Humanitarian Update

UNDP-EUE: Update on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia

with a Special Focus on the Somali Region, 06/10/00


General Weather Patterns

As predicted earlier by the National Meteorology Services Agency (NMSA), the main kiremt rains began in the first week of June in the western and central parts of the country. The northern parts of Amhara region, where it began raining three weeks ago, were the first areas to receive kiremt rains this year.

This early onset of the rains is favourable for land preparation and planting but the long-term forecast for the meher cropping season remains the subject of some discussion. NMSA forecast a generally good meher season while the regional Drought Monitoring Centre in Nairobi is a little more cautious, indicating for northern Ethiopia "enhanced probabilities for below normal to near-normal rainfall" while for the western and central areas there are "increased probabilities of near normal to below normal" rain patterns. The Drought Monitoring Centre also emphasizes that in areas that were severely affected by drought over the last year or more "the accumulated rainfall deficits may not be offset even if normal rainfall conditions are experienced between May and September."

In the Somali region, the main gu rains were late by several weeks, and some areas only received ten full days of rains. Even so, the rains were very heavy, causing localized flooding and making some roads impassable. The southern and south-eastern lowlands of Ethiopia do not normally receive further rains until around October or November, so there remains a question as to whether the very short but heavy rains in May have been sufficient to produce enough pasture to last until the next rains.

Relief Food Assistance

Over the past few months the issue of the composition of the drought relief food basket has been discussed extensively and WFP now plans to include edible oil in their food deliveries to the most severely drought-affected areas from July onwards. The inclusion of oil, pulses and blended foods into their relief food deliveries are part of WFP's ongoing efforts to improve the composition of the food basket. Plans to purchase beans locally are currently being pursued.

In other developments related to local food purchase, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) has been able to secure and to deliver to their warehouses 77,000 MT of grain out of a total of 100,000 MT committed by the Ethiopian government to the drought relief program. Compared to last week's figure this is an additional 12,000 MT.


Clearance to operate the UN helicopter, which arrived from Kenya on 6 June, was obtained from the Ethiopian authorities on June 5. The medium-lift MI-8 helicopter is to be used to support drought related humanitarian operations mainly in the Somali region.

The performance of the railway system has shown improvement with10,864 MT of various commodities being transported from Djibouti to Dire Dawa for refugee programs, internally displaced programs and drought relief programs between 16 May and 5 June.

Secondary deliveries from the main warehouses to distribution points of sub-warehouses has also improved and recently averaged about 3,500 MT per day. However, there is still deep concern regarding tariffs charged for short-haul transport and further consultation is needed on this issue.

Special Update on the Situation in the Somali National Regional State

Gode has been at the centre of drought relief operations in the Somali region since the beginning of the year. The town has become a support base for UN relief operations in the central part of the region and a number of non-governmental organizations have launched emergency assistance programs in the town and surrounding area. ICRC have expanded their long-standing presence in Gode to enhance their drought relief program in the area. This special section provides a brief update on the situation in Gode Zone.


Clashes between two sub-clans of the Abdalla clan, the Rer Qasin and Hassan Adan are reported to have taken place on 3 June in Bardo-Qorah, 25 km west of Gode. Fights erupted due to disagreement about land usage. Tension between the two groups is reported to have been high for the past eight months; attempts to mediate have so far been unsuccessful. Army, police, local administration, in conjunction with local elders and clan leaders, have joined forces to end the fighting and convince the Rer Qasin and Hassan Adan to negotiate.

Tensions about land ownership have also been reported at Karinka, 60 km further to the southeast, near the town of Kelafo.

Stress Migration, Internally Displaced Peoples

Further unusual population movements have been observed into Gode and other local centers, such as Denan and Imi. The Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS) reports that around 700 new arrivals came to Gode town during the last days of May. According to Save the Children/US (SCF-US) and Médicins sans Frontières/Belgium (MSF-Belgium) 7,000 new people are estimated to have arrived in Denan and the camp of internally displaced peoples outside of Denan between end of April and end of May. Since then, a further increase of population has been observed.

Most of these migrants come from areas where no feeding centers have been set up. After completing an assessment mission to Gode, a field officer of the UN Emergencies Unit reported that farmers from Kelafo were complaining that food aid meant for this area had only arrived after some delay and in insufficient amounts. These same informants also indicated that needy people who still felt strong enough to move had migrated to Gode once they knew for sure that food aid and supplementary and therapeutic feeding were available there.

While the search for drinking water initially seemed to be an important factor that made people decide to move, currently the existence of feeding centers and food distributions may be acting as a pull factor. Gode also has a special attraction for migrants, as there is a wide spread conviction in the whole of Somali region that Gode is receiving more international attention and services than any other area of the country.

The Haraghe Catholic Secretariat, in a recent report on Shinille Zone of the Somali region, has also noted unusual population movements with large numbers of cattle moving in search of pasture. In the western part of the zone, beginning in mid-May, people and herds began to move towards Gedawit along the Awash-Gewane road while more recently large herds were observed moving towards the Deketa Valley. In both these cases it was reported that many animals had already died and that those on the move were in sick and in poor condition with significant losses taking place along the route. Another area of major concern was the high incidence various livestock diseases and ticks and the fear that pasteurolosis, blackleg, anthrax and foot and mouth disease would spread to the local herds.

Relief  food operations

Although there are indications that food dispatches have improved recently, administrators and officials of the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Bureau in Somali region have complained about the very slow pace of food aid deliveries. Less than the required amounts of food aid reached distribution points in Somali region from Jigjiga and Dire Dawa, and transport of food aid to some parts of the region began as late as mid-April.

Another factor that slowed the operation down were the late but unusually heavy gu rains that resulted in food trucks aid getting stuck in floods, deep mud or in not being able to pass broken bridges. Local officials also complain that food deliveries are delayed due to lack of fuel and suitable trucks in the area.

Livestock and Agriculture

The late rains did improve pastures and the availability of drinking water for cattle and other livestock and there is now some increase in the availability of milk on the local markets. However, the heavy rains killed many weak animals and those that survived the drought are prone to suffer from enzootic diseases, such as endoparasities, ectoparasites, trypsansomiasis, bronchitis and mange. Camels and goats are reported to have faired slightly better and there is now good forage from the shrubs and trees.

As the flood water along the banks of the Wabe Shebelle River recedes, farmers around Imi, Kelafo and Mustahil have begun to plant their fields.

Health and Nutrition

There are reports from the Somali region of epidemic malaria, measles, acute diarrhea, dysentery, pneumonia and a trebling of the incidence of tuberculosis over the past three months in both children and adult males. Gode hospital with a 40-bed capacity has doubled its patient intake. Most new admissions are severely malnourished children and adults suffering of tuberculosis. Deaths related to these diseases are reported. Anaemia, especially among pregnant women is reported to be very common.

Health records in Gode indicate a five-fold increase in admission of children below 60% weight-for-height over the last six months - most of which were brought during the past three months.

On 27 May, 2,764 beneficiaries were being fed in the ten supplementary feeding centers that have been established in Gode Zone so far. The number of beneficiaries in the feeding centers is still on the increase, mainly due to stress migration and the fact that previously discharged children are being returned to the feeding centers.


The Gode town water supply system is in urgent need of maintenance and further development, especially as the additional influx of drought affected people is putting more demand on the system. What is currently needed most are spare parts and fuel to operate the pumps drawing water from the Shebelle River.

Although the short but heavy rains have relieved the drinking water crisis, surface water, especially in ponds, is polluted, due to the accumulation of garbage, faeces, animal dung, etc., during the long dry spell. There is a serious health risk and chances are high that water borne diseases will spread. The internally displaced in the whole of Somali region are at most risk, as they often have no possibilities to boil or treat water before drinking it.

UN Country Team Field Unit in Gode

The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) has established a temporary Field Unit in Gode that provides common services and office space for all UN agencies operating in the area. The premises, leased from the regional administration, also include the offices of the local government-led Gode Task Force that acts as a main coordination and information-sharing platform for all humanitarian organizations operating in the area.

A generator has now been installed and connected along with a HF radio system that provides voice communication and an e-mail service for both the UN and NGOs operating in the area.

For more information please contact any of the following members of the UN Country Team:

(All numbers prefixed with +251 1, if calling from outside Ethiopia)

Office of the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Rosa Malango: 44 44 00 (fax: 51-12-92)
Office of the UN Resident Coordinator: 51-10-25 (fax: 51-51-47)
UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, Caroline Stiebler: 51-37-25 (fax: 51-12-92)
World Food Programme, Roberta Rossi: 51-51-88 (fax: 51-44-33)
UNICEF, Venus Easwaran: 51-51-55 (fax: 51-16-28)
WHO: 51-40-31 (fax: 53-15-50)
FAO: 51-72-33 (fax: 51-52-66)
UNHCR: 61-28-22 (fax: 61-16-66)
UNDP: 51-51-77 (fax: 51-45-99)
UNFPA: 51-19-80 (fax: 51-53-11)
IOM: 51-16-73 (fax: 51-49-00)
UNESCO: 51-39-53 (fax: 51-14-14)
UNIDO: 51-51-77 (fax: 51-27-33)
World Bank: 51-42-00 (fax: 51-14-41)
IMF: 51-14-11 (fax: 51-11-18)
ILO: 51-43-13 (fax: 51-45-99)


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the UN concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

10 June 2000

UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia Tel.: (251) (1) 51-10-28/29
PO Box 60252 Fax: (251) (1) 51-12-92
Addis Ababa E-mail: