UNICEF and WFP Regional Directors visit El Niño driven drought response in Ethiopia

Afar Region – Ethiopia Ms Leila Pakkala and Ms Valerie Guarnieri, UNICEF and WFP Regional Directors for Eastern and Central Africa, have visited the ongoing government-led drought response where UNICEF-WFP are closely collaborating. The drought is affecting six regions in Ethiopia, and 9.7 million people are in need of urgent food relief assistance including approximately 5.7 million children who are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water as a result of the current El Niño driven drought.

In Afar Region, where an estimated 1.7 million people are affected by the drought, including 234,000 under-five children, the Regional Directors visited UNICEF/WFP/Government of Ethiopia supported programmes. These included the targeted supplementary feeding programme (TSFP) and an outreach site where one of Afar’s 20 Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) provides preventive and curative health, nutrition and WASH services to a hard-to-reach community in Lubakda kebele.

Ms Leila Pakkala and Ms Valerie Guarnieri, UNICEF and WFP Regional Directors for Eastern and Central Africa in Ethiopia visit

The Mobile Health and Nutrition Team provides Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) and targeted supplementary feeding programme (TSFP) services to remote communities. The TSFP is integrated with MHNT services that address under five children and pregnant and lactating women with moderate acute malnutrition, and link them to TSFP when they are discharged from OTP. This solves the challenge in addressing the SAM–MAM continuum of care and preventing moderate acute malnourished children deteriorating into severe acute malnutrition.

The Directors also visited a multi-village water scheme for Afar pastoralist communities in Musle Kebele, Kore Woreda (district) which suffers from chronic water insecurity.

“Valerie and I are hugely impressed by the work of the WFP and UNICEF teams in Afar,” said UNICEF’s Pakkala.  “The quality of the work being done in such difficult circumstances – from the mobile health and nutrition teams, to WASH, protection, education and advocacy – is remarkable. We were also immensely impressed with the national level partnership between UNICEF and WFP, and our credibility with government and donors. The relationship and collaboration is a model for other countries to learn from and emulate.”

“Ethiopia is showing us that drought does not have to equal disaster,” said Valerie Guarnieri of WFP.  “We can clearly see the evidence here that a robust, government-led humanitarian response – supported by the international community – can and does save lives in a time of crisis.”

UNICEF and WFP continue to support the Government in responding to the current drought with a focus on the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities by using proven context specific solutions and approaches.

Malnutrition mounts as El Niño takes hold  

Drought in Ethiopia
Bora Robu Etu, a father in Haro Huba kabele, says that people are not only angry at not being able to feed their children – but their cattle too. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Almost one million children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF said today. Two years of erratic rain and drought have combined with one of the most powerful El Niño events in 50 years to wreak havoc on the lives of the most vulnerable children.

Across the region, millions of children are at risk from hunger, water shortages and disease. It is a situation aggravated by rising food prices, forcing families to implement drastic coping mechanisms such as skipping meals and selling off assets.

“The El Niño weather phenomenon will wane, but the cost to children – many who were already living hand-to-mouth – will be felt for years to come,” said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Governments are responding with available resources, but this is an unprecedented situation. Children’s survival is dependent on action taken today.”

Lesotho, Zimbabwe and most provinces in South Africa have declared a state of disaster in the face of growing resource shortages. In Ethiopia, the number of people in need of food assistance is expected to increase from over 10 million to 18 million by the end of 2016.

Releasing its latest briefing on the impact of El Niño on children in the region, UNICEF notes that:

  • In Ethiopia, two seasons of failed rains mean that near on six million children currently require food assistance, with school absenteeism increasing as children are forced to walk greater distances in search of water;
  • In Somalia, more than two thirds of those in urgent need of assistance are displaced populations;
  • In Kenya, El Niño related heavy rains and floods are aggravating cholera outbreaks;
  • In Lesotho, one quarter of the population are affected. This aggravates grave circumstances for a country in which 34% of children are orphans, 57% of people live below the poverty line, and almost one in four adults live with HIV/Aids;
  • In Zimbabwe, an estimated 2.8 million people are facing food and nutrition insecurity. The drought situation has resulted in reduced water yields from the few functioning boreholes exacerbating the risk to water-borne diseases, especially diarrhea and cholera;
  • Malawi is facing the worst food crisis in nine years, with 2.8 million people (more than 15 per cent of the population) at risk of hunger; cases of severe acute malnutrition have just jumped by 100% in just two months, from December 2015 to January 2016;
  • In Angola, an estimated 1.4 million people are affected by extreme weather conditions and 800,000 people are facing food insecurity, mainly in the semi-arid southern provinces.

The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that it will take affected communities approximately two years to recover from El-Nino exacerbated drought, if agricultural conditions improve in the latter half of this year.

UNICEF humanitarian appeals are less than 15 per cent funded across El Niño-impacted countries in southern Africa.

UNICEF humanitarian appeals in El Nino-affected countries:

  • $US 26 million in Angola
  • $US 87 million in Ethiopia
  • $US 3 million in Lesotho
  • $US 11 million in Malawi
  • $US 15 million in Somalia
  • $US 1 million in Swaziland
  • $US 12 million in Zimbabwe