Ethiopia Visit

At a time when Ethiopia faces drought, I visited the country to look at how we can support the country in dealing with the crisis and what work is already being done.

I held meetings with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs and also the Minister for Disasters and Relief. I also met the Charge d'Affairs at the British Embassy, alongside several people from DfID.

We also had a field visit to the Shinile zone in the Somali Region, Eastern Ethiopia. This is one of the drought-affected areas, and we visited one of the clinics being used to treat children suffering from malnutrition. We are grateful to Save the Children charity representatives who showed us around the area and for introducing us to medical staff working in the area. Pictured (above) is a baby girl with her mother at a Stabilization Centre in the Health Centre we visited in Shinile district of Siti Zone in Somali Region. She had been admitted 8 days prior to our visit and since then the health team have reported that she is improving. If she continues to react to the medication at the same pace, she will be transferred to the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) and benefit from a take-home ration of nutrition supplies.

The problem is that, following drought, areas often suffer flooding. People have lost their cattle, and therefore their source of milk and food, which makes the suffering of children, in particular, far worse. There are over 2 million children across the country suffering.

Ethiopia has launched a campaign to raise £1.4 billion to tackle the problem of food shortages, which is affecting up to 18million people. So far, about 55% of this has been raised, including millions from the UK government. More is needed if further suffering is to be avoided.

It is hoped that the rains will come, but even so, the November harvest will not be a good one as much damage has already been done. Donors could, therefore, be in for the long haul. Ethiopia is much better equipped to cope with such emergencies than it was in the 1980s. Even so, there is nothing they can do about the weather and the climate, and they do need help.

As well as emergency aid, development aid is also needed so that Ethiopia can continue to build its resilience and gradually help its people move from being subsistence farmers to more reliable sources of employment. This will involve the creation of jobs, which in turn will be helped by trade and by companies doing business in Ethiopia.

I am continuing to work to attract businesses to Ethiopia, partly through the Westminster Africa Business Group, which I chair, and through other avenues as well.