Church of Sweden

​Severe drought in Africa – immediate aid required in Ethiopia

Press Release   •   Feb 15, 2016 13:00 GMT

Ethiopia requires immediate aid. More than 400,000 head of livestock have already died from the drought, and with the harvest failing as well, people are facing an imminent threat to their livelihood. Photo: Mikkel Østergaard, DCA/ACT Alliance.

The worst drought in 30 years has hit Ethiopia, which is facing widespread famine and requires immediate aid to prevent a genuine catastrophe. More than 10 million people are on the point of starvation, and more than two million of those in the risk zone are undernourished children. The drastic situation is attributable to a lack of rain caused by the weather phenomenon El Niño, which has affected several countries in southern and eastern Africa.

Under normal conditions, the rainy season in Ethiopia helps secure food for 80–85 per cent of the population. The lack of rain and the resulting harvest failures have left the country facing its worst drought for more than 30 years.

“The Church of Sweden is initially contributing SEK 2.6 million in immediate aid for 150,000 people in the hardest hit areas. We have also launched a charity collection to assist the people affected by the disaster,” relates Kristina Hellqvist, Head of the Church of Sweden’s humanitarian team.

Asking the rest of the world for support
Ethiopia has made great strides since the great famines of the 1980s, but despite a well-developed warning system and improved economic conditions, the need has become so widespread that the government is now requesting support from the international community. According to the UN’s humanitarian organisation OCHA, barely half of the funds required have been raised so far.

“The situation is extremely serious, and aid is urgently needed. In addition to the failed harvests, hundreds of thousands of livestock animals have died. This means that people have no opportunity whatsoever to safeguard their livelihood,” says Kristina Hellqvist.

OCHA predicts that the number of people in need of aid in Ethiopia will rise to 15 million unless aid efforts increase before the drought reaches its peak in the summer months.

Acute measures that save lives
The Church of Sweden has long working relationships with a number of partners in the regions affected. The ongoing initiative to provide immediate aid to 150,000 people comprises measures including:

  • Distribution of food and water
  • Healthcare and treatment of undernourished children
  • Seed, fertiliser and new livestock
  • Feed and veterinary care for livestock
  • Livelihood support

The right to food
Food is a fundamental human right – but 795 million people worldwide still do not have enough to eat. Many countries have been repeatedly hit by periods of drought or flooding, which jeopardise their access to food. That is why the Church of Sweden is also working on long-term projects to reduce risks and vulnerability when extreme weather conditions arise, for example by planting trees and bushes to hinder the flow of water, by spreading knowledge about more efficient cultivation and more robust crops, and by working to improve the handling of water resources.

Find out more about the drought and how you can help (in Swedish).

Kristina Hellqvist, Head of the humanitarian team, Church of Sweden.
Call Ewa Almqvist, press secretary, on +46 705 469 677.

Facts: El Niño

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that arises at fairly regular intervals, when the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean rises higher than normal. El Niño primarily affects exposed countries around the Equator, bringing either powerful downpours and flooding, or long periods without rain leading to severe drought. These conditions affect people in the form of food shortages and lost income. These problems are accompanied by a rise in the spread of tropical and deadly diseases, and huge numbers of people are forced to flee their homes.

There are studies that document causality between the El Niño phenomenon and climate change; the effect of human activity on the climate heats the seas and increases the risk of El Niño, where the wind and currents at sea change course. El Niño, in turn, exacerbates climate change by releasing heat into the atmosphere, affecting the precipitation cycle and causing extreme weather events.