Ethiopia says the United Nations estimate of number of people who will be affected by an imminent shortage of emergency food aid has been overstated.
The country’s Commissioner for Disaster Risk Management confirmed to the BBC that it was true that food aid was due to run out by end of June but that contrary to the UN figure of 7.8 people being affected, only 1.7 million people were at risk.
‘‘It is true that in some areas food will run out by the end of the month but this will only affect around 1.7 million people,’‘ Mitiku Kassa said.
He said the government would have no choice that look internally if development partners did not step in to salvage the situation.
‘‘We expect our donor community to step in and fill that gap and we are hopeful. But if they fail to do that we will have to use some of our development budget to provide emergency assistance to our people,’‘ he added.
Successive failed rains blamed by meteorologists on fluctuations in ocean temperatures known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) have created a series of severe back-to-back droughts in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region.
“We are in a dire situation,” John Aylieff, the World Food Programme’s representative in Ethiopia, said last Friday during a field trip to Warder in southeast Ethiopia, one of Ethiopia’s hardest-hit areas.
“We’ve got food running out nationally at the end of June. That means the 7.8 million people who are in need of humanitarian food assistance in Ethiopia will see that distribution cut abruptly at the end of June,” he added.
Ethiopia like its neighbours in the Horn of Africa region are suffering from a biting drought that has left millions in need of food aid. Somalia, South Sudan and parts of Kenya have all not been spared. All except Ethiopia have declared the drought a state of emergency.