These women have left their village in the Afar region of Ethiopia, in search of food and water. Almost all the children here are either malnourished or severely malnourished. Credit: Nick Danziger/Oxfam
Oxfam calls for rich countries to redouble the aid effort to avert disaster

Millions more Ethiopians going hungry as aid effort stalls

“Over 13.5 million Ethiopians are in need of aid in order to survive.”
Waleed Rauf
Oxfam’s country director
Published: 10 October 2008

The number of Ethiopians needing emergency assistance has leapt by 40 percent from 4.6 million to 6.4 million people since June, according to latest official figures from the United Nations and the Ethiopian government. At the same time cereal rations to those needing assistance have been reduced by a third because not enough food is reaching the country, said international agency Oxfam today.

The agency called on all donors to respond generously to the worsening crisis as, according to the UN, the total aid effort is currently under-funded to the tune of $260m.

The revised numbers of those needing emergency assistance is likely to be a conservative estimate and does not include the 7.2 million Ethiopians so chronically poor that they receive cash or food aid from the government every year.

“Today’s figures, terrible as they are, show only half the picture. Over 13.5 million Ethiopians are in need of aid in order to survive. The number of those suffering severe hunger and destitution has spiraled. More can and must be done now to save lives and avert disaster,” said Oxfam’s country director, Waleed Rauf.

"Compared with the funds going to shore up the global financial system the aid needed to save lives in Ethiopia is a drop in the ocean. The events of recent weeks clearly demonstrate that – with the right kind of political will and ambition – action is possible in the face of urgent needs. We need donors to demonstrate that same kind of urgency when responding to acute hunger and underlying vulnerabilities in places like Ethiopia," added Rauf.

Oxfam is particularly concerned about the situation for pastoralist communities in Afar and Somali regions. In northern areas the recent minor rains season was patchy and many people will remain dependent on aid until March next year when the next rains are expected. Further south, if the October/November rains are poor people there will have to hold out until next July.

Numbers in need of help in the Somali region has doubled to nearly two million people since June. Those in need also face huge problems due to loss of their livestock with an average loss of 60 percent of cattle, 50 percent of goats and 40 percent of camels.

In July the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) had to reduce monthly cereal rations from 15kgs a person to 10kgs. WFP has only received one third of the funds it needs and has an immediate shortfall of 229,587 tonnes food for the next six months. The UN agency fears the impact of this will include increased malnutrition.

“A number of donor countries have already made substantial contributions to the humanitarian response in Ethiopia since the beginning of this year. This has helped to save people’s lives, but now that the needs are increasing all donors must provide additional money,” said Rauf.

Notes to Editors

  • The number of vulnerable people targeted for emergency support increased from 2.2 million in April, to 4.6 million in June, and was revised again this week to 6.4 million persons.  
  • A further 7.2 million persons in drought-affected areas receive support through the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP)  
  • By March 2008, inflation of food prices in the country had reached 46.9%.  
  • More than 100,000 children have been admitted to therapeutic feeding centres for severe acute malnutrition this year. According to the United Nations, 2-3 children die each day due to malnutrition in one badly affected sub-regional district (Liben, Somali region) alone.  
  • Across the country, Oxfam is currently reaching an estimated 500,000 people with water, food aid and cash programmes. Oxfam is also helping people to protect and recover their livestock and to secure their livelihoods.  It needs extra money to reach many more.  
  • Images by award winning photographer Nick Danziger, who has visited the Somali and Afar regions of Ethiopia are available. VNR footage is also available.