In Ethiopia, Nutrition Support Saves Lives Thanks To Key Donors

The first time 4-year-old Gebru’s mother took him to a health centre in Amhara last year, he was so sick with a bad cough that he could not eat properly. He did not recover after the first rounds of treatment for malnutrition.

“A few weeks after that, during a visit by health staff to our house, he still had low appetite,” explains his mother, Aseketema Tsegaway. “I took him back to the health centre, and after four rounds of treatment his appetite improved,” she adds. “He was playing again and was physically stronger.”

Right now, Ethiopia is in the midst of what many believe to be the worst drought in decades, which has affected at least 10 million people and sharply increased malnutrition rates.

Like hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 5 in Ethiopia, Gebru made it through a stage of moderate acute malnutrition thanks to specialized treatment from WFP. That treatment was in turn made possible by crucial financial contributions provided by donors at the end of 2015, as the scale of the drought crisis was becoming clear.

Aseketema Tsegaway and her children; her son Gebru has now recovered from moderate acute malnutrition thanks to treatment from WFP.”A few donors understood last year that, if we were to avoid the worst in Ethiopia, they would need to contribute funding immediately. With these contributions, WFP was able to buy from WFP stocks of specialized nutritious food already available in the region and to act quickly to prevent children falling into severe malnutrition, a life-threatening condition,” said John Aylieff, WFP’s Country Director in Ethiopia.

That highly fortified blended food is vital to nutrition support provided through WFP’s Targeted Supplementary Feeding programme, known as TSF, which treats moderate acute malnutrition among pregnant women, new mothers and young children, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of undernutrition.

Canada has played an important role in supporting the TSF programme with a contribution of US$2.7 million in November.

“We have a strong presence in Ethiopia and we follow closely the evolution of the drought and its impact on food security. It was important to contribute early on to the crisis response in order to avoid a further deterioration”, said Kati Csaba, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa.

Canada not only provided assistance for nutrition at a very crucial stage but also contributed US$15.7 million for general relief food distributions, which help drought-affected families meet their basic food needs.

“This assistance makes an immediate difference to those most in need, including Ethiopia’s poorest and most vulnerable, and will help to build longer-term resilience to drought and similar shocks,” Csaba added.

More than 10 million people have been affected by one of the worst droughts that Ethiopia has seen in decades. However, Ethiopia has been successfully fighting off one of the largest emergencies currently affecting the African continent thanks to solid humanitarian structures throughout the country and strong government leadership; the Government of Ethiopia has invested close to US$400 million of its own funds to the drought response.

But for a crisis of this scale, an international response is necessary, and WFP’s funding situation remains highly precarious.

“We are really close to the edge, and have only a few months’ worth of resources to continue providing this sorely needed assistance,” said Aylieff. “Additional funds are needed urgently to save lives and prevent the erosion of Ethiopia’s hard-earned development gains. It’s not too late to act.”

In addition to Canada, donors to the WFP drought response in Ethiopia include (in alphabetical order) Australia, Canada, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Czech Republic, ECHO, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Japan , Norway, Switzerland , UNA Sweden and the United States of America, as well as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and a number of private donors.

Source: World Food Programme