Publication Date March 7, 2016

With all eyes on Syria, Ethiopia's worst drought in 50 years is going unnoticed

Children in the village of Tsemera in Amhara region, Ethiopia, February 12. Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in around 50 years, largely due to the El Nino weather event. Photo: Katie Migiro, Reuters

Perhaps no country has felt this more than Ethiopia, which is experiencing its worst drought in roughly half a century. The country has faced three consecutive failed rains, the most intense and recent being in June 2015 with the arrival of El Niño to its doorstep. The primary rainy season from June through September is critical to Ethiopia’s agricultural sector, which contributes 42.3 percent of the country’s GDP and employs roughly 73 percent of its labor force.

Ethiopia has suffered from chronic food insecurity for over thirty years as a result of intense population growth, whose overcultivation of small landholdings has put immense pressure on the soil in an already fragile environment. Yet, the drought occurring now has brought a level of devastation that, according to the United Nations,could rival the major famine in 1984 that killed upwards of 900,000 people. As ofFebruary, 75 percent of harvests have been lost, one million livestock have died, and 10-15 million people require emergency humanitarian food assistance, with 430,000 children experiencing severe malnutrition