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Food Aid Project Helps Millions of Ethiopians Face Drought

October 4, 2011

  • Thanks to the Productive Safety Net Program, 7.5 million Ethiopians are better positioned to deal with the affects of the worst drought in decades.
  • The government and humanitarian agencies are distributing food aid to those exposed to food shortage in the drought affected areas.
  • In addition to dealing with its own population affected by the drought, Ethiopia is also assisting thousands of refugees from nearby Somalia.

October 4, 2011 - The Horn of Africa has been hit with the worst drought in decades; in southern Ethiopia, four successive rainy seasons have failed. Recurring droughts have taught Ethiopia and its development partners to better anticipate and be prepared to deal with such natural disasters. As a result, at least 7.5 million people in Ethiopia are better positioned to deal with the effects of the drought through the support of the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which provides cash and food annually to households facing the possibility of hunger or starvation. However, approximately 4.5 million people are still in need of food assistance this year.

The Oromia and Somali regional states are the worst hit with 1.9 million and 1.4 million people in need of food aid, according to aid officials. The drought has also affected the Amhara, Southern, Tigray, Afar, and Benisahngul-Gumuz regional states, as well as Dire Dawa with 420,045, 252,000; 299,000; 132,000; 29,000 and 5,000 people in need of emergency food assistance, respectively.

What the government is doing

The government and humanitarian agencies are distributing food aid to those exposed to food shortage in the drought affected areas. The government has also released food from its strategic grain reserve to meet short term needs, and is currently procuring new food to replenish the reserve. As outlined in the Growth and Transformation Plan, the government has the intention to increase the capacity of the reserve from its current 405,000 metric tons (MT) to 3,000,000 MT within the next five years.

World Bank response

The World Bank is one of a number of development partners supporting the government’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which has played a major role in reducing the number of people affected by the drought, and saving the livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians.

PSNP was launched in 2005 as part of the Ethiopian government’s Food Security Program. The project was designed to reform and complement the existing humanitarian support system by creating opportunities for chronically food insecure people in rural Ethiopia, helping them to acquire resources and become food secure over time.

The PSNP helps to reduce household vulnerability, improve resilience to shocks and promote sustainable community development in food insecure areas of rural Ethiopia. To mitigate the risk of economic and climate related shocks, the PSNP has adaptive measures such as soil and water conservation activities, small scale irrigation and integrated watershed management. In addition, the program also supports public work activities to build social infrastructure such as schools, health clinics and roads.

Currently the project benefits more than 7.5 million people, who otherwise would have been hurt by this drought.

Emahoy Belaynesh, who is raising three children and a grandchild, is one of the beneficiaries of the program. With part of the grant she received, she bought seeds of several varieties of fruits and vegetables and planted them in her garden. Among other things, she grows corn, yams, carrots, coffee, oranges, and passion-fruit. She is also involved in beekeeping.

When my husband died I had no source of income and was having a hard time making ends meet,” Belaynesh said. “The safety net program has been a life saver. I now sell my products and earn enough money to put my three children to school, put food on the table and buy anything that we need. I am also able to put some money aside.”

So far, development partners and the Ethiopian government have provided over US$1.9 billion for the project, including $190 million through the project’s risk financing facility and contingency budgets to help reach more people during shocks.

In addition to PSNP, there are several World Bank-supported programs being mobilized to help with the drought. One notable program is the Pastoral Community Development Program (PCDP), which has been providing resources for emergency water and fodder provisions in Oromiya, Somali, Afar and SNNP regions. The Pastoral Risk Management Component of the project has disbursed around USD 500,000 for this purpose in recent months.

From August 15 – 26, a Bank drought missionary visited Ethiopia’s affected sites and had meetings with government and development partners. Based on that visit, the World Bank expects to:

  1. Provide some $270 million in additional financing to PSNP, taking account of the exceptional financing needs resulting from the current drought;
  2. Accelerate preparation of a new phase of PCDP, to respond to the current and foreseeable future challenges arising from drought and climate change; and,
  3. Through PSNP and PCDP, engage with the government to further strengthen the disaster risk management system, including its information management, rapid response arrangements, and longer term strategic investment framework.
    Refugees from Somalia

In addition to dealing with its own population affected by the drought, Ethiopia also has to assist thousands of refugees from neighboring Somalia. Dollo Ado, the Ethiopian refugee camp located on the border with Somalia, is trying to cope with new refugees arriving from Somalia every day. Over 120,000 Somalis have arrived in the camp since January, exceeding capacities in this remote location. In order to manage the influx of refugees, there are now four camps in the area and a fifth is being considered.