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Drought, made worse by El Niño, spreads suffering across Ethiopia

What good is land, what good is soil without water?’ asks a farmer as humanitarian needs in the country are predicted to climb to $1.4 billion.
Drought is now gripping Ethiopia where the government this year is predicting more than 10 million people will need humanitarian help. In a country where 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture and most farmers rely on rain to feed their crops, the global weather phenomenon known as El Niño has exacerbated the drought conditions.
And Ethiopia is not alone.
“Millions of people in places like Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Papua New Guinea are already feeling the effects of drought and crop failure,” said Nahuel Arenas, Oxfam America’s humanitarian director. “We urgently need to get help to these areas to make sure people have enough food and water.”
In Ethiopia, where the humanitarian response will cost an estimated $1.4 billion, herders in the Somali and Afar regions in the eastern part of the country began feeling the effects of the drought first. The country is enduring a double blow—from El Niño and from shifts in the rainy season linked to long-term climate change. In the last 18 months, rain has fallen erratically or not at all in some parts of the country. In the north, the short rains that typically fall between February and April have been declining for nearly two decades. And the longer rains, which normally arrive in June and last through September were erratic and below average—conditions associated with El Niño.
“We had a good life. We had livestock. There was rain. But now all that is gone and we are in trouble,” said Fatuma Ali Gile, who lives in Hariso village in the Siti region.
Fatuma Roble Maidane, a mother in her 40s who is now living in a camp in Siti for displaced people, has suffered deep losses because of the drought. From a herd that once numbered 190 sheep and goats and 23 cattle, she has only two cattle left, and just 10 sheep and goats
“What good is land, what good is soil without water?” asked farmer Abdi Gire Wais, who came to the Siti camp three months ago with his family. His herd of 15 cattle has dwindled to two and he has lost 80 of the 100 sheep and goats he used to have.
The Ethiopian government, which is leading the response, allocated about $200 million to tackle the drought in 2015 by helping people with food and other basic items. But the needs are now far outpacing that amount.
Oxfam is planning to reach 777,000 people to help ensure they have access to clean water and sanitation facilities and support so they can continue to work and feed their families. We are already repairing wells and trucking water into camps where displaced people are now living in makeshift shelters. Our program will include the distribution of cash, food for herders’ animals, seeds, and farm tools. But to meet that goal, which is targeting the Somali, Afar, and Oromia regions, we need an urgent increase in donor funding. Our objective is to raise $25 million.
Help us assist those enduring climate-related weather crises in Ethiopia and beyond.

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