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Children Most at Risk as More Than 10 Million People Need Emergency Aid in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA - Children are some of the most at-risk from starvation in Ethiopia, as the drought exacerbated by weather phenomenon El-Nino is causing further food shortages. Plan International is urging for more emergency aid as the drought shows little sign of improving.

Currently, more than 10 million people, 60% of whom are children and pregnant or lactating women, are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

An alarming 2.2 million children under the age of 5 years old are malnourished, with more than 450,000 children severely malnourished, requiring specialized nutrition interventions. Many are being removed from school as a result of inadequate nutrition and poor health.

Ethiopia, where more than 80% of the population live in rural areas and rely on rain-fed agriculture, continues to experience a potentially record-breaking El Niño induced drought. The drought is the nation's worst drought in 30 years. A shortage of food and water has resulted in emergency levels of disease and malnutrition. Death of livestock is also widespread.

The drought is increasing the risk of water-related disease outbreaks, such as malaria, trachoma, scabies, and diarrhea. These diseases disproportionately affect children under the age of 5 years old. Conditions are expected to deteriorate further following the failure of several seasonal rains.

“We have nothing to harvest this year because of the lack of rainfall for the last two years. We are living our lives with the support of the government and international aid organizations like Plan International Ethiopia,” says Semira, from Oromia Region. “My husband has nothing to do, he doesn’t have a job. We used to live through agriculture, we have no other means of income, but now nothing is in the ground because of the absence of rains.”

Legesse Daarsa from the Dara district, says: “I have six children. Two of them were in school. Now, none are able to go to school due to the drought. They have to stay at home as we have nothing to eat. My children are seriously affected by the drought. They are getting ill.”

Missing school will have a devastating impact on the futures and livelihoods of children. Plan International is working closely with the Ethiopian government in responding to this worsening situation. Plan International Ethiopia’s Country Director Manoj Kumar says: “Children are suffering from malnutrition, and require urgent assistance. We are calling on governments and donors for emergency funding during this crisis. Each day without food assistance exponentially increases human suffering, lengthens the recovery period of affected people and puts increasing pressure on the humanitarian and development systems in place.”

Plan International Ethiopia has supported more than 35,873 children and 31,223 pregnant women to ensure they have access to food in Amhara Region, Oromia Region and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR).

NOTE TO EDITORS: Failure of both the 2015 short spring/belg rains (mid-February–May), and the long summer/kiremt rains (June–September), has induced severe drought in six of Ethiopia’s nine regions.

About Plan International Ethiopia

In 1974, Plan International started its Africa operations in Lalibela, northern Ethiopia. In 1977, Plan International Ethiopia was among the many NGOs forced to leave the country by a military regime. In 1985, Plan International Ethiopia re-opened, basing its operations in the capital Addis Ababa, while opening an Urban Program Unit in Lalibela. The SNNPR, Oromia, and Gambela program areas opened in 2002, 2006, and 2014. Plan International Ethiopia focuses on child survival and development, quality universal learning for life, food and nutrition security, child participation, protection, and HIV/AIDS. It has now extended its program work to early survival and development of children, protection of children from violence, better childhood development and education for all and disaster preparedness.

About Plan International USA

Plan International USA, part of the Plan International Federation, is a child-centered development organization that believes in the promise and potential of children. For more than 75 years in over 50 developing countries, Plan has been breaking the cycle of child poverty. Everything Plan doesfrom strengthening health care systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyondis built with, and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. For more information, please visit http://www.PlanUSA.org.

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