Ethiopia is currently experiencing its worst drought in 30 years according to the United Nations, with levels of acute need across all humanitarian sectors having already exceeded levels seen in the Horn of Africa drought of 2011, and which are projected to become far more severe in 2016. A recent report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that the impact of the failed spring rains was compounded by the arrival of the El Niño weather conditions that weakened summer rains, which feed 80 to 85 per cent of the country.
“This greatly expanded food insecurity, malnutrition and disrupted livelihoods across six affected regions of the country,” as per the Federal Ministry of Education of Ethiopia and OCHA’s report.
As a result, the education sector has also been seriously affected disrupting the children’s education. So far, 10% of primary school children are found in the affected areas and they are likely to miss the school if no response is made. The impact of the current emergency on education has a deleterious consequences which require collective commitments of international community and humanitarian agencies to protect dropped out children from all forms of risks including violence, exploitation, trafficking and early marriage. Experience shows that some, particularly those from the poorest households, will never return to schools unless necessary responses are mitigated. As per the recent rapid assessment conducted by the MOE, REBs, and Education Cluster, over 2 million school children, particularly girls, as they are found in the affected areas , are likely to dropping out, mainly from the poorest quintile of the population affected by the emergency in six regional states (Afar. Ethiopia Somali, Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, and SNNP).
We know from past climatic events that a package of basic interventions can decrease the rate of dropouts and encourage families to send their children back to school. This crisis in the education sector can therefore be contained, if we act now and at scale. For example from 2002/03– 2003/04 when drought was a significant problem, gross enrolment increased at schools assisted with school meal by 1.7% whilst actually decreasing in non-assisted schools by 1.2%.
Recognizing the gradual spill over impact of the drought on the students in the affected areas Ministry of Education has developed an education in emergency response plan. The ministry urgently requires over US$37 million to provide educational supplies, WASH facilities, school feeding programme, psychosocial support and establish temporary learning spaces to prevent the 2 million children from risk of dropping out of schools.
This is among the Government's highest priorities and the proposed interventions in the education sector is an integral part of the broader government-led response to the El Niño crisis.