The United States will provide an additional $91 million in humanitarian aid for Ethiopia to cope with a third straight year of drought, the top U.S. official in charge of assistance said Thursday.
The extra funding brings U.S. aid for food and medical care in Ethiopia to $454 million this year, said Mark Green, the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. An extra $210 million in U.S. aid has gone to development projects.
Green announced the additional aid after he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. In a statement that he read to reporters, Green said he had also urged the Ethiopian leader to take “concrete steps to create political space for all voices to be heard and to uphold constitutional and guaranteed rights.”
In August, Ethiopia lifted a 10-month state of emergency imposed after deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters who were alleging human rights abuses and political cronyism.
“What I said to him is, ‘We look at what countries need around the world to strengthen their ability to deliver for their people,’ ” Green told reporters later.
“Responsive governance, and a place for people to come together from different points of view and to share ideas openly and publicly, history shows is vitally important,” he said. “Our view is the government should continue to foster that, and do more and more.”
According to USAID spokesman Clayton McCleskey, Green told Desalegn he was concerned that conditions were deteriorating for people affected by the drought and encouraged the government to “show greater leadership and invest more resources to combat a worsening humanitarian crisis.”
Green, on his first trip abroad since starting the job three weeks ago, is in Ethiopia to highlight U.S. efforts to help impoverished countries emerge from crises such as drought and famine, and to be better prepared to weather future setbacks.
Drought in Ethiopia’s lowlands bordering Somalia has sent herders farther afield in search of grazing land.
On Wednesday, Green said Ethiopia would be one of 12 countries to receive focused attention from Feed the Future programs, even if Congress approves deep cuts in USAID’s budget. The Trump administration has proposed halving Feed the Future’s total budget for agricultural development programs from more than $1 billion this year to $500 million next year. Ethiopia’s $78 million share of the funds would also be cut in half. Anticipating having less money to spend, USAID dropped seven countries from the original 19 on which it had planned to focus.
The United States has been the principal international donor to Ethiopia as the country has struggled through a devastating series of droughts. In recent years, U.S. aid has been used to try to help herders become farmers, has provided seed money for small businesses, and has funded job-skills training for impoverished Ethiopians and provided nutritional education.
While Green assured Desalegn that the United States remains committed to helping Ethiopia develop agriculturally and economically, he underscored that Washington expects the Ethiopian government to contribute more money to humanitarian efforts. During a drought in 2015 and 2016, Ethiopia spent about $700 million on food for the affected population. This year, it has pledged only $110 million and so far has spent far less than that.
“The United States will continue providing assistance for vulnerable people, but we all agree host-country partners must be willing to step up during crises, and the prime minister indicated that he was looking to do so,” Green said.