Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

Field Trip to North Shewa, Oromo
and South Welo Zones of Region 3 (Amhara)

31 August - 3 September 1994

By Hans Spiess, Field Officer for Regions 1 and 3

1. Introduction

The situation in the zones visited during this field trip has dramatically changed since a previous field trip to the same areas two months ago. Heavy rainfall has caused extensive damage to crops, livestock, housing and roads. Many remote areas have been inaccessible for the past few weeks and the Addis Ababa - Dessie main road was partially damaged. In Dessie town, part of the main road was washed away after a recent heavy rainstorm. The Relief and Rehabilitation Bureau (RRB) and the Ministry of Agriculture together with local emergency preparedness committees, are currently assessing the damage which has apparently covered thousands of hectares of cultivated land. Relief activities have also been affected by the weather conditions. Emergency food cannot be transported to remote areas and therefore, beneficiaries have to travel long distances to get their food rations.

2. Changes in wereda and zonal boundaries

Over the past few months, there have been some changes in zonal and wereda boundaries in the South Welo and North Shewa zones of Region 3.

Four weredas of Bati, Dawe, Esseya Gulla and Artuma, previously in South Welo zone, together with the two weredas of Fursi and Senbete, formerly part of North Shewa zone, have been established as the new Oromo zone with the zonal capital in Kemise. This zone is comprised of a total five weredas, with Artuma and Fursi as one wereda and Esseya Gulla now renamed to Cheffa Gulla.

In southwestern South Welo, Wegedi which was formerly part of Debre Sina, has been established as a wereda. Dessie town has also been designated as a wereda, separated from Dessie Zuryia, and Kombolcha town is no longer part of North Kalu wereda.

The zonal planning office in Dessie estimates the population of South Welo zone as having reached 2,558,338 people during the Ethiopian calendar year of 1986 (11 September 1993 - 10 September 1994). This estimation has been derived from the annual population growth rate of three percent, which as yet does not include returnees, displaced people from Eritrea and ex-soldiers.

Following the divisions of the new zones, preparations are underway for a census to be carried out. This is scheduled to take place in October.

3. North Shewa zone

World Vision International (WVI) and Lutheran World Federation/Ethiopian Evangelica Church Mekane Yesus (LWF/EECMY) are the two distributing NGOs providing relief food in North Shewa zone. WVI is assisting 43,000 beneficiaries in Gira Midr wereda and LWF/EECMY 6,000 beneficiaries in Ankober. WVI has allocated food until September but due to the failure of the Belg rains, the RRB has requested they continue relief distributions up to the end of the year. The RRB are distributing relief food in other areas throughout the zone. As the majoriy of the food aid reliant areas are located in remote parts of the zone, where transport of relief items is difficult, the RRB is not able to thoroughly monitor the situation due to logistical problems. One light vehicle allocated a few weeks ago by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Addis Ababa to the RRB in Debre Birhan, was instructed to be returned to the RRC Logistics Department.

The Kremt rains, which have extended throughout the zone with above normal coverage over the past weeks, are causing damage to crops in the highland areas where crops are washed away by heavy rainfall. The heavy rains also contributed to the control of earlier armyworm outbreaks in the area.

A very good Meher harvest is expected in the lowlands of North Shewa zone, providing the rains continue until mid-September.

4. Oromo zone

According to officials of the newly established Oromo zone, line ministries have established offices in the main zonal town of Kemise. However, as skilled staff have not yet been appointed to the zonal offices, the zone still relies on the cooperation of the South Welo and North Shewa zonal bureaux of different ministries. Relief and rehabilitation matters are still dealt with through the zonal relief and rehabilitation bureau of South Welo and North Shewa.

The Oromo zone has recently faced severe flooding as a result of the heavy rainfall. Large areas of cultivated land have been flooded to the extent where homes were abandoned. Artuma/Fursi and Cheffa Gulla weredas have been the worst affected. The Cheffa plain, situated between Karakore and Kemise, which until a few weeks ago was full of livestock from the surrounding areas, has been completely flooded and now resembles a lake. An assessment carried out by the MoA and the local emergency preparedness committees during the last week of August has provided the following results:

Artuma and Fursi wereda:

2,252 ha of cultivated crops flooded and destroyed
1,783 families displaced due to flooding of their homes
138 cattle and 120 sheep and goats killed

Cheffa Gulla wereda:

150 ha of cultivated crops and 33 ha of arable land flooded
165 families displaced due to flooding of their homes
21 cattle and 33 sheep and goats killed

Despite sufficient rainfall, relief food distributions in the zone need to continue up to the end of the year. Bati, Dawe, Artuma-Fursi and Cheffa Gulla weredas especially need assistance for the coming months.

WVI is providing monthly rations according to the RRB distribution plan in three weredas:

Cheffa Gulla: 14,000 beneficiaries
Dawe: 17,000 beneficiaries
Artuma: 11,000 beneficiaries

The actual WVI distribution figures in the zone for July and August were as follows:

Cheffa Gulla: 31,450 beneficiaries in August
Dawe: 19,811 beneficiaries in July
Artuma: 9,996 beneficiaries in August

The more able-bodied recipients have to participate in community activities such as road repair or soil conservation. WVI refers to this as Relief-Food-for-Work, although these activities are not related to other FFW programmes in their project areas.

The wereda administrations maintain that WVI should increase the number of beneficiaries they are assisting. However, WVI is following instructions received from the RRB of South Welo to continue assisting the original number of drought-affected as stated in the revised RRC appeal of April 1994.

The situation in Bati wereda remains unresolved. After a recent assessment of the number drought-affected people, the new Oromo zone administration claims a total of 180,000 persons affected by the recent drought. The RRB have estimated a total of 128,000 and the Planning Office of South Welo zone a total of 120,000 drought-affected people in the zone. CONCERN and SCF UK are providing relief food for approximately 80,000 beneficiaries, but retain some doubts regarding the screening procedure by the RRB and the local committees.

5. South Welo zone

South Welo has had heavy rainfall this season. According to the locals inhabitants, the zone has not received this amount of rain during the past two to three decades. Rainstorms have affected the Dessie and Kombolcha areas as well as the south-western part of the zone, causing extensive damage to homes, crops, livestock and roads. There have been reports of a number of people losing their lives while attemptimg to cross flooded rivers.

The roads to the western and southwestern parts of South Welo zone to areas such as Adjibar and Sayint were inaccessible for a few weeks. The RRB, SCF (UK) and OXFAM Joint Transport Operation (JTO) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) plan to transport more food to the zone at the beginning of September, following the maintenance of damaged roads by the rural road authority. At the end of August, the main road to Dessie was closed due to damage caused by a heavy storm.

Relief food provided by SCF (UK) to Mekdela (2000 tons), Kutaber (500 tons) and Sayint (1500 tons) was almost entirely distributed by the time logistical problem prevented transport of further supplies to the distribution sites. Sayint wereda is presently inaccessible and the distribution point has been moved outside the wereda.

A nutritional survey carried out by CONCERN in North Kalu wereda in the second half of June, presented disturbing indications of a decline in nutritonal status. Following this survey, additional visits to the same area confirmed an overall deterioration comparable to the worst hit areas of Bati wereda. CONCERN is now seeking permission from the RRB for immediate food distribution. However, as the RRB does not consider North Kalu a priority area, the issue is presently being discussed in Addis Ababa. According to CONCERN staff working in the area, the situation is such that whereby any delay will have severe implications.

During the month of August, 62,892 beneficiaries of Bati wereda received food rations of 12,5 kg of grain through SCF (UK) and CONCERN. Distributions to this group are planned to continue in September.

IFRC/ERCS will resume food distributions in Tenta wereda in September, probably increasing the number of beneficiaries for the coming three months by 20,000. Distributions will commence after approval by the IFRC headquaters in Addis Abeba.

According to the zonal RRB in Dessie, the following drought-affected populations have received food rations in June and July:

  WEREDA No. of Beneficiaries RATION
Dawe 46,000 10 kg grain
Artuma 19,937 15/10 kg grain
Bati 10,000 10 kg grain/600 g
oil, Faffa
Werebabo 21,440 10 kg grain
600 g oil
Ambassel 52,371 n.a.
Tenta 29,228 15/12 kg grain
600 g oil, 1 kg supp.
Mekdela ** 60,392 15/12.5 kg grain
600 g oil
Kutaber ** 20,000 n.a.
Kalala 53,890 15/13 kg grain
600 g oil
Debre Sina 70,220 13/12.5 kg grain
Sayint ** 34,670 13.5/12.5 kg grain
600 g oil
TOTAL 418,148  
Source: Emergency Relief Department, Relief and Rehabilitation Bureau, Dessie, South Welo zone

** Relief food provided by SCF/UK

According to the head of the Emergency Relief Department of the zonal RRB office in Dessie, the ration size varies due to the decisions made by the wereda drought-committees.

The number of displaced people from Eritrea has - after screening - been reduced from approximately 52,000 people to 37,577 people in the entire zone. The RRB plans to start distribution of standard food rations to this group at the beginning of September.

6. Agricultural activities in South Welo zone

Over the past two months, the MoA in South Welo has concentrated on drought-related activities. The ministry is currently assessing the extent of damage caused by flooding and water-logging in different areas of the zone. A total of 500 tons of chickpea seeds (200 tons from FAO and 300 tons from the central Ministry of Agriculture) were allocated to the zone for distribution to flood-affected farmers. So far, only 50 tons have arrived. To produce a good yield, chickpea seeds have to be planted within the first two weeks of September.

Highland areas have been especially affected by the current conditions. The occurence of rainstorms increased the problem of erosion and washed away cultivated crops in the highlands. Water-logging has also caused damage to cultivated land in these areas. In the lowlands, crops seem to have developed favourably as the soil has been absorbing water quickly.

7. Summary

Despite the extensive damage caused by the extremely heavy rain-fall in some areas, the consistent and adequate rains have been the reason for optimistic predictions of a good Meher harvest.

With the approaching end to the rainy season, the RRB and NGOs involved in food aid look forward to resuming distributions more regularly. In the eastern weredas assistance is expected to continue to the end of 1994.

The extent of damage to flooded areas will only be established with the end of the rainy season. In areas such as the Cheffa plain, wereda officials estimate that it may take up to one month for the water to drain.

Kemise has been appointed as the capital of the Oromo zone in Region 3. The new zonal administration has already set up offices. As the RRC has not yet appointed a new zonal representative, matters concerning relief and rehabilitation are still handled by the relief and rehabilitation bureaux of South Welo and North Shewa zones. Although the offices of the line ministries have been set up, they still need assistance from the zonal offices in Dessie and Debre Birhan.


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.

UN-EUE  Tel.: (251) (1) 51-10-28/29 
PO Box : 5580  Fax: (251) (1) 51-12-92 
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  Email: undp-eue@telecom.net.et