Tearfund launches appeal for Ethiopia as East Africa hunger crisis critically deepens

More people than ever in the last five years are going hungry in countries across East Africa. In southern Ethiopia, families are facing the prospect of a failed harvest for the sixth time in a row. Over 20 million people do not have enough to eat. 

Tearfund is appealing for funds to continue its work with the local church in Ethiopia to provide assistance and improve community resilience for the long term.

For the pastoral communities of Borena (in the Oromia region), cattle have died leaving people without their usual means of trading and earning a living. Some families are desperately cutting branches from trees to sell the firewood for food as a last resort.

As the drought persists, exacerbated by climate change, a lack of access to food and safe water weakens people’s immunity and increases their vulnerability to diseases. Families are concerned for their future.  

Loko, 21, and her husband Jarso, 22, epitomise the struggles faced by many parents in Borena. “I had cows and sheep, but they died of drought,” explains Jarso. “The drought is still bad. I worry about what to feed my child every day.”

Loko, Jarso and their extended family survive by selling bundles of firewood they have gathered. On the days they manage to find a buyer, they can buy food to eat. Even though they know they can’t do this forever and it’s not a sustainable option, Loko feels as though, for now this is all she can do: 

“This is a final option, we must not die sitting down, and when the conditions are so harsh, what else can you do apart from whatever you can to feed your child?”

Loko and Jarso collect firewood to sell. Credit: Peter Caton/Tearfund

Tearfund’s partner, the Ethiopian Guenet Church Development and Welfare Organization (EGCDWO) are providing alternative support to families, like Loko and Jarso’s, in the worst affected areas. The organisation identifies families most in need and gives them cash to buy essentials like food, livestock and medical treatment. 

The EGCDWO aims to use any funds raised by Tearfund’s appeal to help people in the region to protect and adapt their livelihoods to the changing climate and avoid starvation. In some cases this means buying new livestock, such as sheep and goats, which are more able to withstand drought conditions as compared to cattle. And, in an effort to reduce dependency on livestock, the church will be teaching climate-smart agriculture techniques so that people can continue to grow their own food even as the climate crisis worsens and prices soar. The church is also setting up new self help groups so that communities can support each other in the long term. 

Simba Nyamarezi, Tearfund’s country director in Ethiopia, said: “For rural communities, who rely on farming, the drought has made their way of life impossible. It also means that, when the rains do come, the land struggles to absorb the water like it used to. This leads to flash flooding – as the water has nowhere to go. Homes and what little crops or cattle are left are washed away. There are some techniques that we can offer to improve farming outcomes, but the situation is very serious and we need more resources.

“Tearfund is supporting its partners in the region to provide unconditional cash support for essential supplies such as food and medicine. After this they will provide cash to help them buy livestock so they can stabilise the situation. The scale of this crisis is huge and urgently needs more support and prayer.”

You can donate online to help the people of Ethiopia, East Africa affected by the drought on the Tearfund website – tearfund.org/EthiopiaHunger