As UN Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate Change visits Ethiopia, CARE warns how women and girls face double disaster of drought

Addis Ababa/Geneva, July 4, 2016. As the new UN Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate Change, Ms Mary Robinson, visits Ethiopia this week, CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization, calls on her to support the Ethiopian government further in its efforts to raise global attention to the current food insecurity. The worst drought in Ethiopia for 50 years, caused in large parts by the El Niño weather phenomenon, continues to affect the lives and livelihoods of about 10.2 million people.

While the Ethiopian government and donors have contributed significant funds (1$ billion) to the response, the impact of this El Niño has been unprecedented, and a large-scale food security emergency response has been launched, as a funding gap of $1.4 billion remains.

“A drought of this magnitude has and continues to have serious implications on the health and nutrition status of the impacted population, in particular women and girls” says Esther Watts, CARE’s Country Director for Ethiopia. “Many women are prioritizing their families over themselves, meaning that they are all too frequently forgoing their own meals to provide for the rest of the family”.

A recent gender assessment by CARE Ethiopia in affected areas revealed that men and children under the age of three tend to eat first, while women eat last. This results in many of these women eating just one component of a meal, such as maize without milk, or decreasing the amount they eat altogether. The assessment revealed that girls are also suffering as families take their children out of schools because they need to meet domestic responsibilities such as fetching water or caring for younger siblings, and in this instance it is frequently the female students that are taken out first.

Although many of the crop planting areas that need short rains have recently received favorable amounts, the quality and quantity of the harvest is yet to be determined, particularly as many farmers were forced to use their seed source for food. Moreover, forecasts indicate that the summer rains may be heavy due to the onset of La Niña, which increases the chances for flooding and mudslides in the future.

At the same time, the frequency and severity of drought and climactic variations is likely to increase and continue to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the country. “Women currently face a double disaster in this drought, but despite this we also know that this crisis can also provide opportunities for challenging long entrenched gender norms”, adds Watts. “For example, CARE’s study reveals that a food security crisis where women are left as heads of households challenges gender roles around division of labor and can mean opportunities for women to become more engaged in local markets.”

Since the onset of the crisis, CARE Ethiopia has been addressing the needs of the drought-affected populations. To date, CARE emergency interventions have reached over 700,000 people.  These include delivering food aid and nutrition support to pregnant and lactating women, children under five years of age, and the elderly. In addition, CARE has focused on rehabilitating existing water sources or building new sources when needed.


Media contact:

In Geneva: Clare Spurrell, Head of Global Communications, Mobile: +41 79 379 89 52, E-mail: [email protected]

In Addis Ababa: Hermela Solomon, Communications Advisor, Mobile +251 912 632913, E-Mail: [email protected]


About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity.