Emergency response in drought-stricken Afar region of Ethiopia

Ethiopian doctor providing health check up for a baby

Credit: Fikrie Gashaneh

January 5, 2016
Nairobi, Kenya

As the drought and food shortage in parts of Ethiopia continues to worsen, Amref Health Africa is working with communities, all levels of government and partner organizations to identify and address expected public health emergencies.

Focused on the Afar Region, one of the hardest hit areas, Amref Health Africa is ramping up a number of key activities to assist with the emergency response, including:

  • Training health workers, community members, and health facility managers to screen children for malnutrition.

  • Logistical support to provide at-risk children and pregnant women with nutritional supplements.

  • Training health workers on emergency response.

  • Providing health education to communities about the types of diseases that become more prevalent during drought and food shortages, and helping people access the necessary health care services.

  • Working with communities to ensure access to clean water through various means, such as water treatment chemicals and supplies and trucking in clean water.

  • Promoting the importance of continued good hygiene practices and proper sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

  • Building the strength of the health system to help ensure ongoing, life-saving prevention and treatment services continue despite the emergency (e.g. immunizations).

Through more than a decade of partnering with pastoralist (nomadic) and semi-pastoralist communities in the Afar Region, and working together with the Federal and Regional governments, Amref Health Africa has built strong, effective relationships that have led to improved health. The trust we have built up with community leaders through long-term projects means we can play a vital role in reducing the potentially severe health consequences of the drought and food shortage within these vulnerable communities.

The health implications of drought are numerous and can be far reaching, including compromised quality and quantity of drinking water, poor nutrition and increased incidence of disease and death. Gains made in improving health delivery are also at risk as people focus on survival for themselves and their livestock.  

According to the World Food Programme, up to 15 million people in central and eastern Ethiopia “will face severe acute food insecurity and require assistance in 2016, making Ethiopia the country with the largest acutely food insecure population in the world”. It has also warned that “…sustained, large-scale, multi-sectoral emergency assistance is required immediately to save lives and livelihoods”.  

Amref Health Africa is prepared to do all that we can to help communities minimize and address the effects of the drought and subsequent food shortage, and to save lives.

Through the global Amref Health Africa network, we are working to raise urgent additional resources to support this vital work. We call on all other partners and friends to work with us, the Government of Ethiopia and the Afar Regional State to support the vulnerable communities in Afar. Together we can save lives and ensure lasting health improvement.

Dr. Githinji Gitahi
Global CEO
Amref Health Africa


About Amref Health Africa (@AmrefCanada) Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and with more than 55 years of experience, Amref Health Africa is the leading African public health organization. Recipients of both the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health and the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, Amref Health Africa partners with communities to improve health. Amref Health Africa tackles some of the most critical health challenges facing the continent: maternal and child care, HIV, TB and malaria, clean water and sanitation, and surgical and clinical outreach.

Media: For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Jennifer Foulds, Amref Health Africa in Canada, (416) 961-6981; (647) 771-5815 (cell); email