Ethiopia is currently in the midst of a major challenge: a  drought affecting 10 million people and requiring US$1.4 billion in humanitarian aid. It is drought initiated by the failed spring rains and compounded by the arrival of the El Niño weather conditions that weakened summer rains.

At the same time, the country is also experiencing protests against a proposed expansion of the capital Addis Ababa into the state of Oromia, and a number of deaths and injuries have recently resulted.

At imagine1day we believe education is a way to unlock Ethiopia’s potential. It is an opportunity to give Ethiopians a choice in their future and diversify the economy away from its overwhelming reliance on agriculture. A diversified economy means a greater range of exports, and a greater ability to import food during times of drought without foreign aid.

This is a long-term goal we want to support, but we must deal with the short-term realities affecting our mission.

The education sector has been seriously affected by this drought, and the worsening situation will likely increase this impact. Ten percent of Ethiopia’s primary school children are in affected areas and will likely miss or drop out of school if no response is made.  Experience shows that some, particularly those from the poorest households, will never return to school without intervention. The Ethiopian Government says that over two million school children, particularly girls, are seriously at risk.

For imagine1day there are 44,500 students in our schools (4,834 students from our 129 schools in Bale and 39,666 from Tigray) at risk of drop-out if no response is made. We are already experiencing a lower than normal attendance (72%) and are seeing students migrating to towns to beg for assistance.  The drought affects livelihood, with some students unable to afford basic educational supplies and others challenged by the lack of water and food.

We expect some unavoidable impact to education engagement and are working to mitigate this as much as possible. We are connected to both district and federal government, and will use our influence wherever we can. Our work brings communities to the attention of government officials and we will use this attention to support the fair distribution of food aid.

We will stand with our communities during this drought and mitigate the short-term impacts of this crisis as much as possible. And we will continue to deliver on our long-term vision to elevate Ethiopia through education. This drought may be unavoidable, but we imagine a day when an educated Ethiopia can stand strong in the face of nature.