CBC in Ethiopia: Drought triggers fears of humanitarian crisis

More than 10 million Ethiopians are in need of emergency food aid as the country faces its most severe drought in 50 years. Already an estimated 430, 000 children are facing severe malnutrition and the drought is raising the spectre of the deadly famine that ravaged Ethiopia in the early 1980s.

CBC News visits Ethiopia as a devastating drought leaves millions in need of emergency food aid

People wait for food aid at a distribution centre in northern Ethiopia. The aid is becoming ever more important as the drought rages on, leaving more than ten million Ethiopians vulnerable to food shortages. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )

In a world wracked by crises, some dominate global headlines. Others unfold quietly, building in the background until alarm bells are sounded.

The drought currently ravaging large swathes of Ethiopia falls into the latter category.

  • WATCH: Margaret Evans has more on the drought in Ethiopia Wednesday night on The National.

It's the worst drought the country has faced in 50 years, leaving Ethiopia teetering on the edge of a humanitarian crisis with more than 10 million people now in need of emergency food aid to survive. 

Mothers desperate to feed their children

The search for emergency rations is often most desperate for mothers eager to feed their young children.

This mother, along with hundreds of others, waited in the blistering sun for hours to register for a type of blended food used to fight against malnutrition.
More than 400, 000 Ethiopian children are predicted to suffer from severe malnutrition this year. 

In search of water 

The drought has meant that the battle for water has become a part of everyday life across much of Ethiopia.
The scarcity of water now forces shepherds to drive their herds over longer distances to find it—causing further hardship for themselves and their animals. 

Zakriyas Ani Ibrahim stands beside a dry riverbed in Ethiopia's East Hararghe region. He says the river used to be powerful but now all that remains are a few puddles.

He says some children in the area have died due to starvation. 

A race against time 

The drought has triggered a race against time to get more aid to Ethiopia.

Non-governmental organizations say they are worried that emergency supplies could run out if more donations aren't raised.

Some even warn that the number of people in need of emergency food aid could double to 20 million by June. 
Aid agencies and the Ethiopian government have launched an appeal for $1.4 billion USD but so far only about half of that money has been raised. 

Canada provided more than $50 million in humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia in 2015.

This woman received her rations at a distribution site run, in part, by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a humanitarian organization based in Winnipeg.

Work for food 

The Ethiopian government has established work-for-food programs which are currently supporting approximately 7 million people across the country.
This woman works on an irrigation project in the middle of a desert in eastern Ethiopia.

Spectre of the past 

Megabe Sere'at Zenabu, 78, witnessed the calamity of the so-called Great Famine that killed an estimated one million Ethiopians in the early 1980s. 

He says today's drought is raising the spectre of a terrible past. 

Drought-stricken childhood

It's estimated that at least half of the ten million people now in need of emergency rations across Ethiopia are children.
The drought has also forced more than one million children to stop going to school so they can do more to help their families cope with the crisis, according to Save The Children.
And it's a number only set to grow unless the rains comes. 

All photos by CBC's Ellen Mauro


Ellen Mauro is a senior reporter based in Toronto, covering stories in Canada and beyond, including recent deployments to Haiti and Afghanistan. She was formerly posted in Washington, D.C. where she covered the Trump White House for CBC News. Previously, she worked at CBC's London, U.K. bureau where she covered major international news stories across Europe and Africa.


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