Ethiopia needs $245 million in the next three weeks to prevent starvation by the end of April, a charity organisation Save the Children has warned.
Save the Children said the emergency food aid would help prevent a potentially severe increase in acute malnutrition cases in drought-afflicted parts of the country.
“We only have until the end of February for the international community to pledge and disburse more funds for urgently needed food aid,” John Graham, country director of Save the Children Ethiopia said.
The government has shouldered much of the financial burden so far
“It can take around 120 days to purchase and transport food into Ethiopia through Djibouti, so we all must step up now otherwise children and families in dire need of assistance could simply not have any food from outside.”
Ethiopia is battling devastating effects of its worst drought in 50 years, which has already left a staggering 10.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance. This number includes six million children.
“If these emergency funds do not arrive in time, there is no question that there will be a critical fracture in the food aid supply pipeline during the main ‘hungry season, which peaks in August,” Graham said.
A combined government and aid agencies appeal for $1.4 billion to combat the impact of the drought remains less than half funded, despite early warning alarm bells ringing for months.
The government has spent more than $380 million on the drought response, a hefty burden in a country that remains one of the poorest in Africa per capita and where many people rely on subsistence farming.
“The government has shouldered much of the financial burden so far, but if they don’t get more immediate help from foreign donors they may be forced to redirect funding from other vital areas, including education and maternal and child health programs, in order to buy life-saving food aid,” Graham said.
The drought has been blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon that has resulted in high temperatures and reduced rainfall in most parts of Africa.