For weeks, stories and photos coming out of the Somali and Oromia regional states have revealed a growing humanitarian crisis of a magnitude unseen for decades. Cattle have been pictured with their bones poking out and hundreds of thousands displaced seeking nourishment. In the Somali Regional State, where the crisis hit hard, 1.4 million heads of livestock have been lost, dealing a severe blow to the livelihoods of pastoralist households. The lives of 3.2 million people are at risk. A similar calamity also haunts the southeastern parts of Oromia, where malnutrition cases are doubling. The culprit is a drought – unlike in the northern part of the country, where the ongoing crisis is largely manmade. It is hitting a part of the country that is already semi-arid, primarily supporting pastoralists. Drought is not new to the area, but it has not been this bad in four decades, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA).

“Ethiopia is experiencing a prolonged drought with three poor rainy seasons in a row," said the UN agency. Communities in six zones of Somali, four zones of Oromia and one zone of southern regional state have been severely impacted, according to UN-OCHA.

They need urgent humanitarian relief assistance, the UN urged. The federal government, the regional states and humanitarian agencies are scrambling after the fact. In response to the drought, the Somali and Oromia regional governments have eked out 200 million Br and half a billion Birr, respectively. Neighbouring governments and administrations have also been chipping in. The Addis Abeba City Administration recently made an in-kind contribution of 50 million Br to drought-affected people in the Guji Zone of the Oromia Regional State.

Federal officials have appealed to donors and international aid organisations. While the World Food Programme (WFP) supplied 1.1 million quintals of food aid, the federal government says this is still a million short. A shortfall in funding leaves millions in precarious situations. Experts believe that if the drought continues to become more stubborn in the semi-arid areas, the long-term solution may be resettlement programmes, a consideration with significant socio-political implications for decades to come.

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PUBLISHED ON Jan 29,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1135]

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