EU: Supporting the Ethiopian people now, and over the long term

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

A water aid distribution point in Ethiopia. [Oxfam/Flickr]

Ethiopia is being hit hard by one the most severe El Niño phenomenon on record. Numbers speak for themselves – in the past year, the number of food insecure people has increased from 2.9 million to over 10 million at present, write Neven Mimica and Christos Stylianides.

Neven Mimica is European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development and Christos Stylianides is European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

This is on top of the almost 8 million chronically food insecure people in the country.

El Niño threatens the livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians, eroding population’s legendary resilience, and potentially jeopardizing development gains of the last decades. If we want to avoid haunting images of the past to be at the front pages of media, there is an urgent need to act and to dramatically increase our efforts.

Since the winter of 2015, the EU has mobilised around €44 million of humanitarian aid to help the victims of El Niño in Ethiopia. In addition, we have just announced an additional €24 million to respond to emergency needs of over 730 000 refugees and some 400 000 Internally Displaced People.

Humanitarian assistance alone will not be enough. El Niño is a stark reminder that we must never stop paying attention to resilience. It is only by combining humanitarian and development assistance that we can enhance preparedness, and strengthen the resilience of the country.

That is what we are doing in Ethiopia, by linking relief, rehabilitation and development. Ethiopia is the largest beneficiary of EU development assistance, with a country programme of €745 million for the period 2014-2020 (through the European Development Fund.) A third of this amount is foreseen to support food security, sustainable agriculture and to fight climate change.

One particular project, the Productive Safety Net Programme (which received about €150 million in support from the EU) is the largest programme of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa and provides around 7.5 million vulnerable people with reliable assistance each year (in the form of cash or food), in return for participation in public works. This programme has helped to prevent the re-emergence of large famines in Ethiopia, including the drought in the Horn of Africa during 2011, and is helping to reduce the impact of El Niño.


Another EU initiative is called RESET (Resilience building in Ethiopia). It covers 41 districts across 5 regions, and reaches more than 2.8 million people. It supports extremely poor households with the objective of strengthening resilience of most vulnerable communities to man-made and natural disasters. It includes measures increasing access to basic services and enhancing livelihoods and employment opportunities. It improves water management and catchment by developing irrigation schemes which are accessible to the poor to ensure the use of modern technology and better-quality varieties of crops. It also includes support for family planning.

Ethiopia’s resilience is already being tested, as the country is home to 800.000 refugees on its territory. It is a remarkable effort that we are already supporting with the EU Trust Fund for addressing instability and root causes of irregular migration in Africa. Ethiopia is one of its main beneficiaries.

Drought-hit Ethiopia reinvents itself as upmarket tourist destination

With the worst drought in 50 years, some 18 million people dependent on emergency food supplies, and aid agencies warning the money and the aid will run out in two months, it seems a strange time for Ethiopia to be marketing itself as an upmarket tourist destination.

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