looking for help in clinics.
The Ethiopian government a few months ago issued a statement saying more than 70-thousand children are severely malnourished. According to MacCormack, the situation has worsened since.
“The numbers are definitely increasing as the reserves that people have available are used up. The rain continues to fall at different times. So the problem is now more severe than it was four months ago.”
McCormack said the Ethiopian government and humanitarian organizations have built capacity and are better prepared to alleviate the situation.
“There are many more clinics and village health workers and trained staff than there were four or five years ago working for the government of Ethiopia and the state governments.”
Ethiopian authorities deny the occurrence of severe drought in the semiarid Afar region affecting the livelihood of nomads in the area.