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Nearly Half a Million Ethiopian Children at Risk of Acute Malnutrition

May 03, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Uncategorized

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

May 03, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Uncategorized

Serious drought in Ethiopia. Photo (desertification.wordpress.com)

At least 435,000 Ethiopian children have been admitted to therapeutic care programs due to acute malnutrition as a result of the ongoing drought in the East African country, according to UNICEF.

The UN agency claims the current drought in Ethiopia is the worst drought to hit the country in decades and estimates over 10 million people in Ethiopia need urgent food aid while another “1.7 million children, pregnant women and lactating mothers are in need of supplementary feeding.”

The recently-ended El Niño rains and the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons are being blamed for the ongoing drought in Ethiopia.

“The lack of Kiremt rain, which normally feeds 80 to 85 percent of the Ethiopian population between June and September, has left many livelihoods devastated,” UNICEF claims.

There is an increased rate of malnutrition in the East African country and urgent food aid is required.

UNICEF also reports that the ongoing drought has affected school attendance and estimates that about 2 million children are likely to drop out of school while more than 3,000 schools are on the verge of closure.

Cause of Recurrent Famine in Ethiopia

While the rest of the world is moving towards realizing total food security, Ethiopia – just like many other African nations – is still struggling with recurring famine. In 1984, more than 1 million Ethiopians died in one of the country’s worst droughts. Since then, many have continued to die.

Experts have come up with varying theories regarding Ethiopia’s cyclical food shortage. Many have associated the frequent famine with authoritarian rule, which is evidenced by continued violation of press freedom and other basic human rights.

A study by Stephen Devereux, a development economist at IDS Sussex, identified 30 major famines during the 20th century. According to him, all the cases occurred in nations under dictatorship rule; four of them were in Ethiopia.

Overdependence on rain-fed, small-scale farming is seen as the other major cause of recurring drought in Ethiopia. Most agricultural producers in Ethiopia are subsistence farmers who largely depend on seasonal rain.

When the rains fail, the country’s food supply is jeopardized, leaving millions of citizens and livestock devastated. Overfarming, overgrazing and deforestation are other main causes of drought in the Horn of Africa country.

Land degradation and soil erosion due to the recent El Niño rain have had a devastating effect on Ethiopian children and their families, particularly on those whose livelihoods largely depend on agricultural productivity.

Although the Ethiopian government has acknowledged the current famine in the country, it claims it has enough food to feed the affected population.

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