Numbers of drought-affected people in Ethiopia fall significantly

2016 saw a considerable number of success stories in political, diplomatic and economic sectors in Ethiopia. The economic growth of the country continued unabated with the opening of the Ethio-Djibouti Electric railway, and the inauguration of the Gilgel Gibe III hydropower project. There was also an increased focus and progress on industrial park development. Ethiopia was elected to a non-permanent seat at the UNSC, and hosted numerous international conferences successfully. It upheld, and expanded, ties with partner countries and organizations at bilateral, regional and global levels.

There were, of course, some serious challenges not least the unrest that followed the popular demands of good-governance and inclusivity in the ongoing national development in some parts of the country.  More severe were the effects of the El Niño global climactic change event that affected Ethiopia. Drought resistance and responses have, inevitably, been one of the main focus of government policies over the past year The impact of the El Niño wreaked havoc with Ethiopia's main summer rains following a failure of the spring belg rains. This led to drought, food insecurity and water shortages in the most affected areas of the country. The El Niño phenomenon was in fact the strongest ever recorded and it affected millions in the drought-hit areas of Ethiopia, as well as millions elsewhere.

The government was quick to organize relief efforts, working hard to provide the necessary resources to mitigate the effects of the drought, and to contain the subsequent and ongoing problems. It has also, of course, been a difficult year for humanitarian aid with a number of major international humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and other areas stretching crisis responses. The government has continued to make every effort to minimize the impact of the El Niño phenomenon, underlining its determination to continue to do everything possible to protect people from the effects of this environment-related crisis. It funded substantial extra food imports, identified severely affected areas and put into operation concerted and continuous efforts to assist people in these areas with both food and water support and other humanitarian assistance.

After more than seven months of efforts by the Federal Government and the Regional State administrations to assist the drought hit areas and mitigate the challenges facing the more than 10 million people in the areas hit by the El Niño drought, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission was able to announce last week that the number of people receiving daily subsistence humanitarian support has declined to 5.6 million.

In a Forum held to discuss and provide updates information on the drought response, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen commended the overall efforts that had been made and which were continuing. He emphasized the importance of the continuing momentum and detailed the need to further scale-up the national, sustainable capacity for disaster response and management. He praised the regional states and underlined that the Federal Government would continue to provide necessary support for the three regional states affected by the drought, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People (SNNP), Somali and Oromia Regional States. Overall, the drought had not caused long-term harm to the livelihoods of the people, though the three regional states were continuing to distribute emergency food aid in the most affected areas, in addition to animal feed and water.

Mitiku Kassa, Commissioner of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, briefed the Forum. By December last year close to 14 billion Biir had been allocated to avert the effects of the crisis and the Government and the Regional State administrations, together with Ethiopia's partners in the international community, had been ready to meet the needs of the people. Regional governments had also allocated substantial financial resources to help deal with the problem. The Somali Regional State, for example, was undertaking its own relief operations, allocating 300 million birr, and the Oromia Regional State administration had provided 60 million birr of support for those affected.

The Commissioner also detailed the work of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission in working on revision of the country's disaster prevention and preparedness national policy and strategy and on implementation of aid and assistance in the light of the lessons learnt during the recent challenge. He noted that the Commission is also working to create, strengthen, and administer stand-by capacities for selected, strategic areas for timely, effective, and appropriate response to deal with fast onset or other disasters of national concern. Another of the tasks of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission is to cooperate with domestic and foreign information sources, to monitor, forecast, and warn against disasters that might affect the country's agricultural sector and endanger the livelihood of the population.