Remarks by Gayle Smith on US government’s commitment to rescue victims of El Niño weather phenomenon in Ethiopia
USAID administrator Gayle Smith’s Remark on the US government’s commitment to rescue victims of El Niño weather phenomenon in Ethiopia.
January 31, 2016
AU conference center, Addis Ababa
This trip has also afforded us an opportunity to deal with the opportunity to prevent a tragedy. Earlier today, the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia convened a roundtable on El Niño. I assume most of you are aware that this is the worst El Niño in history, and it has affected the African continent, in fact the whole world, but the African continent in particular, no country more dramatically than Ethiopia, where 11 million people are in need of assistance because of the impact of what is a very severe drought.
The difference between this and some other natural disasters that we have seen in the past is that the government has stepped up, not only to put political weight from the top down to the local level in responding to this, but also resources. There is a foundation in this country of resilience safety nets, progress on agricultural development that will help, we believe, Ethiopia respond to emergency needs without losing the gains that have been made in development.
There is close alignment, as we heard this morning, between the United Nations, other donors, our Ethiopian partners, on a strategy moving forward. The challenge is that the funding for this is not where it needs to be, and we are up against a very tight timeline. If farmers are not able to plant according to season, then we all know what happens, they will not be able to produce sufficient food.
As the United States, we have responded early to this. Since October 2014, we have provided over $400 million in assistance, and I am pleased to announce this afternoon that we are providing an additional almost $100 million in assistance. For those of you who want the precise number, it is $97 million. This is to expand the reach of food programs again that are designed to help people who are vulnerable get through what is going to be a very intense, but hopefully time limited, external shock.
So we have also, as I said, had the opportunity to focus on that emergency, and I hope successfully we have a number of countries represented in the room, a very forceful appeal from the Secretary General, myself, the E.U., U.N. agencies, that we will see the world step up, again, not just to meet emergency needs, but to prevent a crisis that is within our reach to prevent.