Project #2020

Help Feed Thousands of Refugees in Ethiopia

by World Food Program USA
Young men pose for the camera in Ethiopia
Young men pose for the camera in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is home to 85 percent of the Horn of Africa’s inhabitants, which continues to be one of the most unstable corners of the globe – perpetually suffering through wars and environmental shocks (droughts, floods) that often instigate famine. The high proportion of residents in Ethiopia is largely due to an alarming number of Eritrean, Somali, and Sudanese refugees. In the first 43 days of 2009, for example, an estimated 10,000 refugees arrived in Ethiopia from embroiled Somalia, requiring emergency intervention by the World Food Program. While Sudanese refugee numbers are expected to be reduced, the rate of incoming Eritrean and especially Somali refugees is expected to climb continuously.

In 2008, WFP, in conjunction with the Ethiopian government, introduced a “hubs-and-spokes” system in Ethiopia. This system was in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis, particularly in the southeastern region (which borders Somalia). Prior to the program, 1.9 million residents of this region (about half the area’s population) were in need, and WFP could only manage to assist less than half of them. “Hubs and spokes” introduced a delivery system built around five storage sites in the region that employs local companies to move supplies from the ‘hubs’ along ‘spokes’ to 186 distribution facilities. Through this system, WFP successfully circulated enough food to each hub for 1.5 million people to eat for almost two months.

The undernutrition of refugees in Ethiopia is a crisis that is poised only to escalate, which means WFP needs to expand its resources and efforts in the region. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and one of the oldest in the world. Its estimated 77.5 million inhabitants make it the second most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria), an upsetting 46 percent of whom are undernourished. Because of its vulnerability to environmental shocks, and its proximity to nations in turmoil (particularly Somalia), without the growing assistance of WFP these statistics will become even more alarming. WFP is ready to increase its presence, and to expand its assistance to the continuously growing number of refugees, but it needs your support. It is generous people like you that make intervention in Ethiopia possible. Thank you for your help!

WFP Providing Food to Children in Ethiopia Through School Meals
WFP Providing Food to Children in Ethiopia Through School Meals

“For the last four months, people suffered a lot because of the drought,” says Abdi Ali Sheer, a village elder in the Somali region of Ethiopia. “A lot of livestock passed away during this period, and people also. People are malnourished and some are dying. Since yesterday, I only had tea and there is no food to eat.”

The serious drought that struck Ethiopia throughout most of 2008, coupled with a surge in food prices, drove over 10 million people into hunger last year. The after-effects of the drought continue to plague the country. Hunger and malnutrition still threaten nearly five million people, forcing families to reduce the number of meals they eat each day, and borrow food and money to survive.

The predominantly agricultural Somali region of Ethiopia has seen significant land and animal loss that will continue to affect families for several seasons to come. In fact, before the drought Abdi Ali Sheer had 50 cattle, now he only has two or three; he says that he’s never seen it so bad in his 85 years. “In past droughts, we had places to go with our livestock, but now everywhere is the same – there’s nowhere for livestock to go and they’re dying here from disease.”

Africa’s second-most populous country, Ethiopia ranks 169 out of 174 countries according to the UNDP Human Development Index, making it one of the five least developed countries in the world. Its people suffer from high rates of malnutrition, one of the lowest primary education enrollment rates in the world and HIV/AIDS prevalence. Six major droughts in just two decades combined with the effects of extreme poverty have left many families on the brink of survival, unable to ever fully recover.

Since 2007 the World Food Program (WFP) has assisted millions in Ethiopia through interventions that include assistance to drought and flood-affected households, malnourished children, pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and refugees.

WFP operates two core programs in Ethiopia: Food for Assets and School Meals. The Food for Assets operation currently reaches an average of 1.3 million beneficiaries in 600 different communities each year. It focuses on managing environmental resources to increase food productivity in food-insecure communities. The school meals operation focuses on a community based approach to support both formal education and to develop schools into community resource centers that will promote good nutrition and environmental awareness.

WFP has responded to drought and floods with relief food distributions on a large scale. Yet, current funding and in-country food stocks in Ethiopia are inadequate to respond to the humanitarian needs.

In order to continue these programs and provide for those severely affected by the recent droughts, WFP needs further financial support. Generous, caring individuals like you enable those affected by the drought to survive and recover with WFP’s assistance. Thank you for your support!

Meskerem and Senait, 11 and 9 years old, lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and fled to Ethiopia in the hopes of finding a safer life. They were entirely dependent on their older brother, Gezahegn for financial support. Gezahegn tried to feed himself and his siblings by washing clothes and doing other chores for neighbors but his wages were never enough. Meskerem and Senait also tried to contribute by selling small items like chewing gum and cigarettes on the streets and in bars. But their lives were fraught with the constant threat of theft and abuse.

The children discovered World Food Program (WFP) assistance through a local NGO that catered to refugee street children. “We had nothing to eat,” Gezahegn recalls. “All we could do was sit and stare at each other in agony.” The NGO found Meskerem and Senait on the street and offered them shelter and the opportunity to apply for support from WFP. “Thanks to this organization, we are still alive,” Gezahegn says. “Had it not been for the food aid, we might have died or would have become destitute street children.”

In 2007, it was estimated that some 1.36 million people, many of them children just like Meskerem and Senait, were in desperate need of emergency food assistance in Ethiopia – one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. For years the country has experienced large-scale problems of chronic food shortages and, as a result, has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. More than five droughts in two decades, seasons of flooding and limited rural development push Ethiopia to the constant brink of a hunger epidemic.

More than 38 percent of children under five are underweight, and over 1.3 million people in Ethiopia are living with HIV/AIDS. Ethiopia is also currently hosting more than 83,000 refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan who have sought safety from political conflict in their homelands and are completely dependent on WFP supplies for survival.

Recently, the Ethiopian government appealed to WFP for an increase in provisions to feed their starving population and refugees. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Addisu Legesse, announced that the government needs an additional $430 million to adequately address food shortages.

“Ethiopia is facing a perfect storm with soaring food prices and a devastating drought,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “We hear the government’s plea, support it, and are moving to reach all we can.” However, WFP urgently needs additional contributions to reach all those in need.

WFP is currently providing emergency food assistance to 3.2 million people in Ethiopia. But, in response to Ethiopia’s appeal, WFP plans to scale up operations to reach 4.6 million people in the hopes of avoiding thousands of hunger-related deaths in coming months.

Thank you for your support of this life-changing WFP operation. It is generous donors like you who have allowed Friends of the World Food Program to help finance WFP in assisting the vulnerable populations residing in Ethiopia.


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Organization Information

World Food Program USA

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Meredith Slater
Development Associate, Friends of the WFP
Washington, DC United States

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