Ethiopia is facing a killer drought. But it’s going almost unnoticed.

World Food Program supplies are distributed in a village in Jijiga district, part of Ethiopia’s Somali region. (Michael Tewelde/World Food Program)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The announcement by the United Nations in March that 20 million people in four countries were teetering on the edge of famine stunned the world and rammed home the breadth of the humanitarian crisis faced by so many in 2017.

Yet even as donors struggle to meet the severe needs in the war-torn nations of Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, another crisis, more environmental in nature, is taking place nearby — nearly unnoticed.

On Thursday, the Ethiopian government increased its count of the number of people requiring emergency food aid from 5.6 million to 7.7 million, a move that aid agencies say was long overdue. The figure is expected to rise further as southeast Ethiopia confronts another fierce drought.

But with food crises erupting across the continent and the government’s budget strained by last year’s drought, the money isn’t there to fight it. There could eventually be as many people in Ethiopia needing emergency food assistance as in Somalia and South Sudan combined.

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