The drought in Ethiopia, driven by the changing weather patterns of El Niño, means that nearly eight million people currently require food aid. That number could increase to 15 million in the months ahead. Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable in a drought and more than 303,000 Ethiopian children are expected to need treatment for severe acute malnutrition this year.
The current situation in central and eastern Ethiopia is deteriorating. The drought limited access to water in some regions, forcing residents, especially women and children, to travel longer distances and spend more time waiting in lines to fetch water. As a result, some households have resorted to collect water from possibly contaminated sources, including rivers, ponds and springs. Others have suffered economically, having to buy water trucked in from other locations. With crops failing, families have resorted to drastic coping mechanisms such as skipping meals and selling off assets.
Although a well-coordinated response is already underway in Ethiopia, growing needs far exceed available resources. International Medical Corps has scaled up emergency response efforts in roughly half of the country’s 40 most affected woredas, or districts. Our support has included:
- Hygiene promotion;
- Training in severe acute malnutrition management, public health emergency management, admission/discharge criteria, reporting and recording;
- Distribution of Infant and Young Child Feeding information, education and communication materials;
- Providing workshops and sensitization activities on integrated disease surveillance and response; procuring medications for nutrition treatment centers;
- Providing logistical support to transport therapeutic foods, medications and other essential items to health centers and health posts;
- Educating caretakers on health and nutrition practices;
- Establishing stabilization centers in four hotspots priority woredas.
International Medical Corps has been working in Ethiopia for well over a decade, providing treatment for malnourished children and programs in water, sanitation and hygiene, food and livelihood security and comprehensive health care. Since 2011, we have established 83 outpatient programs and eight in-patient stabilization centers to help treat children with severe acute malnutrition.