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Helping to Mitigate Ethiopia's Drought


FILE - A farmer shows his failed crops and farmland in the Megenta area of Afar, Ethiopia.

The periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, known as El Nino, causes weather and short-term climate changes in other parts of the globe.

The periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, known as El Nino, causes weather and short-term climate changes in other parts of the globe. The El Nino of 2015-2016 is the strongest on record. And nowhere have the extreme weather effects associated with El Nino, been more intensely felt than in Ethiopia.

Last summer’s kiremt, or main, rainy season has been weak, and the short spring belg rains are delayed. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the resulting drought, the worst Ethiopia has experienced in five decades, has led to successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths, tripling the humanitarian needs. Some 10.2 million Ethiopians are now chronically hungry, while some 7.5 million farmers and herders need immediate agricultural support to produce both grains and livestock in the coming season.

Since October 2014, the United States has provided over $500 million in aid to Ethiopia, and another $4 million worth of seeds, a critical need for farmers, given that the planting season will begin soon.

But this year we are taking an extra step, one we feel is necessary if we are to prevent this crisis from growing much, much worse. Instead of waiting for the situation to develop into a full-blown emergency, we are sending in a disaster assistance response team, a group of experts that will evaluate the situation on the ground, pinpoint gaps in the aid plan, and accelerate and expand the emergency response, said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith.

“We are moving earlier in this case because we have found that there is real [agreement] between donors, NGOs, the government, and UN agencies that if we move very, very quickly, we can avert the worst impacts of this drought.”

We hope that by taking this step, we will lead the rest of the international community, said Administrator Smith. “If we move now, if other donors move with us, we think we can do two things: avert the worst impacts, and protect some of the development gains that that country has made over many years,” she said.

“We are challenging the world not just to respond to human suffering, but to respond quickly enough to prevent something even worse.”

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