El Niño-driven drought, floods, disease outbreaks and internal conflicts threatening the lives of children in Ethiopia

ByUnited Nations Children's Fund

El Niño-driven drought, floods, disease outbreaks and internal conflicts threatening the lives of children in Ethiopia

During a five-day visit to Ethiopia, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Ted Chaiban, urged the international community to immediately scale up their support for children and families to avert a deepening humanitarian catastrophe throughout the country.

“Ethiopia is facing multiple crises and needs are outpacing our response,” said Chaiban. “The El Niño-driven drought, which has hit northern, central, and southern Ethiopia, is having a ravaging impact on millions of children. For 2024, it is projected that almost 1 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition and around 350,000 pregnant and lactating women will be malnourished.”

Chaiban visited one of the hardest-hit drought areas in Tigray where malnutrition rates have surpassed the emergency threshold.

“This is a region where families’ coping mechanisms have been exhausted,” said Chaiban. “I met one mother, called Lemlem, and she told me that just when she thought things were getting better, the drought hit. She had a look of real despair in her eyes.”

To further complicate the situation, there is a public health emergency taking place across the nation with outbreaks of cholera, measles, dengue fever, and malaria.

“These are killer diseases for children and are easily preventable,” said Chaiban. “In addition, the country is dealing with the impact of conflict which is also exacerbating the situation for vulnerable communities.”

UNICEF, in strong collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, is working tirelessly to respond to the crises, providing nutritional support, as well as access to safe water, routine immunization, education, and child protection services. But much more needs to be done.

“If we act now, we can save the lives of millions of children,” said Chaiban. “But we need resources so that we can increase our humanitarian response. We also hope for a peaceful way forward to address the unresolved disputes, so we can reach all children in need, no matter where they are.”

The UN in Ethiopia is seeking US$3.24 billion, and UNICEF is appealing for US$535 million to ensure children get the help they so desperately need.