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Although there is no official report by the government about human death due to the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, alerts are being raised that the problem is particularly severe in parts of the country, according to UNICEF. The UN agency told Capital that some areas have severe water shortages and high admission rates of malnourished children to nutrition centers.
“Children with severe acute malnutrition are eight times more likely to die than children who are not malnourished and without adequate treatment roughly half the diagnosed children could die. Regular community screening can ensure early detection and referral of children with severe acute malnutrition,” said Shalini Bahuguna, Officer in Charge, and UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.
There are currently 7.8 million men, women and children at risk of going hungry of which over 70 percent are located in the three most drought affected regions of Somali Region and lowland areas of South Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region and Oromia Region.
The Federal Ministry of Health and development partners as well as UNICEF teams are on the ground to respond to this anticipated level of malnutrition so that children are effectively treated. Efforts are in place to reduce health risks such as measles, scabies and acute watery diarrhoea.
Commenting on the current challenges, Bahuguna stated that there are concerns with regard to a potential break in the food aid pipeline in July due to funding gaps.
“Considering the magnitude of the crisis, the number of families affected and the humanitarian needs, especially in Somali region, the NGOs presence and support is key, however only few NGOs are operational on the ground to support the government and partners’ efforts. The Somali region covers a vast area where population density is low and communities are scattered, often in far and not easy to reach areas,” Bahuguna said.
The UN agency also stated that current predictions in regards to the upcoming rainy season, kiremt. Which is from June to September is expected to have an early to normal onset and normal cessation; the rainfall will be normal to above normal. Some heavy rains are also expected that may lead to flash floods in flood prone areas and along river banks.
“What we know of drought conditions, particularly persistent drought as most areas of Ethiopia have been facing since 2015, is that the impact is severe and can take 2-10 years for agrarian and pastoralist families to recover. Therefore, we can be certain that effects of drought, regardless of successful rains, will continue to affect the lives of children and their families in food security, health and nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene,” Bahuguna said.