ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

"World must not forget women in Ethiopia’s food crisis": former Olympic champion, ActionAid ambassador, Haile Gebrselassie

Addis Ababa, 20/07/2016: The 27 time world record holder and two time Olympic gold medallist – Haile Gebrselassie – has today made a call for international assistance to tackle the disastrous hunger crisis caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, urging decision makers to ensure women and girls are central to the response.

Extreme weather has caused the worst drought for 50 years in Gebrselassie’s home country of Ethiopia alone, with many other parts of the globe also affected.

Gebrselassie makes the appeal with global justice organisation ActionAid as international governments met at the United Nations in New York overnight to discuss funding an international response to the crisis. 60 million people’s food security and livelihoods are thought to have been destroyed by the extreme weather across East and Southern Africa, Central America and Asia. 

In Ethiopia in particular, there are currently more than at ten million people in need of food aid – almost half the population of Australia.

Funding for the crisis currently only stands at one third of the levels required, according to the UN.

Gebrselassie said: “There’s a huge emergency here in Ethiopia and the world is at risk of forgetting what’s happening.  Millions of people are hungry following the country’s worst drought for 50 years.  Families are in desperate need of food as crops have been destroyed, livestock has been killed and people’s way of life has been dramatically altered.”

The drought in Ethiopia is severely and disproportionately impacting women who are struggling to feed their children and facing rising levels of domestic violence as the strain to care for their families puts families under intense stress. Girls are also dropping out of school to support their families.

Gebrselassie continued: “If we work together, we will be able to stop the worst from happening. But people here have been suffering for several months now, particularly young children and pregnant mothers.  If we’re not able to get more help to people soon the suffering of people will be much more severe.”

Although the El Niño phenomenon itself is subsiding, its devastating human impact will increase in the coming weeks and months with El Niño-related food insecurity projected to exist into 2017.

Women smallholder farmers, who form the backbone of Africa’s food security and production, must be supported to restore crops, livestock and food supplies.

Gebrselassie concluded: “The world’s ability to save lives now is a test of how we will cope in the future as climate change causes more erratic weather across the globe.”

Haile Gebrselassie is a retired distance runner who broke 61 Ethiopian national records, 27 world records, won two Olympic gold medals and won the Berlin Marathon four times in a row. He has supported ActionAid over a number of years. 

ActionAid is supporting women and communities affected by the extreme weather across Ethiopia by providing emergency food supplies and supporting women smallholder farmers to farm drought resistant crops to ensure the resilience of long-term food supplies. It is also responding to the hunger caused by El Niño in Somaliland, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Vietnam. ActionAid joins Gebrselassie in calling decision makers to ensure that women are empowered to play a key role in the disaster response to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls, and the needs of the broader community are met.




For interviews and further information, contact:

Holly Miller, Head of Communications, ActionAid Australia

+61 432 781 294

Editors' notes

Read ActionAid’s new briefing note “El Nino: The silent emergency - Trusting women’s leadership in responding to the crisis”:

You can donate to ActionAid’s emergency appeal for Ethiopia here: 

According to UNOCHA, the current funding gap in this crisis is $2.5 billion for a total budget of almost $3.9 billion. Further cited figures for numbers of people affected are from UN sources and can be found here.

ActionAid has been working in Ethiopia on emergency and long-term development programmes for 26 years.  ActionAid is currently responding to droughts in several other parts of the world including Somaliland, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Lesotho in Africa and India and Vietnam in Asia.

For updates, follow @ActionAid_aus and @ActionAidNews on Twitter.

About ActionAid Australia – ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights for all and defeat poverty.