Food, the biggest challenge in South West Ethiopia

Published: Jan 12, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
ECHO cash distribution photo
© Setotaw Girma

Food prices are increasing, and climate change is more extreme than ever. The most vulnerable people, such as refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees and host communities, are the most affected by floods and droughts. Securing enough food to feed a family has become the key problem for many in South West Ethiopia.  

Amelework Selamu lives in Bena Tsemay woreda in Ethiopia. "I am a single mom with four children to support. I divorced my husband a few years ago. I grow maise and sorghum. But following the current drought, the yield has become so low that I can’t even feed my family for a few months," she said.

Over the past few years, irregular rainfall, mainly resulting from climate change, has made thousands of people in the area vulnerable to hunger.

"Apart from the food shortage, I didn’t have enough money to provide other necessities," she added.

Amelework tried to look for other sources of income to subsidise her living. She began selling coffee and “Shupuro”, a locally made drink, in the market. However, a lack of financial resources prevented her from expanding her business. However, Amelework was in luck as we, People In Need (PIN), were able to support her family. They received cash assistance of 4,500 birr (79 EUR). Amelework notes: "I bought food and other necessities for my children. However, I am planning to buy a female goat or a chicken. I know such support doesn’t last long, and I must think about the future."

In addition to Amelework, Ayka Bunko, a single mother of seven from Bena Tsemay woreda, can talk at length about the impacts of climate change. She used to grow maize on her farm, but there has been little rain over the past four years. Consequently, Ayka can’t produce enough food for her family. "I often get up early to collect firewood for sale. Usually, we eat once a day and have to wait until we finish selling the wood," she said.

Tears filled her eyes when she recalled receiving cash support from PIN on the first day.

“It was the first day after four years that my children were well fed.” 

Financial assistance for people highly affected by climate change

With financial support from the EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), PIN has provided financial support for people affected by climate change impacts in four woredas of South Omo Zone–Dasenech, Hammer, Gnangatom, and Bena Tsemay.

Cash distributions support vulnerable beneficiaries, often elderly people, people with disabilities, females and child-headed households, to cover their emergency needs, such as lack of food, clothes and hygiene supplies.

Thousands of animals have died because of the drought. And people have started to migrate. The remaining community members have begun to lead their lives as day labourers in the nearby towns—working for little pay.

"The support provided by PIN saved the lives of the most vulnerable parts of the community, mainly women and children. Such support enables the government to focus on the last longing solutions. As a government, we promote the community to spend the remaining money on income-generating activities such as goat or chicken rearing to sustain their livelihood for the future," says Getnet Hailu, a government representative of Bena Tsemay woreda. According to Getnet, the woreda has been highly affected by drought over the past few years. He indicated that even the volume of the nearby river was reduced to a level which couldn’t be used for irrigation.

In total, 11,736 people—like Amelework and Ayka—in 14 kebeles have received cash support. Apart from cash assistance, PIN is currently distributing Emergency Shelter Non-Food Items (NFI) and WASH Non-Food Item assistance in 4 kebeles of Dasenech woreda for a total of 850 households who are displaced due to the flood.

Author: Setotaw Tadesse Girma

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