This year's "super" El Niño is shaping up to be one of the strongest on record.
The weather pattern, which develops every seven years or so, has been blamed for everything from a warm winter in the United States to the massive flooding triggered by Storm Frank in the United Kingdom.
But the most heartbreaking conditions so far can be found in Ethiopia, where El Niño's impact on the ongoing drought is expected to leave an estimated 10 million people desperate for aid.
Those in need include Buho Asowe Eye, who lives in the Siti region of the country in the Horn of Africa, where farming is a means of survival.
"We live by water; our cattle live by water," she said. "Without water, we are no more."
The water, she told humanitarian aid organization Oxfam, is "retreating deeper and deeper" into the wells. She's lost nearly 200 animals due to starvation. She's now relying on Oxfam for water and other supplies that are distributed from centers for internally displaced people (IDPs).
"My greatest fear is if the trucks stop bringing water," she said. "What will happen to us?”
The conditions can be especially hard on women like Eye, who often are responsible for gathering water for the family. The drought creates longer — and sometimes more dangerous — excursions to find water. Men migrate to find work elsewhere, leaving women to care for the children and homestead on their own.
"This kind of situation always has a larger burden on women and children," Nahuel Arenas, humanitarian director at Oxfam America, told Refinery29.
Oxfam, one of multiple organizations working on the ground, is aiming to help more than 700,000 of those suffering in Ethiopia. But the efforts are hindered by a $25 million funding gap, Arenas and other officials there say. The consequences of failing to act could far outlast the weather event — the loss of livestock, either through starvation or sale, for example, can set a family back financially for years.
"It’s difficult to recover from that spiral," Arenas said.
The United Nations has echoed that urgent call for more assistance.
"We are here to re-sound the alarm, to spur a collective response to the humanitarian suffering caused by changes in weather patterns linked to El Niño and to take action now to mitigate its effects," Stephen O'Brien, the UN Under-Secretary General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a statement issued last week. "If we act now, we will save lives and livelihoods and prevent an even more serious humanitarian emergency from taking hold.”
Oxfam has provided Refinery29 with haunting photos showing the conditions in Ethopia. Click through to see them — and find out how you can help.