Dire need for food aid in Ethiopia

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More than eight million people need food aid in Ethiopia, a five percent rise from last year, due to a surge in violence that has triggered mass displacement as well as lingering effects of past droughts, officials said.

The crisis has prompted an Ethiopian government appeal for $1.3 billion to provide emergency food and other assistance for 8.3 million people.

“The impacts of climate change induced droughts of 2016 and before have persisted. Moreover, violence in many parts of the country has added to the burden,” said Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia’s commissioner of national disaster risk management.

Around three million people remain displaced in the Horn of Africa country of 100 million, according to the United Nations. This is largely due to ethnic clashes, mostly in the south-west and east, since last year.

The violence overshadows reforms initiated in 2017 with mass releases of political prisoners intended to reduce tensions triggered by anti-government protests in 2015.

Abiy Ahmed, who became premier last April, has presided over major political and economic changes included pardoning exiled rebel groups and reconciliation with long-time neighbouring foe Eritrea.

Ethiopia touts high growth rates its economy still depends heavily on rain-fed farming, which employs three-quarters of the workforce.

Some 7.9 million people were in need of food assistance in 2018 and 5.6 million the year before, requiring over $3 billion in humanitarian aid.

Mitiku told reporters Ethiopia planned to spend over $107 million to cover this year’s impact from own coffers. Government spent $342 million last year on assistance and relief.