Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

February 1998

Consolidated UN report prepared by the Information Section of the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia from information and reports provided by specialised UN agencies, media sources, the Government and NGOs. Also incorporated are the discussions of the UN Disaster Management Team meeting of 5th March, minutes of which are available from the EUE.


WFP Executive Director visits Ethiopia: The Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, Catherine Bertini, arrived in Ethiopia on February 13 for a one-week official visit. She toured several WFP-assisted projects throughout the country and held talks with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and Simon Mechale, Commissioner of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC). Bertini in her meeting with Prime Minister Meles said that WFP was committed to the success of Ethiopia's food security programme. She added that WFP plans to expand the supply of food to students coming from low-income families. Prime Minister Meles on his part said although WFP's initiative to supply food to students in some states was acceptable in principle, WFP should redirect much of its attention to regions reeling under poverty. Bertini said that WFP will go on helping famine victims in several regions of Ethiopia and will be supporting the total involvement of women in the country's socio-economic endeavours. Ethiopia is one of the four leading beneficiaries of WFP assistance globally, having received food and other assistance through WFP worth more than one billion US dollars in the past few years.

Director General of FAO in Addis Ababa:  Jacques Diouf, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said during talks with Ethiopian President, Negasso Gidada, that FAO was taking vital steps to help Ethiopia realise its goal of food security for all. He added FAO has helped design food security strategies for 150 countries and has started a special food self-sufficiency and production programme in 30 food deficient countries. Diouf also said that the African continent needs to enhance its water control systems if it is to be self-sufficient in food grain production, arguing that in countries like Ethiopia the construction of small scale irrigation schemes and micro-dams will make an important contribution to long-term food security. Diouf was in Addis Ababa to attend FAO's 20th regional ministerial conference for Africa which opened in the capital on February 19. The main issues discussed at the meeting were food production, food security and poverty alleviation. It was noted that climatic changes, including the "El-Niño" phenomenon, were having adverse effects on the food production in several countries, and the meeting recommended regional co-operation as well as the support of the international community in devising appropriate solutions. Describing the situation in Ethiopia, the Minister of Agriculture, Seifu Ketema, said food production grew at a very low rate of 0.5 per cent per annum while population grew at high rate of 3 per cent. According to a 1990 IGAD study about 70.6 per cent (38 million) of the rural population are food insecure while 39 per cent of the urban population were below 2200 kilo calories per day per person. Average land holdings per household have declined between 1988/89 from 1.27 to 0.78 hectares.

UNICEF Executive Director visits Ethiopia: Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, paid an official visit Ethiopia from 7 to 10 February. During her stay, she traveled to UNICEF project sites in Oromiya region and met with senior Government officials. During talks, Bellamy said that UNICEF increase its participation in education, health and other social sectors in Ethiopia over the coming programme cycle, seeking especially to make a tangible contribution to the training of manpower. Ethiopia ranks next to India and Bangledesh as the greatest beneficiary of UNICEF assistance.

Sound measures taken to ensure food self-sufficiency and food security: The President of Ethiopia, Negasso Gidada, said in a public statement on February 19 that Ethiopia has taken a series of measures designed to ensure food self-sufficiency and food security at the national level. He added that the country has devised an economic policy based on "Agricultural Development-led Industrialisation Strategy". The bedrock of this strategy is achieving accelerated growth in the agricultural sector and enhancing productivity in small holdings and encouraging large-scale farms where suitable. In the implementation of this strategy, as a result, agricultural production of small holder farmers participating in the packages has increased two-to-three fold compared with those using traditional farming practices. Meanwhile, the head of economic affairs in the Prime Minister' s office has said the Ethiopian agricultural extension programme should be expanded with respect to the government's strategy for export promotion. He said a bridge has been created between government and exporters to facilitate problems associated with bank credit, information flow, and skilled labour and land availability.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata in Addis Ababa: After visiting eight African countries Sadako Ogata arrived in Ethiopia on February 22 to meet the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, OAU Secretary-General and UNECA Executive Secretary. In her meeting with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, they spoke about repatriation of 24,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan scheduled to end in May this year. Meanwhile, Sadako and OAU Secretary-General, Salim A. Salim, agreed to convene a ministerial conference to examine the implementation of humanitarian laws. The conference, to be hosted by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, is expected to deal with various issues including refugee protection, security, asylum, repatriation and rehabilitation.

NGOs deliberate on Code of Conduct: Representatives of local and international NGOs met on 11 February to deliberate on a Code of Conduct which it is hoped will contribute to a stronger voluntary sector and enhance partnership with Government. The draft code aims to establish minimal core standards for transparency, accountability and administration. In his keynote address to the meeting, Haji Said Ahmed Nur, Secretary of the Legal Affairs Standing Committee of the House of Representatives, cautioned that whatever code was agreed by the NGO community it would not supplant the right of Government to ensure that the work of NGOs is consistent with the laws, objectives and interests of the country.

Ethiopia signs grant agreements with Germany and Sweden: A 35.2 million dollars agreement has been signed between Ethiopia and Germany at the Ministry of Economic Development and Co-operation (MeDAC). The grant will be used for the implementation of the Addis-Gideon road rehabilitation and construction project. In a similar development, a 6.3 million dollars grant agreement has been signed between the Ethiopian government and Sweden. The grant will be used to support the Ethiopian government's food security policy in general and carry out a project to locally procure food grain and employment generating schemes in particular. The agreement is also expected to encourage Ethiopian farmers to produce more food grains in addition to promoting the development of the local market economy.

Control of tsetse fly in the southern rift valley: A project to combat the tsetse fly has been set up at a cost of over 40 million US dollars by the Ethiopian Government. The North Omo Zone agriculture department announced that the project has begun operation in North and South Omo, Sidama, Gedeo zones, Konso, Derashe and some parts of Oromiya State. The aim of the project is to control and eradicate the tsetse fly in lowland areas within the next ten years. Tsetse flies transmit trypanosomiasis which affects about half of the 1.5 million domestic animals in North Omo zone alone.

Flood victims assisted by US: The U.S. government has recently confirmed a contribution of 150,000 US dollars in assistance to Save the Children Federation (USA) which is working in Ethiopia' s Somali region to counter the effects of the severe flooding that occurred late last year. In the Dolo Odo area over 6,000 children will be provided with supplementary feeding through the programme. Save the Children/USA also plans to provide rehabilitation assistance to 55,000 farmers, returnees and Somali refugees in the form of seed and farming tools.

Road construction agreements signed: A 6.3 million Birr (approximately $925,000) agreement has been signed between the Transport and Construction Design Enterprise (TCDE) and the Federal Government and the Oromiya State Rural Road Executive enabling it to provide engineering services to eight road projects. 4.3 million birr will be utilised for maintenance works on Jimma-Mizan, Bedelle, Metu, Awassa-Agremariam asphalt roads as well as the Wolkite-Hossana gravel road. The remaining 2 million birr will be used for the construction of a new gravel road in East and West Wollega, Illubabor and East Hararghe zones.


DPPC post-harvest assessment

Starting mid-February, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission deployed a total of five multi-agency teams to undertake a post-harvest assessment. Though not normally part of the DPPC's regular programme of needs assessments, this was felt by a number of agencies to be necessary to gauge the impact - both positive and detrimental - of the unseasonable heavy rains in October/November last year. Teams travelled to food critical areas of Tigray, Amhara (two teams), Oromyia and the Southern region. Participants included WFP, USAID-FEWS, UNDP-EUE, SCF (UK), European Union and World Vision.

UNDP-EUE staff report that preliminary observations from Tigray confirm earlier perceptions that the late rains had a beneficial impact on the lowlands. In the lowlands of the Southern and Eastern Zones, grazing and water supplies for livestock have improved considerably since November although markets remain sluggish with low animal and high cereal prices prevailing. Fodder continues to be in short-supply and local authorities have opened-up grazing reserves in some areas in order to deal with the problem. In the highlands, the picture is still mixed with the unseasonable rains having damaged late planted main season crops. According to local officials, the fall in trade with Eritrea is also having a negative effect on market activity. While the final analysis is yet to be completed, the total number of people in the region requiring food assistance is not expected to change significantly, although adjustments may be made within zones between weredas

The incidence of malaria was reported to be high throughout Tigray but especially in lowland weredas. Malnutrition is contributing to the vulnerability of people to such epidemics and with the spread of malaria there are fears that the ability of farmers to cultivate their land may be seriously impaired.

Preliminary reports from the Southern Region, indicate that the late rains and the good start to the belg have had a positive impact on overall food security, especially in the traditionally marginal area of Wolayita. Food and cash crops have shown a good performance, livestock is generally in a good condition and market conditions are stable. The main problem appears to be the spread of malaria which has reached epidemic proportions in some localities. Effective drugs are in short supply and a high resistance (60 to 80 percent of cases) to chloroquine is reported. The assessment of people still in need of food assistance is likely to correspond to the November DPPC appeal figures with the exception of North Omo where the zonal authorities report a much improved food supply situation.

In almost all areas visited, officials reported concern over the poor quality and availability of traditional seeds arising from the untimely rains late last year. To compensate for the poor quality, farmers have increased the seeding rate and stocks are now critically low in many areas. In this respect, FAO has developed a number of project proposals for special agricicultural packages which include a major seed component aimed at assisting the Somali, Tigray and Amhara regions. More details are available from FAO (tel: +251 1 51-72-33; e-mail: fao@telecom.net.et).

The DPPC is expected to consolidate the post-harvest assessment reports of the five teams and issue an updated appeal before the end of March. This will incorporate the pastoral area assessment conducted by DPPC staff in collaboration with the regional governments earlier this year.


With the continuing influence of the El Niño phenomenon expected to enhance local and regional rain-producing weather systems, the National Meteorological Services Agency is projecting a favourable belg (short-rains) season this year. In January, tropical depressions over the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East interacted with the equatorial trough positioned over the Horn of Africa to allow moist air to flow in over Ethiopia from the Arabian Sea. This favoured cloud development and produced above average rainfall over much of the country except a few pocket areas of Afar, Amhara and Oromiya.

Towards the end of January and beginning of February, this moist weather system weakened somewhat but average to above average rainfall was still recorded in the south and south west of the country and part of the highlands of Bale (East Oromiya) with actual amounts varying from 7mm to 60mm recorded. In the second dekad, this weather system again intensified with normal to much above normal rainfall (up to 200mm) reported from the Southern Region, Oromiya, Southern Amhara and parts of the south and north of the Somali Region. By the end of the dekad, scattered rain was being reported from parts of Southern Tigray and Eastern Welo. The cloudy weather continued through the third dekad of the month bringing humid conditions over much of the country and scattered showers mixed with heavier storms over the escarpment, rift valley, central plateau and parts of the northern belg-growing highlands.

In their seasonal outlook, NMSA project that after a temporary withdrawal of the current favourable weather system over the country, normal to above normal rainfall will return over most belg-dependent areas in April. In May, with the exception of Borena, Afar and Benishangul, normal to above normal rainfall is anticipated, favouring plant development but also the spread of diseases and crop pests.

Food and Logistics

In terms of arrivals and confirmed pledges, the total food available for use/borrowing from the Food Security Reserve for relief purposes presently stands at approximately 176,000 tons (Table I). Of the total pledged so far, approximately 63,000 tons would be through local purchase of which EU and Euronaid are considering 39,000 tons. Meanwhile, WFP is considering a modest local purchase of 10,000 tons.

After polling potential donors, WFP has determined possible additional pledges amounting to 169,000 tons this year. In addition, the 1998 US Government offer under its Title III programme could be used to import up to 40,000 tons of emergency food aid if the Ethiopian Government so wishes. Furthermore, it may also be possible to target up to 40,000 tons of regular food aid to the most needy weredas so meeting part of the emergency requirement. Relief needs as assessed by the DPPC are presently 570,000 tons although this figure may be revised following the post-harvest assessment currently underway.

Table I: Pledges against 1998 Food Aid Requirements - Cereals & Pulses (source: WFP 10/03/98)
  Relief  Regular  EFSR  TOTAL 
1998 pledges        
USA 75,000  24,849  -  99,849 
EC 5,333  -  50,000**  55,333 
WFP 60,000*  27,239  -  87,239 
Sweden 31,000  -  -  31,000 
Canada 4,800  1,100  -  5,900 
TOTAL*** 176,133  53,188  50,000  279,321 
                       *WFP Emergency Operation No. 5979 submitted but not yet approved
                    **half of a two-year 100,000 tons pledge subject to confirmation
                    ***no deliveries in-country as of 10 March

 The Emergency Food Security Reserve presently has physical stocks of around 161,500 tons - a considerable improvement since the launching of the Government's appeal in November last year. The total stock size is presently put by the FSR management at 307,000 tons comprising 114,904 tons as outstanding loans, confirmed pledges of 29,997 tons and a donation of 629 tons from the EU. Loans repayable between March and May are given in table II below:

  Table II: Emergency Food Security Reserve, loans repayable between March and May 1998 (EFSR)
Donor  Amount  (metric tons) 
WFP 18,024 
Euronaid 10,383 
European Union 38,768 
German Government 3,108 
DFID/SCF (UK) 4,815 
USAID/DPPC 25,572 
CFGB/FHI 1,000 
CIDA/DPPC and others 13,234 
TOTAL  114,904 

On 16 February the first commercial shipment of grain in several years arrived at the port of Assab. The consignment of 26,900 tons of wheat grain was purchased through the Amalgamated company for distribution in urban markets, principally Addis Ababa. Another shipment of 25,000 tons is expected in May this time purchased through SIDCO.


No further outbreaks or significant developments were reported regarding Desert Locust activity during the month. However, breeding is still reported to be taking place along the Red Sea coast in Eritrea where control operations are underway and sightings of breeding in Sanag region of north-eastern Somalia are being followed-up. A technical team from the Ministry of Agriculture visited parts of eastern Ethiopia recently and reported no breeding activity observed. With normal to above normal rainfall predicted through to the end of May, however, environmental conditions are expected to be highly favourable for an upsurge in regional locust and armyworm activity this year.

Rift Valley Fever

The Saudi Government has reportedly banned the import of live animals from the Horn of Africa for fear that Rift Valley Fever (RVF) is present in livestock in the region. This ban is likely to have a very severe impact on the economy of Somaliland and the Somali region of Ethiopia. The peak export season through ports such as Berbera and Bosasso (used by most merchants exporting animals raised in eastern Ethiopia) coincides with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which commences shortly. The possibility of instituting a system of health certification has been debated, a system that would require the recognition of the Saudi authorities and technical support. High level discussions are presently taking place between the Ethiopian Government and Saudi officials in an effort to have the ban lifted.

Meanwhile, a team of experts from WHO, EPICENTER, EPIET, South Africa's National Institute of Virology, FAO and the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta are concluding a three-month field investigation into reports of haemorrhagic fever outbreaks in humans and animals in the Horn of Africa. According to UNDP Somalia, the team has found no evidence that RVF ever spread beyond the flood-affected areas in southern Somalia. The investigators found sheep and goats in both North East and North West Somalia very healthy, with most livestock owners reporting no disease problems in the last six months. The full report of the team is expected to be issued shortly.
A recent study issued by the US Famine Early Warning System has highlighted the importance of the livestock export trade to livelihoods and food security in Ethiopia's Somali region. The report estimates that in the last two years more than two million sheep and goats have been exported through the port of Berbera, a high percentage of which were certainly trekked from grazing areas in the northern part of the Ethiopian Somali region.

Grain Markets

January ended with little change in the average cereal wholesale price in the Addis Ababa market. Overall flows, however, showed a decrease of around 15 percent between the beginning of January and the first week of February, which, according to the Grain Market Research Project of MEDaC, may be indicative of impending cereal shortages in the months to come. Though the single most important cereals market, at the peak of the harvest season cereal flows into Addis Ababa were less than it was in any of the weeks in September, considered to be the leanest month in terms of cereal supply. The GMRP see this as possibly indicative of merchants hoarding grain in anticipation of higher prices in the months ahead. The sluggish supply, however, appears so far to have had very little impact on prices which remain relatively static. Prices in Addis during the second week of February, however, remain some 40 percent higher than the same time in February last year.

In other markets around the country, after a short period of activity at the end of January when significant increases in the volume of wheat and sorghum were noted in some markets, flows had again tailed off by mid-February. These markets in the last 6-7 weeks to mid-February have been characterised by stagnant cereal supply and relatively static wholesale prices. As in Addis Ababa, however, the average wholesale price remains higher by about 40 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, cereal producer prices have shown a declining trend in February, according to the GMRP.

Selected cereal wholesale prices for the second week of February were as follows (Ethiopian Birr per 100 kgs): Mixed Teff, Birr 228 - 144 (Dire Dawa/Shambu); White Barley, Birr 215 - 105 (Metu/Shashemane); Wheat, Birr 265 - 125 (Mekele/Robe); Sorghum, Birr 210 - 98 (Dire Dawa/Bahirdar) and Maize, Birr 135 - 75 (Mekele/Nekempte).


The estimated fertiliser demand this year is estimated by the National Fertiliser Industry Agency (NFIA) to be 368,000 tons (270,000 tons DAP, 98,000 tons Urea), up from last years revised target of 300,000 tons (actual sales 205,000 tons).

Stocks of 113,936 tons were carried forward unused from last year while newly arrived and presently under purchase is another 355,808 tons so the present status of availability is considered to be favourable (see Table III below):

  Table III: 1998 Fertiliser Availability (source: FAO)
  DAP  UREA  Total 
Opening stock  52,115 61,821 113,936
1998 arrivals/pipeline  261,371 94,437 355,808
Total 313,486 156,258 469,744
Government has announced a free floating price for this years sales. Point of sale prices to farmers are expected to be down on last year due to the falling world price for fertilisers.


Malaria: As stated in last month's report, the Minister of Health, Dr. Adem Ibrahim, accompanied by the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Wedson Mwambazi, recently travelled extensively in the Afar and Somali regions. Having observed the seriousness of the malaria epidemic in these places, the minister is giving the utmost priority to mobilising resources and personnel to combat the outbreak, focussing especially on areas where the flooding last year was most severe. UNICEF is presently expediting the clearance of 48 tons of anti-malarial drugs and other medical supplies from Djibouti port which will be despatched directly to the Somali region. Centrally held medical supplies are also in the process of being despatched to the regions. In Afar, pesticides are being sprayed in all five zones in an effort to disrupt the breeding of mosquitoes.

The weakness of the administrative and medical infrastructure in peripheral regions such as Somali has been highlighted as a major obstacle to effectively responding to the malaria epidemic. Reporting is poor and information on the spread and severity of the problem is inadequate.

Rift Valley Fever: The Minister of Health has confirmed that no human cases of Rift Valley Fever have been observed in Ethiopia so far despite reports of the disease affecting populations in neighbouring Somalia.

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis: Leishmaniasis has been reported as spreading from endemic areas in eastern Sudan into the north-western lowlands of Ethiopia. Though reported to have been brought into the region by returnees transiting through the Humera area, in fact the disease, along with visceral leishmaniasis (kala azar) is not new to Ethiopia having a low level of endemisity all along the forested areas of the western border. However, an increased number of cases have been reported from the settlement camps in and around Humera. Although effective, treatment of the disease is prohibitively expensive, with the drugs costing around Birr 1,500 ($220) per patient. The pathology department of the Addis Ababa University is planning a joint survey with WHO in the endemic areas. The chairman instructed UNICEF to provide additional written information (submitted and referenced herewith).

Typhoid Fever: During February, the Ethiopian Medical Association (EMA) organised a one-day symposium to consider claims that typhoid fever has reached epidemic proportions in the capital city. There are medical concerns that in the absence of thorough laboratory diagnosis patients are being needlessly and repeatedly treated with chloramphenicol. According to the EMA, contrary to public perceptions, the health surveillance system of the Ministry of Health has not confirmed an outbreak of the disease in the capital or anywhere else in the country at this time and there has not been any significant increase in the number of patients admitted to hospitals in Addis Ababa with the fever.


Having resolved problems regarding the supply of food rations, the operation to repatriate Somali refugees in the east of the country will be resumed shortly with the aim of quickly reaching the short-term target of 23,000. Though the main rains may disrupt movements for a time, efforts will be made to maintain the momentum of the operation with the objective of reaching a target of 80,000 people successfully returned home to North West Somalia by the end of the year. As part of a move to encourage people to consider participation in the programme, it is planned that Hartisheik "B" will be closed shortly and the remaining people transferred to camp "A".

May 31 remains the final cut-off date for the registration of Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan wishing to be repatriated. Food is being pre-positioned and NGO implementing partners are preparing for the re-commencement of the operation in the next few weeks. Another joint UNHCR-Ethiopian Government mission will visit Sudan in April to review arrangements leading to the eventual closure of the remaining camps in eastern Sudan.
In the coming weeks UNHCR is also hoping to resolve once and for all the question of the sustainability of refugee agricultural settlements in the Gambella area. Without the allocation of additional land refugees in these camps are considered as having little chance of becoming even partially food self-sufficient and it may become necessary to plan for a resumption of a more comprehensive programme of care and maintenance even though this would be a less than ideal situation.
The Government's Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) is presently undertaking a strategic planning exercise which may result in some re-organisation to strengthen its field presence. UNHCR is planning a similar planning exercise from 13-16 March which will culminate in joint discussions with ARRA.

No new influxes of refugees have been reported during the month. Plans are in-hand to conduct a head count and ration card distribution in the western camp of Shirkole where some observers feel present figures may be inflated. Meanwhile, programmes are underway to improve the basic infrastructure of the camp. In the south, UNHCR Kenya is expected to visit the Moyale area shortly to examine the possibility of starting the repatriation of Kenyan refugees (10,000-15,000) as well as a number of Ethiopians currently living on the Kenyan side of the border. In the Dolo area, Save the Children Federation USA will be providing assistance to an estimated 6,000 Somali refugees under an agreement recently reached with UNHCR. Early in February, SCF (US) received $150,000 from the US Office for Foreign Disaster Relief (OFDA) to help the agency assist up 55,000 people - including refugees - affected by recent flooding along the Ganale river. UNHCR will supplement this support in order that the SCF programme may be extended to the end of this year.

Sudanese nationals rounded-up in Addis Ababa by the Government in January have been taken to Shirkole where their status is currently being reviewed. Some will be moved to their original camps in Gambella while others will be allowed to return to Addis. Already, some 30-40 students legitimately studying in the capital have been permitted to return.

Refugee statistics for the end of January are provided on the next page…

Refugee Statistics (as of end January 1998)
West   East   
Bonga  11,969 Hartisheik (A & B)   51,317 
Fugnido  18,434  Aisha  15,282 
Dimma  7,683  Kebribeyah 11,097 
Shirkole  20,400 Teferiber  45,665 
Sub-total  58,486  Derwanaji  39,762 
    Camaboker  28,065
South-east    Rabasso  16,818 
Dolo Odo  3,000  Daror 34,150 
Dolo Bay 1,200  Sub-total 242,156 
Suftu  1,800     
Sub-total  6,000  South   
    Moyale/Dokisso  8,671 
Afar Region  8,000  Addis Ababa   
    Urban refugees  600 
  GRAND TOTAL  323,913   


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.


UNDP-EUE field reports; CARE; Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC); European Union; FAO; FEWS; National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA); Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA); Grain Market Research Project of the Ministry of Economic Development and Co-operation (GMRP-MEDaC); SCF (UK); UNICEF; UNHCR; WHO; AFP; ENA.

10 March, 1998

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