Drought and widespread famine are leaving Ethiopian farmers in the dust and countless others starving across the country, a Winnipegger from Ethiopia says.

Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in half a century, Save the Children warned ahead of a meeting of world leaders in January for the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

Desta Worku Negate

Desta Worku Negate says she is worried her family in Ethiopia due to current drought conditions.

The drought, brought on by the El Nino phenomenon, started in June 2015. Winnipegger Desta Worku Negate says it reminds her of a similar drought about 30 years ago. 

She witnessed how dry conditions threw her native country of Ethiopia into a famine crisis in the 1980s. She now fears for the fate of family members who remain in Ethiopia, as history appears to be repeating itself.

"I can't forget it," Negate says, adding she still has a lot of bad memories from that time.

As was the case then, the source of the current famine is also drought.

"I was there last year, we [didn't] have any rain," she says. "People are worried. More than politics, more than anything they are worried [because] they don't have rain."

To make matters worse, hope for a massive downpour are dimming by day, as the country is now in the midst of its dry season, Negate says.

"Especially now, it's very hot," she says, adding farmers are growing increasingly wary of the health of their crops.

"This year, they don't have anything," she said. "We can't fight with natural [causes]."

During past droughts, Negate says some people in the country would move from drought-stricken towns and villages in search of water. But that can lead to crowding issues, Negate says.

"If everybody from Calgary, from Ontario was coming here, it would be very tight. That's the big problem we have," she said. "I am very worried."

She plans to visit her children in Ethiopia this summer.

"I know they are scared," she said. "They need help."

In December 2015, the Canadian government announced a roughly $30-million commitment to help those affected by the current drought in Ethiopia.

With files from Thomson Reuters