NAIROBI, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Millions of Ethiopians, hit by the country’s worst drought in 50 years, need seeds to plant food crops and animal fodder during the current spring rains, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Monday.
Planting for the March to May rains, known as the belg, is already delayed, it said, as families have eaten their seeds or exhausted them through successive failed plantings.
“FAO urgently needs $13 million by the end of March to support more than 600,000 of the worst affected people,” FAO’s country representative Amadou Allahoury Diallo said.
“It’s critical that we’re able to respond quickly and robustly to reboot agriculture now before the drought further decimates the food security and livelihoods of millions.”
Some 7.5 million farmers and herders need aid to produce maize, sorghum, teff and wheat, as well as livestock feed, according to Ethiopia’s Bureau of Agriculture, it said.
Farmers need seeds not just for the current rains but also for the summer meher rains, which are due to start in June and produce 85 per cent of Ethiopia’s food supplies.
The hunger crisis is predicted to worsen until the harvest begins in September.
Ethiopia’s government and the United Nations have asked for $1.4 billion to feed 10.2 million Ethiopians - the third largest appeal globally after Syria and Yemen.
An additional 7.9 million chronically food insecure people are receiving rations through the Ethiopian government’s donor-supported Productive Safety Net Programme.
Funding shortages mean food aid is in short supply and malnutrition will increase dramatically if donor money runs out in May, the United Nations has said.
Some 435,000 children are expected to become severely malnourished in 2016, which means they risk death without therapeutic treatment.
Cows and goats are a critical source of milk for hungry families, but many have stopped producing it.
Hundreds of thousands of livestock have already died and the remaining animals are becoming weak and thin, FAO said.
FAO is buying weak sheep and goats for slaughter and providing their meat to hungry families. (Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)