A United Nations humanitarian official today praised the Ethiopian Government for its innovative and effective efforts to build resilience and food self-sufficiency amid increasingly challenging climatic conditions.
"Ethiopia has made quite incredible advances in mitigating the impact of drought," said the Operations Director at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, in a news release following a two-day visit to Ethiopia.
"Multi-year investments in safety nets and significant advances in health and nutrition have saved countless lives and protected millions from the famine experienced elsewhere in the Horn of Africa," he said, adding that "the successful policies pursued by the Ethiopian Government provide an invaluable experience to share, not just elsewhere in the Horn [of Africa], but also across the drought-ridden Sahel."
The Horn of Africa experienced a food crisis last year that left an estimated 13 million people dependent on humanitarian assistance. Currently there are 15 million people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
Mr. Ging met with Government officials, humanitarian partners and representatives of the donor community to discuss the impact of the delayed onset of the belg short rains, which normally occur from mid-February to May. He voiced his appreciation of the readiness of donors and aid agencies to provide the resources required to respond quickly to the additional challenge, in partnership with the Government.
On a visit to a therapeutic feeding centre in the town of Boricha in Ethiopia's Southern Nations Nationalities and People Region, Mr. Ging noted that he heard mothers' concerns about their inability to feed their children and the delayed planting of crops.
"It is heartbreaking to see children so acutely malnourished," said Mr. Ging. "Their immediate suffering, and the long-term damage done to their learning abilities, leaves us all in agreement that more must be done to protect and prevent children from ending up in these centres."
The humanitarian official commended government officials and aid agencies for expanding targeted and general food distributions, and encouraged them to continue to act quickly and decisively, noting that "prevention is always better than cure."