El Nino threat to food security in Ethiopia: UN humanitarian official

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-11-26 9:26:04

Failed spring rains followed by powerful El Nino weather conditions have created an escalating food emergency in Ethiopia, an official from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) told reporters here Wednesday.

Kyung-wha Kang, the UN assistant secretary-general and deputy UN emergency relief coordinator, made the statement as she was speaking to the press here shortly after returning from Ethiopia where she witnessed severe weather patterns and food shortages first-hand.

"Ethiopia is currently experiencing one of the worst -- the most powerful -- impacts of El Nino on record which came on the heels of failed spring rains," said Kang.

The current drought is considered the worst to hit Ethiopia and the surrounding region in more than three decades, while the current El Nino is considered equal -- to if not greater than -- the so-called super El Nino of 1997 and 1998.

Kang said crops in the fields were clearly damaged in Ethiopia, given 85 percent of the country's work force relied on agriculture. Kang visited a village where women had to walk three to four hours every day to collect drinking water. She said that even this water supply was under threat.

"I was very struck by the unfolding scale of the humanitarian needs in Ethiopia and the urgency to scale up response," said Kang. She urged the international community to support the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian people in the face of such severe weather conditions.

"My message here is that the international community must step up in support of the Ethiopian government and people in this time of severe need," said Kang.

The number of people in need of food aid had grown to 8.2 million people by October, up from 2.9 million at the beginning of 2015.

An additional funding of 237 million dollars would be needed to pre-position supplies for the first quarter of 2016. The Ethiopian government is currently confirming how much it will request from a soon-to-be-announced international emergency appeal, according to Kang.

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