• The fight against food insecurity can only be attained by solving the root cause of such ills in the society, one of the strategy being provision of the much needed basic amenities and infrastructure.

    The current devastating droughts being experienced in Ethiopia is as a result of El Niño. Statistics from the United Nations indicate that more than $ 1.2 billion is needed to address the needs of over 10 million people affected in the catastrophic droughts-worst experienced in three decades.   

    While in Ethiopia, people and animals are dying of hunger and thirst, the El Niño menace brought havoc in Kenya in form of floods that swept people, animals and property alike. The Republic of Zimbabwe on the other hand, has been hit flat by the worst-ever droughts forcing the government to declare a state of emergency to call for aid.

    The people of Ziway Dugda, a small district in Arsi Zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia region, are however a happy lot after World Bank and the local government joined hands to fight the menace.

    Local farmers like Ezkias Geberigziabher is disappointed in the rains. “We are hardworking people, but we can’t produce food because of the drought. Despite our prayers, it hasn’t rained in two years,” he told World Bank. “We have depleted our reserves. I have nine children; what am I supposed to feed them?”

    This is one of the story echoed by many farmers across the ‘poor’ and food insecure districts in Ethiopia.  

    In a bid to meet the needs of the society, under the Productive Safety Nets Programs (PSNP), World Bank, has extended aid to the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) to put in place “robust systems that respond to chronic vulnerability, by shifting focus from annual emergency appeals to a planned approach to food insecurity and predictable drought risk management.”

    These systems, according to World Bank, have been the backbone of the response to the current drought. PSNP also allocated $50 million to the GoE to finance the provision of food aid in PSNP areas.

    Creating opportunities for locals to earn a living

    Through the program, more than 318 food insecure districts have been able to access regular cash and/or food transfers. These people would otherwise be included in the humanitarian appeal for food aid were it not for the program. Able bodied persons earn wages for working on public works rather than just getting handouts. They work for six months out of a year. Those who are not able to work get direct grants throughout the year.  

    “I am very pleased to see first-hand how PSNP is helping to address food insecurity and promote sustainable community development in the poorest societies,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director for Ethiopia. “I am especially happy to see how the World Bank’s investments in government systems are paying-off in times of great need.”

    During his recent visit to Dugda, Secretary-General of the United Nations, applauded the initiative terming it as a moving personal experience. “I am impressed by how different stakeholders like the World Bank, along with the Government of Ethiopia and the World Food Program have pulled their resources together to address this challenge,” he said.

     Through PSNP, the root causes of poverty and vulnerability are addressed through the public works assets created. Locals are engaged in restoring watersheds and building much needed basic infrastructure and roads. Under the program, 39,000 kilometers of roads, 500 health posts and 4,300 school rooms have been built.  

    Kadija Gobe, 23 said she has helped to build “a water well and the health post, which is giving much needed services to everyone in our community.” The mother of three added: “my household receives ETB 480 ($24) a month in cash transfers, without which, I wouldn’t be able to feed my children or send them to school. If it wasn’t for the safety nets program, we will starve to death for sure.”

    In its fourth phase, PSNP has helped Gobe and 9,329 other beneficiaries in Ziway Dugda. The initiative is being implemented with International Development Association (IDA) investments of $600 million, and a total budget of approximately $3.6 billion from 11 development partners. 

    Image Credit Tewodros Emiru, World Bank Group