UNDP-EUE: Update on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia, 05/27/00

UNDP-EUE: Update on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia, 05/27/00

Weather and Agriculture

As is normal at this time of the year, the rains of late April/early May have diminished significantly with only isolated showers reported from the southwest and northwest of the country. The recent rains, which appear to have been more of a weather anomaly than late belg rains were heavy, but short. For the Somali region, for example, the last rainfall was on May 11th. According to reports from the field, pastures in lowland areas have improved sufficiently to provide fresh grazing for livestock, but suggest if the current dry weather continues for more than three or four weeks, humans and livestock may again face a serious shortage of drinking water. In areas with light sandy soils the accumulated soil moisture may not be sufficient to regenerate grazing lands.

Due to the late start to the rain, the normal planting of belg crops did not take place this year. In a number of drought affected farming areas in Amhara (North Shewa, North and South Welo) and Oromiya (North Omo) this is likely to have serious implications for food security during the remaining part of the year. On a more positive note, planting of long cycle meher crops, like sorghum and maize, started with the beginning of the rains in mid-April. However, three weeks of rain have not been sufficient to complete the planting. This means potential yield from meher season crops, which normally account for about 90% of the country’s grain production, could suffer. Meteorologists worry that, if the main kiremt rains should start later than the second week of June, already planted crops will suffer serious moisture stress and fail. As many farmers are already short of seeds or cash for seed purchases the ability to replant with short-cycle crops to replace the lost long-cycle crops may be difficult.

Because of various weather anomalies, long-term forecasts are problematic; however, some observers believe that during La Niña events rains during the main meher cropping season are usually heavy. If this is the case this year then in spite of the failure of the belg crop there could still be a reasonable meher crop.


Relief Food Assistance

Resourcing has been very positive up to now with a number of donors coming forward with substantial pledges of relief food assistance. As of 23 May 84.5 % of the food aid originally requested by the Ethiopian government in their January appeal had been resourced. The original government appeal was for a total of 836,000 MT of food aid for 7.7 million people affected by natural disaster. As part of the UN Country Team appeal launched in support of the government’s request for international assistance, WFP formulated an emergency operation intended to provide a total of 253,500 MT of emergency food aid to 2.3 million people over a nine month period to the end of the year. The donor response to the operation has been very favourable with pledges totalling 244,221 MT confirmed so far. Completing the food aid picture, 308,174 MT have been pledged through NGOs, while direct bilateral pledges to the government appeal have totalled 55,092 MT. Under a programme of local purchases, a further 100,000 MT, has been contributed by the Ethiopian government and is currently being delivered to distribution points.

Based on recent assessments, situation analysis and discussions with the government it is now estimated that an additional 400,000 to 450,000 MT of cereals will be needed over and above the January appeal estimates of the relief requirement for the second half of the current year. The additional food will be required to provide extended assistance to belg dependent families who will have little or no harvest in September 2000 and thus must be kept on the relief rolls until 2001. In addition, assistance will be provided to a number of new beneficiaries identified in some areas where the main season harvest last year was not as good as originally anticipated. Finally, in all parts of the country there is a need to ensure that a full ration of cereals is reaching beneficiaries, which was not possible during the first months of the year due to a poor pipeline.


Transport and Logistics

To ensure that food aid will continue to be distributed even if roads should become impassable during the coming mains rains, 38 additional moveable storage units are going to be put up in the field. WFP expects these units, each with a storage capacity of 500 MT, to arrive in Djibouti port before the end of May.

In other developments, a convoy of 6 trucks carrying 90 MT of sorghum locally purchased in Sudan, is shortly expected to leave Gedaref, Sudan for Metema on the Ethiopian border. This will be the first consign of an initial contract for 5,000 MT and if the purchase program runs smoothly then further purchases from Sudan may be possible.

WFP signed two memoranda of understanding with the Government of Djibouti on 22 May, one concerning the upgrading of the port and the other concerning the improvement of the main road connecting Djibouti to Ethiopia and with further improvements of the port facilities. Under these agreements, WFP will seek to provide over US $2.5 million worth of upgrading work and equipment support to the port, and another US $4.1 million to upgrade the main transport corridor from Djibouti port to Gallafi on the Ethiopian border. The upgrading of the road is particularly important, as there are often long delays when heavily laden trucks try to negotiate the very bad stretches of this road.

The discharge rate in the port of Djibouti is reported to be improving, with the newly formed National Transport Coordination Committee (NTCC) seeking to speed up procedures to increase the daily dispatch capacity. Over the last few days discharge has exceeded 4,000 MT a day and with some additional changes even this very good rate could be exceeded.

WFP are in the process of setting up a Logistics Coordination Unit, which will strive to prevent port congestion in Djibouti and Berbera/Somaliland by coordinating the arrival of food aid shipments. The new unit will also take care of warehouse restocking and the various special operations intended to upgrade roads serving the ports.

On May 22nd WFP started a chartered light aircraft service from Addis Ababa three times a week to Gode with a return to Addis Ababa on the same day. The flights are open to personnel of all UN agencies, donors, diplomatic and government agencies, NGOs and the media. The plane can take nine passengers and light cargo. The flights are currently free of charge. Flight dates, times and destinations can be handled flexibly, according to demand.


WFP have also arranged for a medium lift MI-8 helicopter to support drought related humanitarian operations in the Somali region. The helicopter is expected to arrive from Kenya as soon as approval from Ethiopian government authorities is received. At the field level, discussions on possible urgent non-food applications of this important resource are ongoing.

Health & Nutrition

The rains have temporarily worsened the health situation in drought-affected lowlands areas. Although water is now available in abundance, quality is poor due to pollution, often to such an extent that water becomes unfit for human consumption. In lowland areas standing water has offered breeding space for mosquitoes and WHO has observed a recent increase in the incidence of malaria, as well as of water borne diseases and diarrhoea. To improve the health service in drought affected zones in the Amhara region, two medical teams from Israel have been assigned to the Woldiya and Dessie hospitals.

Field reports indicate that measles has become a major cause of child mortality in the east, southeast and south of Ethiopia, especially in the Somali region, North and South Omo zones in SNNP, and Bale and Borena zones in Oromiya. Children already weakened and malnourished are particularly prone to fall sick and die of the disease. UNICEF and WHO, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, plan a major vaccination campaign in these parts of the country as well as in drought-affected areas of Amhara and Tigray regions, with a total of 2,395,529 children aged 6 months to 59 months targeted for vaccination under this emergency intervention. The campaign will also include the distribution of Vitamin A capsules to better the overall health situation. The tentative launching date for this special campaign is June 23rd and according to UNICEF regional health bureaus are very receptive to the campaign.


Water and Sanitation

The rains from mid-April to May 10th have resulted in a considerable decline of water quality. In Gode zone, the potential health hazards arising from rotting livestock carcasses was limited as many carcasses were burnt just before the onset of the recent rains. However, in other areas of the zone dead animals near or in water points or the Wabe Shabele river have caused severe pollution problems. According to UNICEF, efforts to put the regional water bureau in a position to upgrade water quality continue. Funds to provide fuel for the water pumps of the local water supply system have been made available. Other activities to improve water availability and quality in drought-affected areas are ongoing in South Omo, Bale and Borena. UNHCR are continuing their efforts to provide tankered water to Ethiopian nationals living adjacent to refugee camps in the Somali region.



FAO reports that animals weakened by the impact of the drought continue to die, even after the change in weather conditions and the regeneration of pastures. According to FAO, the number of livestock lost due to the drought ranges between 50% and 90% (depending on the specific area and type of animal) and is still on the increase after the recent very heavy rains. Cattle herds have been particularly badly hit while camels and goats, which can tolerate drought, have faired better.

Local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Somali region, and other areas in the east, southeast and south of Ethiopia and the Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC) fear an outbreak of Rinderpest among livestock in areas close to the borders to Kenya and Somalia. Ethiopian cattle are considered to be free of Rinderpest, due to successful vaccination campaigns, but if cattle cross the border and stay in Ethiopia for a considerable amount of time (e.g. until the floods in Somalia have subsided) a renewed outbreak of the disease is thought to be probable.


Internally displaced

Confirmation is awaited on the number of people internally re-displaced from the Humera area of north-western Ethiopia due to the renewed up flare of the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Some re-displacement is also reported in the Shire area.

WFP will distribute the May ration of a total of 1,864 MT of food aid to 100,617 IDPs in the western zone of Tigray next week.



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 Resident Coordinator: 51-10-25 (fax: 51-51-47)

World Food Program: 51-51-88 (fax: 51-44-33)

UNICEF: 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)

UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia 51-37-25 (fax: 51-12-92)




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.

27 May 2000

UN-EUE Tel.: (251) (1) 51-10-28/29

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