Ethiopia: UN Falls Short of Billion-Dollar Pledge to Tackle Ethiopia's Hunger Crisis

A church in Gheralta in Tigray, Ethiopia (file photo).

A UN donor conference held in Geneva had hoped to raise significant pledges towards a $1 billion target (€940 million) to address the "critical" humanitarian situation in Ethiopia over the next three months. However pledges fell short at €570 million.

More than 21 million people need urgent aid in Ethiopia, where a food crisis is deepening.

Organisers said ahead of the conference they did not expect to raise the full amount by Tuesday, but rather to begin closing the gap between needs and funding.

"We understand this is just the beginning, and we hope for continued and increased support throughout the year," UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya said in a statement.

Twenty countries made new pledges, with Ethiopia's top donor - the United States - saying it had pledged an additional €145 million.

Britain, which co-hosted Tuesday's conference, pledged over €117 million, while the European Union said that with member states it had pledged more than €131 million.

👏 #OCHAthanks all donors who showed their solidarity and ongoing commitment to #Ethiopia today.Your support will enable the @UN and its partners to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of people in need across the country.#InvestInHumanity UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) April 16, 2024

Funding gap

Ethiopians are facing ongoing internal conflicts amid economic and climate shocks and an increasingly dire food and malnutrition crisis.

The UN has said over €3 billion is needed this year alone, including to assist some four million internally displaced people.

But before Tuesday's event, that rescue plan was less than 5 percent funded.

"The gap remains very wide ... We have really to act before it is too late," Shiferaw Teklemariam, commissioner of the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission, told reporters in Geneva before the start of the conference.

The UN said an initial billion-dollar sum was needed for an urgent aid response through to the end of June.

It is also needed to prepare for the so-called "lean season" from July to September, when around 11 million people are projected to be critically food insecure.

'Very fragile'

"The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia is critical - but there is a window to act right now to break the downward spiral," the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said.

Britain's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Mitchell said the situation was "extremely worrying", but added the international community, working closely with the Ethiopian government, was "in a position to head it off".

Washington also stressed the need for rapid action.

"We have millions and millions of people in Ethiopia facing very severe food insecurity," USAID deputy administrator Isobel Coleman said ahead of the conference, warning "the humanitarian situation in the country remains very, very fragile".

Without more aid "the consequences could be very dire", she said.

Today, I announced >$150M in new U.S. humanitarian aid for Ethiopia, which will provide vital support for agriculture, food security, protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.We are proud to support the Ethiopian people and call on other donors to join us in stepping up. Isobel Coleman (@ColemanUSAID) April 16, 2024

'Not enough aid to distribute'

Coleman also stressed that strong measures would be needed to ensure the aid reaches its intended destination.

Last year, USAID and the UN's World Food Programme temporarily halted all food aid to Ethiopia, alleging a "widespread and coordinated" campaign to divert donated supplies - something Ethiopia's government denied.

Authorities in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region warned last December it was on the brink of famine.

"So much of this food insecurity is being driven by conflict," Coleman said.

"Until we have peace and security in the country, which allows full access for humanitarian players we're really not going to be able to get a full handle on this humanitarian crisis."

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