Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

MARCH 1996

Prepared by the Information Section of the UNDP/EUE from information provided by UN agencies and NGOs

 Table of Contents


Food security and relief needs

No significant changes have occurred in the food security situation in Ethiopia during the past month. Food distributions continue through employment generation schemes and free food distributions in parts of Tigray Region, North Welo, South Welo, Wag Hamra and North Gonder (Amhara Region), the Welayita area of North Omo zone and East Hararghe (Oromiya Region) where earlier reports of a declining nutritional status initiated immediate response and relief interventions.

Following concerns by certain NGOs that the actual 1995 main (meher) season production in some chronically food insecure areas of the country may be considerable less than estimated by the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Needs Assessment Mission in December 1995, the World Food Programme recently made a projection of the "worst case scenario" in terms of food aid needs in Ethiopia during 1996.

According to WFP, an availability assessment and analysis was made of the estimated food aid needs of the Commission for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness (CDPP), several Non-Governmental Organisation and the joint FAO/WFP mission in 13 of the most food insecure zones selecting the highest estimates for food aid requirements for all the zones. The resulting figure was 43%, or 82,000 tons, above the FAO/WFP December estimate for these areas. To this figure was added the possible, but unlikely, occurrence of a 50% failure of the 1996 short (belg) season, bringing the total "worst case scenario" 1996 relief requirements to about 320,000 tons as compared with the FAO/WFP relief estimates of 135,000 tons. On the other hand, combined theoretically available in-country food sources in Ethiopia amount to some 330,000 tons(1) .

Although the actual availability of stocks will only be determined after the completion of the CDPP Distribution Plan, the WFP projection indicates that potential food stocks would probably cover national relief needs even in the event of a failed belg season. This is provided that donor pledges and short haul transport to reach the remote pockets of food insecurity are available, and more importantly, local purchases take place on time. End


IGAD heads of state meeting

The leaders of six countries of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) met in Nairobi on 21 March to discuss the revitalisation of IGADD and sub-regional co-operation. Among the areas agreed on by member states were a new name for the authority, to be called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), reflecting an increased concern for development issues.

The new IGAD Charter for revitalised and expanded co-operation among the countries was signed by all countries except Somalia, whose membership is being held in abeyance. Changes to the structure would allow a formal expansion of IGAD's role to include political issues, and a division would be established within the Secretariat to deal with peace, security and humanitarian affairs. In addition to humanitarian affairs, the other two main areas of emphasis are regional trade and infrastructure and food security. Furthermore, membership to the new IGAD would open to other countries within the sub-region. The IGAD member states also took opportunity to thank the international community and IGAD partners in development for their support of the organisation. It was decided that meeting would soon be scheduled with the international community.

Ethio-Sudan relations

The UN Secretary General's special envoy, Under-secretary General Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, was in the region between 18 February and 2 March to meet with governmental officials in the concerned countries in relation to the recent UN Security Council's resolution on Sudan. The UN Secretary-General has stated that neighbouring countries are seriously concerned that Sudan is supporting terrorist involvement and is giving shelter to terrorist elements. Sudan, however, reportedly claims that it is the "victim of destabilising activities encouraged and supported by its neighbours". It also continues to maintain that it does not have conclusive evidence to apprehend the three men suspected of the assassination attempt on President Mubarak in Addis Ababa.

The Security Council has given the Government of Sudan until the end of March to resolve the situation, before economic sanctions become imperative.

Peace and reconciliation in Ethiopian Somali Region

A four-day peace and development conference of the Ethiopian Somali Regional State was held in Jijiga between 10-13 March. The meeting, which was attended by representatives and elders from zones and weredas throughout the region, was organised primarily to discuss peace and security problems impeding regional progress and to consolidate mechanisms for the overall development of the region. Also emphasised by the meeting was the relationship between development endeavours in the region and security problems. The meeting placed particular emphasis on the need for wider participation of members of all ethnic groups in infrastructural strengthening throughout the region. End


UN systems special initiative for Africa

A joint $25 billion UN initiative for Africa was launched on 15 March by the UN Secretary General in a live satellite link with senior UN, OAU and Government officials in Addis Ababa. Heads of other UN agencies, both at headquarter and subregional levels also participated in the launch through separate ceremonies.

This major effort of the UN system will begin with a year long mobilisation of political and resource support by all agencies in the UN system for the development of African countries. The multi-billion programme aims to greatly expand basic education and health care, promote peace and good governance, and improve water and food security. Most resources in the special initiative will be utilised through national programmes of action, locally defined and managed in collaboration with the international community.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa will be the lead agency in coordinating programmes in specific fields and will work together with UNDP, the World Bank and other UN agencies in strengthening the continent's capacity in the targeted programme areas. End


Progress of the belg season

The belg rains, which had initially been sporadic at the beginning of the season, assumed a normal pattern after the first week of March. During the first two dekads of the month, the amount and distribution of rainfall gradually improved over most belg-producing areas of the country, covering North and South Welo (Amhara Region), central and eastern parts of Oromiya Region and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, Peoples' Regional State (SNNPRS), where the short rains are important for land preparation of long cycle meher crops. At the beginning of the third dekad, rain was also reported in the eastern parts of the country, covering the south-eastern pastoral areas that receive their main rains (gu) between March and June. Planting of belg crops has resumed and is progressing well in most places and land preparation for the main meher season has also started. With the National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA) forecasting a favourable continuation of rains well into May, adequate conditions can be expected for normal agricultural activities. It is now likely that the belg harvest will be delayed by one month and will probably coincide with the planting of meher crops in July. In some areas, particularly in North Shewa (Amhara Region) and the Southern zone of Tigray Region, crops planted earlier during the unseasonable heavy rains of January were showing signs of poor germination or stunted growth at the end of February. Farmers started replanting during the above average rainfall of the first two dekads of March in those areas where initial planting was unsuccessful. Farmers have, however, been cautioned to plant short maturing belg crops that would enable them to also prepare for the main cropping season. The Ministry of Agriculture recently fielded a mission to review the situation in the belg-producing areas of Ethiopia. Assessments have also been started by the zonal bureaux of agriculture to monitor the distribution of rainfall and crop conditions in the coming months.

Pest infestations Although there have been no reports of migratory infestations of locust and armyworm, conditions remain favourable and vegetation is good for outbreaks from adjacent countries. The Desert Locust Control Operation for Eastern Africa (DLCO/EA) will continue to monitor the bordering regions of the country. DLCO staff have been mobilised and resources prepositioned for ground and aerial surveys. There has been increasing concern over the effects of Striga infestation in northern Ethiopia and the possibility of its introduction into other regions. Until recently, Striga (a parasitic weed prevalent in sorghum mono-cropping areas) was a problem faced mainly by farmers in the drought-affected parts of Amhara and Tigray regions. In these areas, which include the Western, Central and Southern zones of Tigray and most zones of the Amhara Region, a few plants can drastically affect grain production. However, there are increasing reports of rapidly spreading Striga infestation in three weredas of West Hararghe zone (Oromiya Region), where Striga has been accidentally introduced. Furthermore, Striga has been noted by the Commission for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness (CDPP) as one of the contributing factors to the recent farmer migrations from North Gonder zone (Amhara Region).

Fertiliser update

The region-wide fertiliser distribution plan for 1996 has now been finalised and can be summarised as following:

Tigray Region  8,000 tons  2.04% 
Amhara Region  86,311 tons 22% 
Oromiya Region  205,969 tons 52.5% 
SNNPRS  53,852 tons  13.73% 
Benishangul Region  825 tons  0.21% 
Gambella Region  70 tons  0.02% 
Harar Region  1,377 tons  0.35% 
Region 14  2,592 tons 0.56%
Others including state farms and large scale private farms 33,551 tons 8.55%

This brings the total fertiliser distribution plan for the 1996 cropping seasons to 392,322 tons. A total of 359,700 tons of fertiliser (268,400 tons of DAP and 91,300 tons UREA) is expected to be imported into Ethiopia during 1996. No change has been made to fertiliser pledges, which stand at 358,900 tons as of the end of March.

Although 1996 has so far proven an exceptional year in the timeliness of fertiliser shipments and quick delivery from ports, this has been largely due to the very limited food imports in the first quarter of this year. However, if food requirements were to increase once again in 1997, there are several issues that would need to be considered with fertiliser imports:

the importance of fertiliser inputs in crop production the serious limitations of Assab port capacity in general seasonality of fertiliser sales from February to July a procurement process largely facilitated by donor assistance Also, it is becoming more and more imperative to formulate a suitable mechanism for early mobilisation of fertiliser donations in order to overcome constraints affecting timely arrivals and offtakes. In view of these concerns, the Fertiliser Steering Committee recently established a small Working Group comprised of representatives from the donor community, government and FAO to formulate a proposal for future donor assistance.End


Tigray Region

Tigray is a predominantly meher-dependant area where the impact of the belg production on food availability is limited. Only the mid-altitude and lowland areas of the Southern zone are belg producing, with barley and teff the main crops grown in mid-altitudes and sorghum cultivated in the lowlands.

In the Southern zone, the onset of the belg rains this year was three weeks late. Moreover, untimely heavy rainfall in January created unfavourable conditions and somewhat affected land preparation in pockets of the zone. In areas where the rains have been very erratic, many farmers in the lowlands started cultivation of short season crops immediately after the rains of January. However, with the absence of rainfall in February, cultivated fields have had to be reploughed in many areas.

Amhara Region

In the Amhara Region, North Shewa and North and South Welo are the only belg producing zones. They are also among the most drought-prone and vulnerable areas of the country and which experience recurrent food shortages. Both belg and meher seasons are important in most parts of these three zones and if either of the seasons' harvests should fail or perform poorly, food availability will be drastically affected. This year the belg rains started several weeks later than normal and are progressing in a mixed pattern. Rain in South Welo and Oromia has been good, but has been erratic in North Welo. Nonetheless, the overall situation is generally better than one year ago.

In the chronically food deficit areas of Wag Hamra and South Welo emergency food distributions have been ongoing to maintain a stable nutritional level and avoid stress migrations. The situation in South Gonder, another vulnerable area, is also being closely monitored but the zone does not seem to require emergency interventions at the present time.

The zonal Bureau of Disaster Prevention and Preparedness has expressed concern about the prevailing conditions in Bugna wereda, where relief distributions are now ongoing but beneficiary numbers may radically change if the belg performance does not improve. In North Shewa zone, some areas of Gishe Rabel wereda have reportedly not yet received any rain, a worrying fact as belg crops in this area account for 75% of the annual food production.

In North Gonder, which has been the scene of confusing reports regarding relief assistance to migrating farmers, the general food security situation is being reviewed by zonal officials. Initial results from post-harvest assessments of the 1995 meher season are now identifying the main areas where food deficits can be expected in 1996(2). Food assistance to 10,000 migrating farmers from Adi Arkay wereda has also reportedly been finalised and this displaced population have returned to their homes. Additional relief rations are to be prepositioned for another 15,000 people in the same wereda before the onset of the main kiremt rains.

Oromiya Region

Although the Oromiya Region is predominantly meher-dependent, belg crops are grown in several areas. Short season crops are important in Bale and Arsi zones but the impact of belg on other parts of the region is minimal. Barley, wheat, maize and teff crops are normally planted February-March and harvest in July and August. This year the late onset of the season has slightly hampered planting of crops. However, farmers are optimistic that a good continuation of rainfall will provide adequate coverage for crop growth, given no major pest infestations affect the yield.

North Omo (SNNPRS)

Belg crops are mainly grown in the North Omo, Welayita, Alaba, Hadiya, Kembata and Timbaro areas. In the North Omo zone, belg is more important than elsewhere in the country and accounts for 60-70% of the zone's annual production. Dominant crops are barley in the highland areas and maize and sorghum in the mid- to low altitudes. The onset of this year's short rains was slightly late, but still adequate for land preparation. The amount and distribution of rainfall in the coming month, however, will be the main determining factor in the success of the season.

In Hadiya zone and also the Kembata/Alaba/Timbaro area, the early rains in January were favourable for land preparation but were erratic in February and the beginning of March, which is a critical period for planting of crops. Planting was therefore delayed by a few weeks. In these areas, if the rains do not continue well into May there is a risk of a decrease in production.

The belg rains in the Welayita normally fall between January and May and are important for crop production throughout the area. One of the most important crops in Welayita is green maize which can be harvested early and eaten before it fully matures - helping people cope with the mid-year hungry season. Furthermore, Welayita relies heavily on the belg for planting of maize and other long cycle crops. The rains were late this year, but once started have been good in quantity. Given the rains continue in a regular pattern the prospects are good for the coming belg yield. END


Food aid status

As of 27 February, pledges against a total 1996 relief/regular food aid requirement of 135,000 tons so far amount to 119,778 tons, leaving a pledging shortfall of 15,222 tons. Pledges against the 100,000 tons requirement for the Emergency Food Security Reserve (EFSR) amount to 85,750 tons. In addition, programme food aid pledges amount to some 13,000 tons of wheat. Out of the relief and regular pleadges, 43% are likely to be local purchases, the balance will be imported. From the pledges to EFSR, 88% are to be purchased locally. According to WFP, so far 17,413 tons of the 1996 pledges for cereals and pulses have been delivered at port, including 2,000 tons of local purchases.

A total of 11,122 tons of food aid was distributed to the most vulnerable groups by CDPP and NGOs in January. The Government estimates that in February this figure may rise to 24,000 tons (about equivalent to the average monthly food aid distribution in 1995). In-country stocks of food by NGOs and CDPP remain at a relatively comfortable 83,000 tons. In addition, the EFSR has a physical stock of 95,995 tons rising to 170,995 tons (excluding outstanding loans and undelivered pledges) after the European Union local purchase is completed in about two months. The CDPP still holds in stock about 60,000 tons of 1995 Title III grain for monetisation. Therefore, the relatively low quantity of food pledges delivered to Ethiopia is not yet a problem.

1996 local purchase programme

The European Union announced the winners of their local tender for 57,000 tons of grain (out of a total 75,000 tons tendered) to be purchased for the EFSR in Amhara and Oromiya Regions and SNNPRS. A total of 38 companies responded in the three regions with 136 bids received for 19 lots of 3,000 tons each. With the selection of the winners, contracts for 24,000 tons of wheat and 24,000 tons of maize were awarded to a total of 11 companies, among them both large national and small regional traders. Results of the EU tender indicate a good availability of grain in the main producing regions of Ethiopia. This is supported by the fact that cereal prices in selected markets are now relatively stable and lower that during the same period last year (with the exception of Tigray).

As sufficient quantities of grade I maize were offered, the EU will not purchase grade II quality as previously planned. Grade II offers have therefore been rejected and a new tender for 18,000 tons of maize will be launched shortly. According to the European Union, the results obtained for maize so far indicate a good availability of grain in Ethiopia, within the expected price range for local procurement.

Tenders for the 35,000 tons of sorghum to be locally purchased from Tigray Region by Euronaid for the Relief Society of Tigray were relaunched, due to technical reasons, between 18 and 21 March. The results of these tenders are currently being analysed and have not been released as yet.

EFSR warehouse capacity

The timing of the next phase of local purchases of grain, which may amount to as much as 89,016 tons(3), depends mainly on the availability of space at the EFSR warehouses. The EFSR is currently in the process of preparing a projection of its storage capacity in Nazareth, Shashemane, Kombolcha, Mekele and Dire Dawa. Following the completion of this exercises, tenders can be launched for the purchase of all or part of the 89,016 tons of grain.

In a related development, donors and the Government are currently negotiating the possible interchangeability of wheat, maize and sorghum for repayments to the EFSR. If an agreement is reached, loans of any one of these commodities could be repaid in local cereals other than wheat. The EFSR, however, maintains a preference for wheat as the commodity to be used in repayment of loans due to its longer storage life and easier handling.

Ports and deliveries

Due to the low level of delivery of 1996 pledges and reduced import requirements in favour of local purchases, fertiliser shipments have constituted the main cargo for Assab port. Up to total of 359,700 tons of fertiliser is expected to be shipped to Ethiopia for the 1996 agricultural season, mostly arriving through Assab during the first half of the year. As food aid shipments will remain at a relatively low level, no congestion is expected at Assab. However, a peak of 76,274 tons of fertiliser is expected at Assab in April. Combined food aid an fertiliser stocks will probably reach their highest level for this year in April at about 62,000 tons while maximum storage capacity at the ports is at least 120,000 tons. Cargo arrivals at Massawa and Djibouti ports remain at a low level. END


It has been recognised by both concerned government and UN officials that approaches used in the highland areas of Ethiopia are mostly not applicable to the pastoral communities. Many agencies are reviewing their planned and ongoing strategies in these areas and developing new plans of action. Among them, UNICEF in co-operation with the UNDP/EUE is currently developing an alternative strategy for their Wereda Integrated Basic Services (WIBS) programmes in the Afar and Somali Regions. Revitalisation of health programmes in Afar are part of the immediate plan of UNICEF:

Revitalisation of health programmes

Following several field missions by senior UNICEF officials to Afar Region on the problems of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, a complete revitalisation of the existing UNICEF delivery system of assistance in the region was recommended. Subsequently, an assessment was made on the service infrastructure and past performances in health related matters and a bridging micro-plan was developed for the period 1 March to 30 June 1996. Through this plan, UNICEF and several NGOs have taken a common stand to provide maximum support to the promotion of the EPI/ORT(4) activities in the region in order to upgrade the current low level of immunisation coverage.

Due to the difficulties of operating in the Afar Region, only the three NGOs - Health Net International (HNI), Afar Relief Association (ARA) and Islamic Relief Organisation (IRO) - are currently participating in this programme.


Meningitis: Following serious outbreaks of meningitis in several countries in the "meningitis belt", including Nigeria and Burkina Faso, unconfirmed reports of several cases of viral meningitis in Addis Ababa are being closely monitored. In this regard, the Ministry of Health has been provided with diagnostic kits for preparedness measures and distribution to relevant regional bureaux.

The epidemic of meningitis is highly seasonal and related to weather conditions, occuring mostly during the dry season. In areas where one case is diagnosed the spread of the disease becomes very likely. However, periodicity of the meningitis cycle, which is normally every 5-7 years, is becoming less consistent and the "meningitis belt", which includes Ethiopia, is now tending southwards.

Measles: There have been several reports of outbreaks in southern Ethiopia and Jigjiga area in the Ethiopia Somali Region, and health workers are currently reviewing the situation. However, the Ministry of Health has not confirmed these reports.

Diarrhoeal Disease: An epidemic of diarrhoea has been reported in the Afar Region, in areas where there is close proximity to irrigated farming. The outbreak, which seems to have started in February has not been confirmed by any UN sources.

Nutritional status

Food consumption patterns have been gradually improving in most meher dependent areas of the country which are now benefiting from harvested stocks. However, there have been reports by several NGOs and UNICEF of deteriorating nutritional status in some areas including three zones of Afar Region and several weredas in North Shewa zone (Amhara Region), South Welo zone (Amhara Region), Yabelo wereda in Borena zone (Oromiya Region) and Ofa wereda in North Omo zone (SNNPRS):

Menz and Gishe weredas (North Shewa zone): A recent SCF (UK) nutritional surveillance report indicates that a decline in the nutritional status of children under five can be expected prior to the belg harvest due rapidly depleting food stocks within households. Close monitoring of these areas is therefore required.

Were Himeno, Were Illu and Borana weredas (South Welo zone): Data obtained from the three western weredas of the zone by SCF (UK) and the CDPP indicate limited recovery over the past months. Although no significant declines have been reported in the past several months in these areas, the nutritional status in Were Illu and Borana remains close to the 90% cut-off level for emergency interventions. Were Himeno wereda is in a similar position, with a recorded 90.4% nutritional level. Relief interventions have been recommended in Were Illu and Were Himeno at least until the belg harvest. Furthermore, continued food assistance in Borana until February 1996 does not seem to have alleviated the situation in the wereda.

Yabelo wereda (Borena zone): A rapid assessment carried out by UNICEF in Yabelo wereda at the beginning of March indicates a marked decrease in the nutritional status of children in 10 villages. According to UNICEF, about 20% of the children in the visited areas were below 80% WFL and would require supplementary feeding.

Ofa wereda (North Omo zone): Results of a nutritional survey conducted by MSF Holland in Ofa wereda show a malnutrition rate of 18.8%. As interventions normally would take place in circumstances of more than 10% moderate to severe malnutrition, precautionary steps have been recommended to alleviate the situation in this wereda.


UNICEF/UNHCR memorandum of understanding

A global memorandum of understanding was recently signed between UNICEF and UNHCR in the spirit of interagency collaboration. The aim of this agreement is to encourage and facilitate systematic co-operation between the two organisations. However, in Ethiopia UNICEF and UNHCR have been working together for the past several years in the refugee reintegration areas of south-eastern Ethiopia, an example of which are the water programmes in Jigjiga, Degehabour and Kebribeyah areas of the Ethiopia Somali Region. The recent memorandum in effect reaffirms the commitment that the two sister agencies have made in the past to expand their working relations.

Water and Sanitation in the Somali Region

A main issue of concern for UNICEF, UNHCR and other UN agencies dealing with water programmes is the maintenance of water systems after they have been established in different regions. In the Somali Region, water development and sanitation are two issues on which specific sectoral concentration and more co-operative measures need to be taken. Given the importance of the sustainability of such programmes, discussions have been held among concerned UN agencies regarding better collaboration and joint follow-up action. END



Repatriation of Ethiopian refugees from Sudan is on hold pending continuation of registration in Sudan. The Government of Ethiopia andUNHCR are preparing plans for the repatriation of 10,000 Somali refugees from Ethiopia to Somalia. However, the success of this exercise will largely depend on the situation across the border.

A joint WFP/EUE mission was dispatched to Hargeysa in North-west Somalia, to acquire information on the conditions in the main receiving areas of possible repatriation. More details on the feasibility of the planned Somali repatriation is expected after the return of the mission. END

1. This figure includes Emergency Food Security Reserve, NGO and CDPP relief and monetisation stocks.

2. The most affected weredas are: Beyeda, Tselemt, Janamora, Belessa, Wegera and Gonder Zuria.

3. 32,356 tons by Euronaid for EFSR and NGOs, 25,000 tons by WFP for EFSR and food for work programmes, 20,610 tons by WFP for the CDPP, and 8,550 by WFP for the refugee programme.

4. Expanded Programme for Immunisation/Oral Rehydration Therapy


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. Information in this report has been obtained from specialised UN agencies and NGO reports. Reference is made to other sources of information as necessary.


UNDP/EUE field reports; Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs; CARE; European Union; FAO; FEWS; National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA); Ministry of Agriculture; SCF (UK); UNICEF; UNHCR; WFP; WHO.

3 April 1996

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