The United Nations has released US$17 million in emergency funding to the World Food Programme after the government in Ethiopia reported that severe drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon has left over 8.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance.
“A timely response to the emergency is critical,” said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “If we don’t act today, we face an even graver situation tomorrow, with more immense needs in 2016. The funds will provide crucial food supplies for people affected by the drought when they need it most.”
The funding, which has been distributed from the Central Emergency Response Fund, will be used to provide 1.37 million Ethiopians with food. Some 164,000 nutritional supplements will also be distributed to women and children, and will take the total contributions made by the Fund to humanitarian crises and events caused by El Niño to over US$80 million in 2015.
El Niño occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean become substantially warmer than average, which causes a shift in atmospheric circulation. It has affected Ethiopia’s southern rains creating food insecurity, malnutrition, and water shortages in areas of the country.
Elsewhere, more than US$76 million has already been distributed to agencies to allow for essential aid activities to be administered in North Korea, Eritrea, Haiti, Honduras, Malawi, Myanmar, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. However, more financial support is likely in 2016, with the number of people in need of food assistance in Ethiopia forecast to reach 15 million.
Since its inception in 2006, 125 UN Member States and dozens of private sector donors and regional government have contributed to the Central Emergency Response Fund, which has allocated US$4 billion in support of humanitarian operations in 95 countries and territories.