Ogolcho, Ethiopia

31 January 2016

Secretary-General’s press encounter during visit to area affected by drought in Ethiopia [scroll down for Q&A]

I’m very moved to be in this Oromia region with the Deputy Prime Minister. I am here with the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. Thank you very much for your warm welcome.

I come from a very impressive, moving and interesting visit to a health post, a water borehole and this food distribution and cash transfer point. This is a very moving experience for me as Secretary-General to witness myself how the Ethiopian Government and the United Nations agencies, the World Bank, all humanitarian workers are working together to address difficult challenges.

I know that this area has been seriously impacted by long spells of drought caused by El Nino climate phenomenon. It is important that the Government is leading this response and the United Nations is now helping: it is quite moving.

When I saw the people working and trying to have water and trying to improve their  health nutrition conditions, it brought me back to old days, more than 60 years ago when I was young, a young boy in Korea, early 1950s. As you may know, Korea had war at the time. When the war broke out, we were [in a situation] as difficult as people are now here, even more difficult at the time.

At the time, humanitarians and United Nations support came and I am feeling very much moved that the boy, the young boy who went through that kind of difficulties is now standing before you as UN Secretary-General.

I am very much grateful to all humanitarian workers at the health post [that I just visited]. This is a small health post but I was able to see all the data through the work of health workers, and they were distributing vaccines, and they were checking health. It is impressive to see that malnutrition has significantly downed, people have been saved from malaria infections.

Then I went to see the water borehole. I have always been saying that water is life – providing clean safe drinking water is a priority now.

I am very much grateful to the Ethiopian Government, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister Desalegn. The United Nations is committed to help Ethiopia to overcome this challenge. This challenge may last sometime but with continuous concerted efforts, I think we can overcome – and I am very much moved to have seen how hard we are working.

Q: How urgent is the need for extra international support?

SG: This morning, I had a meeting with major donor groups, the European Union, America and all the United Nations system and international humanitarian agencies. It is important that when the Ethiopian Government, when national Governments are responding to these challenges, they have limited resources – so that is what the United Nations is trying to provide.

And that is exactly what we are going to discuss in Istanbul in May, during this World Humanitarian Summit meeting which I am going to convene: we are going to discuss how we can provide in a more sustainable, predictable way, and mobilize enough, sufficient funding for those people.

We have still, at this time, more than 120 million people around the world who need our immediate support: it is a huge challenge for us, it is, I think, the most serious humanitarian crisis since the end of Second World War. That is why the United Nations is trying to mobilize all national resources. There, we need political will, political leadership. When political leaders are united and show their compassionate leadership, I think we can solve these problems.

Q: Why is it so hard for the assistance to be provided?

SG:  We are doing all we can to mobilize the necessary funding, try to reach out to the people. There are many places where it is very remote, not accessible. For example, in case of Syria, there are at least at this time 400,000 people who are besieged, either by Government or opposition forces.

But in Ethiopia, the Government is leading this response and I am very much grateful that the Government takes leadership. Then, it is much either for the United Nations and the international humanitarian agencies to mobilize. That is what I did this morning with the major donor groups and I am very much grateful for their compassionate support.