USAID announces $169M for drought relief in Ethiopia and Kenya

An aid worker distributes food supplies in Ethiopia. Photo by: USAID / CC BY-NC

NAIROBI — In response to the ongoing food crisis in East Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced more than $169 million in funding on Thursday for humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia and Kenya. The majority of the funds — approximately $137 million — will go to Ethiopia.

An estimated 7.8 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, where the population is also impacted by acute watery diarrhea. USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned that without adequate assistance, food insecurity could reach catastrophic levels in some areas of the country.

These new funds will go toward scaling emergency food assistance efforts, providing specialized nutrition supplies and providing safe drinking water and health services, among other efforts. In Kenya, the funds will provide support for refugees of neighboring countries living in Kenya, as well as for Kenyans impacted by drought.

The total U.S. humanitarian contribution in Ethiopia and Kenya is more than $458 million for fiscal year 2017, with around 80 percent of those funds allocated to Ethiopia.

USAID said it is hoping that these newly announced funds will spur other donors to contribute, as well as encourage the host governments to put more resources into the response.

“We need to move now,” said Matt Nims, acting director of Food for Peace. “In the next two or three months we need to work together to make sure that the resources that are on the ground are programed in the way that makes the most sense and has the most impact. That means open communication between the government and the actors on the ground.”  

Last year, when El Nino hit Ethiopia with the worst drought the nation has seen in decades, the government took a very active role, working with the humanitarian community to address needs. The government has not yet provided that same level of engagement during this food crisis, said Nims.

The new funds have been allocated to USAID’s implementing partners and will also include in-kind food assistance and medical supplies that will be bought in-country. The funds were drawn from USAID’s Office Foreign Disaster Assistance and Office of Food for Peace and from the agency’s emergency funds. They are in addition to the $990 million in additional humanitarian aid for drought relief that was included in the U.S. budget.

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    Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is Devex's East Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi. She is a reporter and producer, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation magazine, among others. Sara holds a master's degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow.