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Ethiopia ‘Green drought’ hides truth of food shortage


A boy collecting water in Shebedino, Ethiopia. Photo: Plan International/Jiro OseThe landscape around Shebedino in Ethiopia looks lush and green. But many families here don’t have enough food to eat. This is the other face of the drought which is affecting millions in the Horn of Africa - the harsh phenomena of 'green drought.'

The image may not match most people's perceived idea of what a drought looks like, but the life-threatening reality of malnutrition for tens of thousands of children is the same.

"The hunger arises as a result of two factors: delayed rainfall and a shortage of land on which to grow crops,” says David Throp, Plan International's Country Director in Ethiopia.

“This year, the rains that allow seeds to germinate and crops to start to grow did not come. As a result, families were not able to harvest crops when they normally do. The later rains did arrive in some measure, but now the crops are only half-grown, and are not ready to eat until at least September.

“In the meantime, people are facing a serious food shortage, even though they're surrounded by greenery. To outsiders, it seems incredible.

"When there's light rain, greenery will spring up out of the earth, but it's not necessarily edible. The other problem is that each family has only a very small area on which to grow crops. Shebedino is one of the most densely populated parts of Ethiopia. Fathers pass their land down to their children and, over the years, the available plots to produce food have been growing smaller and smaller."

“With the added pressures of erosion, there is never enough land to grow enough food in some areas, no matter how much rain there is."

Our response

Plan’s East Africa response includes work in Ethiopia, such as providing nutritious food for young children and mothers, school meals, water, seeds, livestock and fertilizers. Children will be supported to remain in school with minimal disruption to their learning. Attention will be given to the specific risks faced by children, especially girls and young women.  

“Girls are particularly at risk,” says David Throp. “They’re often the first to go hungry if families don’t have enough food, and economic pressures may lead to them dropping out of school, migration and even early marriage.”

We need your help

To help families recover in the long term Plan will provide seeds and livestock and increase the availability of water through wells and boreholes.  

  • £37.20 could help feed a child and their mother for three months.

Please make a donation online today to fund this vital work or call us on 0800 526 848.

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The plan
to respond to the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people across East Africa
  • Where
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    Provide food, water and emergency supplies
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