UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Speech presented by His Excellency Ato Simone Michale Commissioner Relief and Rehabilitation Commission of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia
At the launch of the revised appeal for relief and rehabilitation needs in Ethiopia for 1994
14 April 1994
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of Ethiopia,
On behalf of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission and myself, I would like to extend thanks to all of you who are here to participate in the re-launching of our appeal for relief and rehabilitation requirements for the remaining nine months of 1994.
It is, indeed, worrisome to note that the name "Ethiopia" in the minds of people throughout the world has become synonymous with famine since the shocking images of Korem in late 1984 were transmitted to living rooms around the world. To many, Ethiopia seems to be an infertile desert populated by millions of beggars. To others, Ethiopia is a bottomless pit into which billions of dollars of aid has been poured to no visible effect. Even to us Ethiopians, sometimes we seem to be running just to keep still, as waves of needy people flood across borders, as pests ravage crops and the rains refuse to come.
Those of you who have worked in Ethiopia for some time, and I hope those new arrivals among you, know that the story is not so simple. All of us have images of despair, but also of hope, in our memories of our work among the needy in Ethiopia. All of us can be proud that relief aid to Ethiopia has saved the lives of multitudes, and that rehabilitation programmes have allowed thousands of Ethiopians to gain their self- respect after calamity has struck them through no fault of their own.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1993, we have witnessed a wide variety of unusual weather patterns and other factors that have affected food production. Our assessment, prepared by the Early Warning Department, draws on many sources of information and food security assessment techniques. Reports from the RRC itself, UN agencies, NGOs and other organizations have all been taken into account. The result is a very detailed, and indeed, complex picture. Some areas have had too much rain, others too little, and others enough but at the wrong time. A few areas have had a good year. But, as we informed the donor community earlier, farmers have been plagued by locusts, grasshoppers, rats, weeds and insect pests. Other areas, as you noted, have been hit by floods and hailstorms. When we look more closely, even within one woreda it is possible to distinguish differing needs, according to how severe the problem is, and for what period the people will need assistance. In preparing this appeal we have concentrated only on the acute and exceptional needs.
The areas which have emerged as being in the greatest need are southern and eastern Tigray, areas of north Wello bordering Tigray and Gonder, the eastern parts of southern Wello, northern Shoa and northern and south-eastern Gonder. Eastern and Western Hararghe have also suffered significant crop damages. The rains in different parts of Region 5 have been unsatisfactory and have resulted in falling water levels and poor grazing conditions. In Borena, latest reports confirm that the situation is deteriorating following below normal short rains in October and November. This has been made worse by the present prolonged dry spell. Falling ground water levels and poor pasture have undermined the livestock economy in both Borena and the low lands of Bale. Other areas from where reports of food shortages have emerged include all of the Afar Region and some woredas in Gambella. From North and South Omo, we are receiving continuous reports indicating increasingly acute food shortages in both areas.
The belg rains have failed in North Omo worsening the food shortage situation of the area further. The menacing consequences of these food shortages are already apparent in many districts of North Omo. Peasants have began to live their plots in search of food, scenes of malnourishment are extremely disturbing, marasmus and kwashiorkor are common amongst children. Conditions have forced as to set up a centre where intensive feeding programmes and medical treatment are being given to the most desperate.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The main season harvest in 1993 in many parts of northern, southern and eastern Ethiopia, was unsatisfactory due to erratic rainfall coupled with an exceptionally prolonged and rainless dry season. This has accentuated the situation in the vulnerable parts of the country. This is particularly true in the lowland pastoral areas of the South and the South- East, where grazing and ground water resources have deteriorated further. Our reports from these areas indicate falling livestock prices and declining terms-of-trade between animals and grain. In some areas, the RRC, along with its partners and local governments, has had to take swift relief measures in order to stop distress migration.
You may remember, the 1992/1993 harvest was record high for the country, but this year's output is expected to be far below. Because of the failure of the belg rains, the projected output for the season, half a million tons, will not be achieved. The inexorable pace of population growth also plays a part in continuing food needs.
Our main concern this year is the plight of many hundreds of thousands of people who live in marginal areas vulnerable to acute food shortages and where, once again, a crisis is looming. In many places, farmers have been unable to harvest enough to replace the seed sown, and soon the migration of people to towns and relief centers seeking help will start to occur, unless assistance is provided, quickly and effectively.
The second category of needy are those suffering as a result of man-made problems. These include those who have fled ethnic conflict, displaced people from Eritrea and returnees from Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and Kenya. This is also an area much remains to be done.
Our third category of people are those who suffer from perennial food shortages in chronically vulnerable areas. These beneficiaries could be regarded as comprising part of the structural deficit of the country. For these areas, 1993 was not an exceptionally bad year, but one where farmers, once again, were faced with a range of endemic problems:- poor rains, loss of livestock due to disease, pest infestations, poor access to fertilizer, and so on. We are today, appealing for aid to bridge the gap between production and consumption until increased harvests and economic development enables us to achieve the goal of self-sufficiency.
In the past, due to the maelstrom of war and the spectre of suffering that stalked among us, thinking of the future was a luxury we could scarcely afford. Today, peace reigns and we can look forward with hope to a bright and prosperous future. The policies of the Transitional Government are beginning to bear fruit; regionalization, for example, is helping to give ordinary people a greater say in shaping the nation; and the liberalization of the economy is helping to create more jobs and opportunities.
Despite the problems we see before us today, I want to assure you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I present again the relief and rehabilitation needs of Ethiopia for the remaining months of 1994, I urge you not to see this as the walking- stick of perennial aid, but rather as a crutch, sufficient to help us until we can again walk on our own two feet.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need considerable resources to contain current food shortages, and to avert the impending famine. We also need resources to establish well- organized and well-equipped institutions to fight the long term battle of reducing Ethiopia's chronic vulnerability.
Currently, 6.7 million people are in desperate need of assistance and we estimate 750,893 tons of food aid will be required to meet this need over the remaining nine months of 1994. The RRC notes with deep gratitude the very positive response of the donor community to our December appeal, and the commitment of pledges which now stand at 450,255 tons, all ear-marked for our relief programmes. These pledges, nevertheless, cover only 64% of our total requirements. More worrying still is the very low rate at which the food is being delivered. Till the end of the first quarter of this year only 57,816 tons of relief food aid or less than 8% of our total requirements, has been brought into the country.
Our reports also indicate the presence of only 54,766 tons of food aid at the ports including 15,400 tons ear-marked to Emergency Food Security Reserve. Our total in-country stock, including food at the ports, and 56,876 tons in our food security reserve stands at 182,551 tons. This represents only 24% of our total requirements for the remaining part of the year. Moreover, this tonnage is insufficient to fully cover our needs for the second quarter of the year. With no confirmed relief shipments scheduled after 5 May, the food pipeline to the country is beginning to appear very tenuous. The coming 6 months before farmers can hope to bring-in the main season harvest will be the most critical and I urge donors to confirm their pledges and arrange shipment for the earliest possible date.
The failure of the belg rains is a serious blow, one that is going to result in a substantial increase in the amount of food aid needed in 1994. To some limited extent, these needs will be met through inputs of structural food aid; however, the acute problems we are now seeing in many parts of the country can only be resolved through an immediate relief response and the import of additional food aid. The situation in the countryside is changing constantly. We will be monitoring the progress of the main season rains closely and, in due course, will be presenting you, our donors and partners, with a further re-assessment of relief needs.
It is clear that the indiscriminate use of relief aid can do more harm than good; farmers can be discouraged, traditional coping mechanisms undermined, and people can lose their capacity to fend for themselves. With your help and support, we will put mechanisms into place to ensure food aid is used productively and in a way that is sensitive to the long-term development objectives of the country.
Of course, there will be those who will still need help. It would be morally wrong to turn our backs on those who are in danger of being left behind by the development and economic growth we are beginning to see emerge from the ruins of the civil war. We will be doing our best to help these groups, who include, landless, disabled, female-headed households and families of ex-servicemen. With your support, and help of our partners, we shall be providing seeds, tools, oxen, technical advice and where feasible, credit schemes and training to enable these people to become more self-sufficient.
In the coordination of our relief, rehabilitation, and development programmes we will continue to seek and foster a close, open and mutually supportive relationship with our donors, the NGO community and the United Nations. The new thinking of the government has been reflected in the National Policy on Disaster Management and the Directives for Disaster Prevention and Management. The RRC has itself, undergone a radical reorganization for the improvement of its efficiency, and accountability.
The government is taking all possible measures, to the extent its resources permit, to minimize the looming crisis. In line with the decisions taken by the National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Council chaired by Prime Minister Tamrat Layne last week; these measures include borrowing 100,000 tons of food grain from domestic sources and its pre-positioning in areas facing acute food shortages. Other measures agreed at the meeting of the NDPPC last week include the purchase of seeds for distribution to the needy ahead of the coming rainy season, the provision of medical supplies, and the coordination of government and private transport sectors to ensure the efficient pre- positioning of relief supplies in remote parts of the country before the coming rains prevent access.
In addition, plans are underway to construct access roads and the further strengthening of the existing early warning systems. At the NDPPC meeting, decisions have also been taken to allocate the US Government donated Title III funds to purchase 190,000 tons of grain. Of the 190,000 tons, 100,000 tons is ear-marked for relief, 50,000 tons for the Emergency Food Security Reserve and 40,000 tons for monetization.
One major component of the Disaster Preparedness Strategy of Ethiopia, as you all know, is the establishment of the Emergency Food Security Reserve. The reserve was first proposed in 1987, but it has taken years for the idea to gain the confidence of donors and to become a reality. Changes have been made in the management and accountability of the reserve during 1993, so addressing donor concerns about its independence and autonomy. We now have established the mechanisms for this basic preparedness measure, and donors have now begun to see the wisdom of having something put as ideas a contingency for the worst days. We are appealing today for increased donor commitments to the Emergency Food Security Reserve.
We have also been heavily involved with the UN Development Programme, UNDP, in formulating the framework of relief and development strategies for the 5-year, Fifth Country Programme of technical assistance to the Government of Ethiopia. Programmes have been prepared in great detail that will make the best use of UNDP's, and the government's resources over the next five years. The timing of this has coincided with the new policy formulation of the government, and so has provided an ideal opportunity to take a step back and plan realistic programmes for the strengthening of national disaster - related institutions.
As I have mentioned, the National Policy on Disaster Prevention and Preparedness is the foundation of our plans for this year. All the provisions of the policy - the involvement of the community; the linkage with development, the increased participation from different sectors both inside and outside the government; the formation of regional committees and the increased use and exchange of available information, will require considerable organization and mobilization.
At the same time, the gathering of early warning information is to be developed and strengthened. This will require investment in infrastructure and human resources to equip and train regional government in parts of the country most vulnerable to disasters.
Going back to my earlier position on the Emergency Food Security Reserve, it has I believe, come a long way in responding to donors' concerns, and now offers a sensible and economic mechanism to insure against the long lead time - 4 to 6 months - between the announcement of a donor pledge of food and its delivery to the beneficiary. The medium term target recommended by independent consultants back in 1987 was 205,000 tons. We are appealing for enough pledges to bring the Reserve up to its target level. Taking into account current stocks, and confirmed pledges to date, we need another 50,000 tons to reach this target.
The implications of the National Policy also require investment in capacity building at the regional level. Transport, logistics, property management, auditing and financial controls, information exchange and management all need to be boosted so that the regional authorities can be equipped for the role envisaged in the policy. Our requirements in this regard include the building of small temporary regional warehouses that could be used to stockpile food before the coming of the main rainy season and the construction of feeder roads in hitherto inaccessible areas. Our National Policy also envisages the establishment of a National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Fund, to be set up by the government and to which donors are expected to contribute.
One new proposal included in our requirements for 1994, is the establishment of a national seed bank. This reserve will allow the quickest possible rehabilitation of farmers after a bad season. Support from our partners in terms of agricultural tools and implements for the needy would also be greatly appreciated. Our other, non-food, requirements include medicines, veterinary assistance, support for the improvement of rain-fed agriculture, aid for irrigation schemes and assistance for the development of drinking water in rural areas for both humans and animals, particularly in the pastoral areas.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
All these may seem like a tall order. But, if you feel fatigued, take a moment to imagine how Ethiopia's problems seem to us. I would like to make a few points before closing. I must stress the difference between this year's appeal and previous appeals. We have tried to keep food need requirements to a bare minimum. Indeed, although some areas have experienced a harvest at least as poor as in 1984, we are appealing for food to meet only the most immediate needs -this is because we are aware of what is realistic in the present depressed state of the world economy, and are aware of demands on donors in emergency situations elsewhere in the world. Similarly, in the non-food sectors, we are hoping to gain support for modest measures that can have a tangible effect in disaster prevention in the years ahead.
We feel that your contributions to the 1994 programme will not only enable us to meet the food crisis that is currently emerging in parts of the country, but will also help us to work with vulnerable groups to bolster their resilience and improve their chances of achieving self- sufficiency. We also want to bring the RRC itself up to scratch in its coordination, early warning and information exchange roles, and to strengthen regionalization by bringing the decision making process closer to the people themselves.
There are many Ethiopians alive today, who would not have been, had it not been for the willingness of the international community to stand by Ethiopia during her times of need. We are deeply grateful for your understanding and humanity. We ask you to go with us the extra mile, to help us break out of the trap of dependency that is again threatening to engulf us, to join us in working with the Ethiopian people to overcome the adversities of today so that together we can meet tomorrow with hope and pride. We want the rural people's voices to be heard, and the coming year to be seen not for its calamities but for its opportunities - let's look for the silver lining, not the cloud.