Humanitarian aid from DAC donor governments to Ethiopia more than doubled in 2008 to reach US$829 million. This was driven chiefly by an increase from the United States, which provided US$563 million, mainly in form of emergency in-kind food aid. As a provider of 71% of the country’s total humanitarian aid, the United States has a leading role in shaping the response to an agriculture-dependent country which, in spite of showing signs of economic growth over the last few years, has suffered successive droughts, directly affecting the food security of 5-10 million people (6%-11% of the population) – a situation further compounded by high food and fuel prices in 2008.
In 2008, 82% of DAC donor humanitarian aid was provided in the form of emergency (‘humanitarian’) food aid. When added to the US$312 million provided in the form of ‘development’ food aid (food security and crop protection programmes), food aid accounted for 42.6% (US$957 million) of DAC donors’ US$2.2 billion in bilateral ODA. US$43 million (1.9% of ODA) was spent on agricultural development. Some of this aid was provided in support of the Ethiopian government’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which aims to help the food security of 7.5 million people in eight regions (Afar, Amhara, Dire Dawa, Harar, Oromiya, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regions, Somali and Tigray).
Although Ethiopia’s economy has grown consistently over the last decade and some progress has been made, the country still has high rates of malnutrition and low primary education enrolment rates. It is ranked 171 out of 182 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index for 2009. After food aid, US$1.1 billion was left for other development purposes such as basic health, education and water and sanitation in 2008.
Drought means that there is less money in the economy in the year, which undermines the effects of development programmes such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) and pushes people further into poverty. With six major droughts in just two decades, deforestation, soil erosion, floods and a fall in world prices of cash crops, many families that are already living in poverty never have time to recover between one crisis and the next.
While food prices appear to have stabilised from November 2008 onwards, data from the country’s Central Statistical Agency suggests that the price of bread and cereals are almost twice as high as they were at the end of 2007. The situation was not helped by the failure of the Belg rains in 2009, which not only reduced harvest but also delayed and sometimes prevented the planting of high yield crops such as maize and sorghum. FTS data suggests that food aid remained high on donors’ agenda in 2009 – 75.2% of the US$678 million reported as humanitarian aid to Ethiopia was spent on addressing food needs, US$421 million of which from the United States.
Ethiopia is the fifth largest recipient of DAC donor humanitarian aid over the last 10 years, accounting for US$19 billion (23.5%) of the total allocated to specific countries.