Ethiopia Drought: Canadian Development Gains at Risk Unless World Acts

The severe drought in Ethiopia is putting critical gains from more than five years of Canadian development funding at risk.

CARE Canada Global Health Manager Marnie Davidson recently returned from an assessment trip in the areas where the organization is starting its new maternal and child health programming.

Her visit found families cutting back to two meals a day and startling levels of malnutrition among children and pregnant women in particular. Local officials CARE’s team met in Afar region in the country’s northeast said almost all pregnant women here are suffering from some form of malnourishment.

“Immediate nutrition support is needed to prevent further risks to mothers and babies,” says Davidson.

Over the past five years, CARE Canada has implemented more than $20 million in Canadian development funding in many of the regions hardest hit by the recent drought. This includes $3.5 million from the past Muskoka Initiative in maternal and child health funding.

In early 2015, CARE Canada did an assessment of its maternal health funding and found substantial gains in the nutrition of families in programming areas. Since then, widespread drought has severely impacted large swathes of the north, central and eastern highlands of Ethiopia.

In December 2015, the Government of Ethiopia announced the number of people in need of food assistance had increased to 10.2 million. The lack of rainfall has affected local food production triggering new spikes in malnutrition.

CARE’s assistance has helped families mitigate some of the impact of the drought. However, the longer this drought weighs down on these communities, the heavier the challenges become.

“I’m proud of the work we did to help families be more resilient thanks to the Muskoka Initiative,” says Davidson. “But we have to recognize if we don’t pay attention and support these populations who are suffering through this drought we risk losing everything, most of what we worked for. It’s tragic.”

A gap in funding could mean the pipeline for food assistance will come to an end in May.

With the next cropping season months away and malnutrition rates set to rise, this gap in emergency funding of $238 million USD will have catastrophic consequences. From purchase, it takes 120 days to get food to those in need. This means that unless food is procured now, 7.6 million people will not have enough to eat from May onwards.

Canada Fifth Largest Donor to Ethiopia

While the Ethiopian government is funding, leading and coordinating the delivery of emergency relief, the immediate needs are so great that they have asked for international help.

To this end, in December 2015, the government announced $30 million in emergency humanitarian assistance funding. CARE Canada received $1.9 million in support from Global Affairs Canada to meet the humanitarian needs of drought-affected households through improved access to treatment for acute malnutrition, provision of safe water and adequate sanitation facilities, and education on hygiene practices.

According to the United Nations, Canada ranked as the fifth-largest humanitarian donor to Ethiopia in 2015. The Canadian government reports that Canada has provided $50.5 million for humanitarian assistance in 2015 and will spend $73 million for development assistance in Ethiopia in fiscal year 2015-16.

“We are happy that communities reached through Canadian development funding have been stronger and able to better withstand this devastating drought, but they’re at a breaking point,” says Davidson. “The Government of Ethiopia has responded and thankfully the Canadian government has helped. Yet this is the worst drought Ethiopia has seen in 30 years and more support is needed to ensure critical gains are not lost.”

Canadians can support CARE’s emergency response at:


CARE has Canadian spokespeople available in Canada and Ethiopia. Contact:

Darcy Knoll
Communications Specialist | CARE Canada | 613-790-2134

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