Lack of rainfall is placing Ethiopia at risk of a severe hunger crisis in the coming months. This development comes on the heels of last year's massive drought in East Africa.
Map from the U.S. Famine Early Warning System shows projected food security for Ethiopia for April through June. The areas in red are listed as hunger emergencies while the orange shaded areas are in crisis, and yellow indicates that food security is under stress. (USAID FEWSNET Map)
What is called the "Belg" rains in parts of Ethiopia were late in arriving this year. Crops have not been planted in time for there to be a proper harvest.
A report from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says in Amhara region "the area covered with Belg crops so far is less than 10 percent of the planned area....In view of the very late arrival of the rains and the associated limited planting so far, there is high probability for near total failure of Belg production in most Belg dependent areas of the country, especially those in Tigray, Amhara, and central and eastern Oromia regions."
Coinciding with crop failures in these areas is an increase in food prices. A report from the U.S. Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNET) says, "Staple food prices have started rising again in many parts of the country, possibly due to the late start of the Belg. Prices typically do not start to seasonally rise until May."
Ethiopia, which is also hosting refugees who fled the famine in Somalia, will need food assistance in the coming months. The school feeding program becomes urgent because this not only nourishes hungry children but keeps them in school.
The World Food Programme (WFP) helps provide school meals in Ethiopia. WFP just won a grant of $26 million for Ethiopia from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's (USDA) McGovern-Dole school meals program. However, these supplies can take as much as six months to arrive.
So WFP needs help covering the interim period until the McGovern-Dole "cavalry" gets there. With the drought and high food prices taking hold, the USDA and WFP will be working to ensure McGovern-Dole supplies arrive as soon as possible, and finding key interim sources of funding. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations whether from the public or governments.