By Firaol Bersisa @FiraolBer
Addis Abeba – Ambassador Jacobson, Chargé d’Affaires, of the US embassy in Addis Abeba, and Adam Schmidt, Deputy Mission Director of USAID in Ethiopia met the with the president of the Somali region, Mustafe Muhammed, and regional officials to assess and understand the devastating drought [and relief response efforts] which has affected 9 of 11 zones in the Somali region. Ambassador Jacobson vowed that the U.S. will continue offering support to alleviate the impacts of the drought.
At the press briefing, yesterday following the trip made by both dignitaries as part of a wider delegation to the Somali region, Ambassador Jacobson began by highlighting the extremely concerning the situation on the ground as what could be the ‘worst drought in a century according to early warning systems, she noted that elders she spoke with in the Edolo IDP camp attested to the devastation caused by this drought to their livestock and livelihoods.
Offering insight to current U.S. humanitarian efforts, the ambassador stated that 100 million USD had been dedicated thus far in the areas of direct food assistance, essential nutritional, and medical plus agricultural-livestock support. Ambassador Jacobson stressed a commitment to all people across Ethiopia, in line with the long-standing relationship between both countries. Furthermore, expressing appreciation to the regional government for the ongoing collaboration.
However, there lies a total requirement of 550 million USD to meet the needs of the people, leaving a huge funding gap of 275 million USD, the ambassador underlined. And accordingly, expressed hope that other partners [both national and international] would step up to address this urgent gap.
Deputy Director Adam Schmidt, on his part, stated that it was significant to see the effects of this drought and additionally understand partnerships [to tackle it] at the local and regional levels. He said that there was a commitment to continue such partnerships, however, stressing that additional support was essential and that such a trip to the affected areas can motivate mobilization of resources as an outcome.
Questions were raised from the media, especially about how the current relationship between the Ethiopian government and the United States impacts the assistance endeavors to which the ambassador replied, “Our assistance is based on need, not on politics. And that the U.S. has a positive working relationship with the government of Ethiopia.”
Addis Standard also forwarded questions to the ambassador and deputy director asking what immediate steps does the US plan on taking to address discrepancies from failing to engage the needed 275 million USD from partners: “We are doing our part, we just got an additional 13 million USD, we also participated in a pledging conference in Geneva, I think we are doing our part on order to mobilize our own resources from the U.S. government but also working to encourage others to mobilize their resources as well,” the ambassador responded.
Deputy Director Schmidt added “We are continuing to stress the need and that is particularly part of this visit to understand directly what the challenges are. There is an opportunity to bring more needed attention to the immediate challenges.” Furthermore, he said that ‘hopefully through donor pledging conferences and other events, there will be a real support to meet that deficiency but it is a whole effort to cross many stakeholders. ‘
Addis Standard also put a question about U.S. readiness for potential outbreaks occurring in the IDP camps to which ambassador Jacobson answered, “Not only with the drought, but there is a robust team at the Ethiopian CDC center and they have worked with all levels of government in Ethiopia to build a network of early warning and surveillance for outbreaks of any kind of contagious disease and that work is ongoing in everywhere in Ethiopia.” Pointing to a visit to the IDP camps, she mentioned that U.S. relief assistance also included providing immunization screening to children to the measles vaccine and as such, no outbreak has been seen in the camp. Underscoring prevention, the ambassador remarked that, ‘immunization is the key.’ AS