Ethiopia is suffering its worst drought in a generation. Millions of people have been affected. However, the livelihoods and lives of millions more could be threatened unless urgent action is taken to protect livestock, a UK-based charity warned today.
SPANA (The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), which is undertaking an emergency feeding programme in the Afar region, has expressed its concern that the failure of current efforts by the international community to tackle livestock deaths could lead to widespread human malnutrition within weeks.
Many of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia depend on livestock for both economic and food security. Yet the charity suggests that the lack of attention given to protecting existing herds could lead to a complete collapse in livestock numbers, pre-empting a devastating humanitarian crisis across the country.
The Ethiopian government estimates that more than 10 million people urgently need food aid following the failure of harvests due to severe drought. Four consecutive seasons of erratic or failed rainfall has led to the drought, which has been exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon. Aid agencies expect the situation to worsen in the months ahead.
SPANA are one of the few organisations supporting feeding programmes for livestock, a small investment compared to the cost of emergency relief for starving people.
Sussex based Jeremy Hulme, Chief Executive of SPANA, who last week returned from Afar has seen the increasingly desperate situation first hand. He reports that the scale of the problem is overwhelming and is calling for urgent action from the public to learn from the mistakes of the past and prevent this emergency spiraling into a disaster.