The road to famine in Ethiopia

By Aklilu Dogisso, Country Director, Ethiopia

The current hunger crisis is breaking records. The latest figures show 50 million people across the globe are in hunger emergencies.

As World Food Programme chief economist Arif Husain says: “What scares me is that this is not about one, two, or five or 10 countries. This is in 45 countries.

Food security is defined by the IPC into 5 classifications, with ‘emergency’ preceding the worst category ‘famine’. Famine is not a warning sign; it is defined as “the absolute inaccessibility of food to an entire population or sub-group of a population, potentially causing death”.

An urgent situation

Using the Famine Early Warning System, which monitors and maps food security levels, we can see that, in my country of Ethiopia, the Amhara and Afar regions are in an emergency – and my fear is that they are rapidly heading towards famine.

Factors both localized and global have compounded to create this devastating situation.

  1. November 2021 saw the start of civil unrest which led to thousands of people killed, and thousands more displaced. In the Kutabar district, our project communities had their homes looted, animals killed, crops burned and key infrastructure like hospitals, schools, and water points destroyed. Whilst the political situation is now stable, and we are supporting those families to rebuild their lives, the whole region is facing further threats.
  2. The climate crisis continues to impact us all – but the effects are felt most strongly in sub-Saharan Africa, where so much of the population relies on agriculture for food and income. This year, temperatures were high and the belg (short) rains arrived late – disrupting both planting and production and causing widespread pressure on food supplies.
  3. The global rise in food and oil prices exacerbates the challenges faced by those who have little to begin with. The inflation rate in Ethiopia is currently 37%.

My concerns for my country

We know that our work builds resilience against climate and economic shocks – I have seen that first-hand. But I must be honest, I am worried for my country, and for others facing similar hunger emergencies around the world.

June to September marks the ‘lean season’ in northern Ethiopia. It is at times like these that our training programmes are so vital. We work alongside farmers to identify how they can diversify their crops and their sources of income. We also teach skills such as drying and storing food to last the lean season.

As food is short, and prices continue to rise – my heart goes out to all those in a hunger emergency and I hope that the world can act now: before we reach a famine.

Aklilu Dogisso

About the author

Aklilu Dogisso, Country Director, Ethiopia

“Having previously worked in government ministries and for international NGOs such as World Vision, I deeply understand the opportunities for us to have lasting impact. What I love about Ripple Effect is that it is an organization where you can always reflect, learn and improve."

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