Eight million Ethiopians stand the risk of famine as the country’s emergency food aid is expected to run out at the end of June.
The UN’s World Food Program has warned that Ethiopia will run out of emergency food aid by July as the number of victims affected by drought in the East African country climbs to 7.8 million, ABC reports.
The Associated Press quotes Ethiopia’s disaster relief chief Mitiku Kassa as saying the country needs more than $1 billion for emergency food assistance.
Poor rainfalls in the last three years in Ethiopia and much of the area around the Horn of Africa have led to a drastic drop of water levels in rivers, streams, and other water bodies.
Meteorologists say that the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has affected much of east and southern Africa, is partly responsible for the country’s drought.
Local cattle are starving and animal carcasses are a common feature in the worst hit areas. In addition, the number of drought victims has risen by 2 million people in the past four months.
The UN has already declared famine in parts of South Sudan, and in May, it warned that more than 20 million people face starvation and famine in South Sudan, Somalia, northeastern Nigeria, and Yemen, in what it described as the largest single humanitarian crisis in its history.
The International Organization for Migration says that hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with the problem compounded as people pour in to Ethiopia from Somalia.
The UN has called for donations and launched an appeal for urgent humanitarian assistance, but it says the response so far has been slow, a situation a UN envoy says may be due to donor fatigue.
John Graham, country director of the charity Save the Children, described the crisis as a dangerous situation.
“After [the food runs out], we don’t know what is going to happen. And without that basic food, then you will have the problem [of] falling into severe malnutrition because people are not getting any food.
“These children become severely malnourished and that’s where you have a very dangerous situation,” he told the AFP.
Ethiopia’s disaster relief chief Mitiku Kassa agrees that the situation poses a high risk of acute food and nutritional shortage but insists that his country is now better prepared at coping with the effect of droughts than in previous years.
Over the last two years, the Ethiopian government set aside the sum of $381 million (£300m) to provide emergency assistance to those worst hit by the crisis.