“Oromia used to be rich in agriculture. During any normal year, this would be harvest time. Now things have changed. There is no rain and people, including children and women, have been seriously affected by this drought,” says 25-year-old health worker Alfia Mussa, 25, from Oromia.
According to the UN*, there are approximately 10.1 million people in need of food assistance in Ethiopia alone. Out of Oromia’s 19 districts, 12 have been highly affected. Sparse rains have led to a long summer, resulting in intense droughts and little food to harvest.
Distributing vital aid
The government, together with humanitarian organisations such as Plan International, is currently distributing food, aid and water to families. However, more needs to be done.
Alfia has been witness to the devastating impact El Niño has had on her village in the East Hararghe Zone of Oromia, located 560 kilometres away from the capital city Addis Adaba.
As a local government health worker, Alfia’s role is to provide health and medical services to the community, as well as examine children and women affected by the El Niño-induced drought.
With each passing day, Alfia’s work is increasing.
“In the past week alone, we’ve identified 18 children and 32 mothers severely malnourished. This number will rise as time goes on as there is no food and rain in the area,” she added.
According to the local government, nearly everyone living in the area has been affected by the drought. Many children have dropped out of school, while mothers and babies face increasing health risks.
Chaltu Nasiro (above), 27, lives with her husband and 2-year-old son.
“There has been no rain this year. Our crops have dried out. We used to grow maize and sorghum for our livelihood, but now things become very difficult. My child has been affected by a disease caused by lack of food and water. Unless it rains, our situation will only become worse.”
Time to act for children
According to Pankaj Kumar, Head of Programmes for Plan International Ethiopia:
Unless we act now, a global humanitarian emergency will be inevitable
“Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. Children, particularly are at risk due to a lack of food and water, and the risk of disease outbreaks. Many are being forced to drop out of school and their lives are being put at risk due to inadequate food and nutrition. Unless we act now, a global humanitarian emergency will be inevitable.”
Plan International's emergency response has so far included supporting over 25,843 children and 22,807 pregnant women to ensure they have access to food in Ethiopia's Amhara Region, Oromia Region and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region. We have also provided health education to 13,686 people, trained health workers looking after children with severe malnutrition and worked with communities to put preparedness plans in place.
Read more about Plan International's global emergencies work
Learn about our work in Ethiopia
* Plan International is not responsible for the content on external websites