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UNICEF Official Warns of Looming Famine in Ethiopia


FILE - People stand next to the carcasses of dead sheep in the village of Hargududo, 80 kilometers from the city of Gode, Ethiopia, April 07, 2022.

A UNICEF official has told VOA that Ethiopia’s drought-stricken population could face a full-blown famine without immediate help.

Ethiopia Representative Gianfranco Rotigliano told VOA by phone this week his agency is not receiving the necessary foreign aid to avert a humanitarian crisis. He warned that without the additional help, eastern Ethiopia could face a famine triggered by years of drought.

The country is grappling with the most severe drought it has faced since 1981. UNICEF reports four years of failed rains have dried up water sources, led to widespread crop failure and put an estimated 10 million people on life support, nearly half of them children.

The agency said severe acute malnutrition has risen sharply in drought-hit areas. In the Somali region alone, it said there has been a 47% increase. It warned 600,000 children face disease or death without medical and nutritional care.

Speaking from Addis Ababa, Rotigliano told VOA he does not have enough money to do what needs to be done.

“I have been around for many years, and I have faced many emergencies in my life, but this is the first time in which I have to face a serious and great emergency and I do not have the money I need,” he said.

Rotigliano said only $55 million of UNICEF’s $351 million appeal to meet increasing humanitarian needs across Ethiopia this year has been received.

“In eastern Ethiopia, I have people that do not have drinking water, literally drinking water because I do not have money to pay for the trucks, for the fuel,” he said. “So, this is … I think it could blow into a famine if it is ignored.”

Rotigliano said nearly 1.8 million people have been forced to leave their homes in search of water and grazing land for their cattle.

“If you travel with livestock and there is no grass, there is no fodder, there is no water,” he said. “The bush water is dry. The shallow wells are not there anymore—then the camels die, and all the animals die.”

Rotigliano called on the outside world to send support, but also called for investments needed to mitigate the impact of climate change.

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