New Dutch aid to combat effects of El Niño

The Netherlands has made a further contribution to combating the threat posed by El Niño of serious food shortages in Africa. ‘In parts of Ethiopia there will be no food left in a few months, unless the international community acts fast,’ said Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen. The government has decided make another donation. It will provide people with food and food supplements for children, like high-energy biscuits and high-protein bars as well as seed and animal feed.

Around 18 million Ethiopians currently depend on food aid. The situation is especially dire in the east and south of the country. The government in Addis Ababa has already put $400 million into a special emergency fund and the UN and other aid organisations are doing all they can. But by the summer, these funds will be depleted. ‘UN organisation OCHA has called this the worst drought in Ethiopia in 50 years,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘We must prevent widespread famine among many millions of people by acting now.’

For a number of years the Netherlands has been helping to combat the effects of El Niño. Because of the exceptional situation an extra €25 million in aid has been made available since the end of 2015 to Ethiopia alone. This includes food or cash to help people directly. ‘But it’s also about building resilience to the drought caused by El Niño,’ the minister said. This can be done by providing better seed for food production or better animal feed, by digging wells or improving the irrigation of agricultural land. The new €3 million aid package will be invested through the Dutch embassy, which is monitoring development in close consultation with the Ethiopian government.

El Niño is caused by a rise in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. One of the consequences is a weakening of the trade winds near the equator, causing temperatures to rise to several degrees above average. This has two opposite effects in areas around the equator, like the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa: severe drought in some areas and flooding in others. The Netherlands is also providing aid outside Ethiopia. During her visit to Malawi in March Ms Ploumen announced €8 million in aid, a portion of which will go to Southern Africa. She also stressed that other countries beside the Netherlands must do more to prevent a tragedy.