By: Ehis Ayere
The United States is providing US$97million in assistance to Ethiopia as part of efforts to aid the relief operations to nearly 11 million Ethiopian people affected by one of the worst droughts in decades, according to Gayle Smith, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Speaking with journalists at the AU summit, Smith, who led the U.S delegation to the 2016 AU summit with the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, noted that the United States has provided over US$400 in assistance since 2014.
“As the United States, we have responded early to this. Since October 2014, we have provided over $400 million in assistance, and I am pleased to announce this afternoon that we are providing an additional almost $100 million in assistance,” he said. “For those of you who want the precise number, it is $97 million. This is to expand the reach of food programs again that are designed to help people who are vulnerable get through what is going to be a very intense, but hopefully time limited, external shock.”
The relief operation by the Ethiopian government, World Food Programme (WFP) and charities needs $1.4 billion this year. The government says donors have covered about 30% so far. The WFP says $500 million is needed to continue operations beyond April.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, but the crisis is still straining the nation. The government spent $272 million last year on relief and has allocated $109 million so far this year.
Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonen urged international donors on Sunday to offer aid promptly to relief people critically short of food, during a tour with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of an area where one of the worst droughts in decades has left children malnourished, killed livestock and damaged livelihoods.
The USAID administrator commended the efforts of the Ethiopian government in addressing the situation, while stressing the devastating effect of the drought on the people.
“I assume most of you are aware that this is the worst El Niño in history, and it has affected the African continent, in fact the whole world, but the African continent in particular, no country more dramatically than Ethiopia, where 11 million people are in need of assistance because of the impact of what is a very severe drought,” Smith said.
“The difference between this and some other natural disasters that we have seen in the past is that the government has stepped up, not only to put political weight from the top down to the local level in responding to this, but also resources.”
The USAID administrator appealed to the global community, including the private sector, on behalf of the U.N Secretary General, the E.U, the U.N agencies to step up in assistance to meet emergency needs and avoid a crisis that is preventable.
By: Ehis Ayere