In the aftermath of the heavy fighting that took place in the Badme area during February, the month of March began relatively quietly amid calls for a ceasefire and an end to the hostilities. Hopes for a quick settlement were raised for a while following the announcement by Eritrea at the end of February that it had accepted the OAU Framework Agreement. Ethiopia later made clear it would not agree to any ceasefire nor engage in negotiations regarding the implementation of the OAU framework until Eritrea agreed to withdraw its troops from border areas around Egala and Zelambessa-Aiga, on the so-called central front, and Bada-Bure along the eastern border.
The relative lull ended on March 14 with reports that new fighting had erupted on the front line a little to the south of the strategically important town of Tsorona. According to international media reports, following an initial period of shelling using heavy artillery, fighting escalated quickly over a two-day period with the deployment of ground troops, armoured vehicles and warplanes. Given the apparent intensity and limited geographical focus of the fighting, there are concerns that heavy causalities were suffered. The focus later switched back to the western front close to the Mereb river where a series of skirmishes or clashes were reported by the media in the vicinity of the Eritrean town of Shembeko. This latest period of fighting appeared to come to a close with the Ethiopian government saying that it had successfully countered an Eritrean attempt to recapture territory it had lost around Badme during the earlier fighting in February. There have been no reports regarding the situation in the Bure border area, which is adjacent to the Eritrean Red Sea port of Assab.
On March 18, the UN Security Council issued a new appeal for an end to a border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In a statement to reporters after a closed-door meeting, the current President of the Security Council said council members were seriously concerned about the fighting and had renewed their earlier call for an "immediate ceasefire." Council members encouraged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan "to redouble his efforts in co-operation with the OAU in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table." A few days earlier, with the support of the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in Washington in an effort to get the peace process moving again. The meeting was held on the periphery of a US-Africa ministerial meeting to which high-level delegations of Ethiopia and Eritrea were invited to attend. Following the Washington meetings, on March 22, the Eritrean Foreign Minister, Halie Woldensae and the Ethiopian Vice Foreign Minister, Tekada Alemu were invited to brief the Security Council on the positions and views of their respective governments.
These various efforts to find a mechanism whereby the OAU framework
agreement might be implemented have yet to achieve any visible breakthrough.
Meanwhile, there has been little or no apparent compromise in the respective
positions adopted by the two governments. Ethiopia continues to call or
acceptance by Eritrea for withdrawal of its forces from Ethiopian territory
as a necessary condition before a peaceful settlement can be negotiated.
Eritrea, in turn, calls for a ceasefire and a mutual demilitarisation of
the disputed border area. The two positions were elaborated and reinforced
in diplomatic notes circulated by Ethiopia and Eritrea to delegates at
the 69th session of the Council of Ministers of the OAU held
in Addis Ababa from March 15 to 17.
With the full backing of the federal and regional authorities, on April 7 the UN Resident Co-ordinator for Ethiopia led a combined UN Country Team mission to Tigray region with the objective of assessing the current status of humanitarian needs in the region. The mission included the country representatives of UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme and was accompanied by the Commissioner of the federal Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission.
The team first flew to the regional capital, Mekele, where a full briefing was provided by local officials regarding the status of current assistance to people affected by the conflict with Eritrea as well as on the overall food security situation in the region. According to the authorities, compounding the existing problems associated with the displacement of nearly 316,000 people from the immediate border zone, the poor performance of recent rains had made another 373,000 people vulnerable to food shortages. The UN mission was told the main challenges facing the regional administration now are to deliver assistance for the next few months to people ahead of the main rainy season, expected to commence in mid-June, and to assist people to return to their homes as soon as security conditions allow. If a continuation of the conflict precludes such measures, a lengthy prolongation of the relief programme is foreseen.
Accompanied by senior representatives of the regional administration, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau and the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), the team later travelled by road visiting Adigrat, Axum and Shire (also known as Enda Sellasie), before flying back to Addis Ababa. During this portion of the mission the UN team were able to meet with zonal and wereda officials, meet representatives of the displaced and view a distribution of food relief on the outskirts of Adigrat.
During the mission, it was made clear to the UN team that though major efforts have been made by the regional authorities to assist and protect civilians displaced by the conflict, significant humanitarian needs remain. Among the priorities presented by the regional and zonal authorities is additional relief food assistance amounting to 58,802 tons for the displaced and 36,890 tons for drought victims. Other needs include shelter materials (plastic sheeting, blankets, clothing and household utensils); the provision of additional water points in areas hosting large concentrations of displaced persons; support for schools; and, a further expansion of preventative and curative health care services to the displaced and their host communities. Looking forward to the time when the displaced might return home, the substantial post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation needs of the region were highlighted. This would include the repair of damaged/looted schools, clinics, water points and other services in the areas most directly affected by fighting as well as assistance to help farmers and others re-establish their livelihoods.
Particular note was made of the issue of landmines which the mission
was told infest many of the contested areas and present the single largest
obstacle to the safe return of people to their homes. It is not known how
many mines have been laid, but regional authorities estimate the number
to be in the hundreds of thousands. Already, the dangers of mines are being
felt by the civilian population. Despite warnings, many accidents have
occurred as a result of people trying to return to their homes around Badme
to inspect the condition of their property.
A more detailed report regarding the UN Country Team mission to Tigray
is available on request from the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia.
General Events and Developments
France and Ethiopia Development Cooperation: The French
development agency, Agence Française de Développement, has
extended a grant of 60 million French Francs, (US $9.9 million), through
the Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation, to further upgrade
the Addis Ababa city water supply. The grant will finance part of the Akaki
Groundwater Project - Phase II and will be implemented by Addis Ababa Water
and Sewerage Agency (AAWSA). The project aims at increasing the present
daily water production of AAWSA by 72,000 m³ by providing 14 pumping
stations and 3 water tanks for the Akaki well field. In addition, connecting
pipelines and the main transmission line to Addis Ababa will be installed.
The French development agency, AFD, has also financed a project to rehabilitate six locomotives for the Ethio-Djibouti Railway. The completion of the project was marked by a ceremony attended by H.E. Mr. Alain Rouquié, Ambassador of France to Ethiopia, Mr. Didier Robert, Regional Director of AFD for the Horn of Africa, and Mr. Karl Harbo, Delegate of the EU in Ethiopia. The rehabilitation project is part of a larger AFD financed project that included the purchase of four new reconditioned locomotives and equipment necessary for the maintenance of the track. The total value of the project is 56.7 million French francs (US $9.35 million).
Hydro Power Station rehabilitation: The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation announced that maintenance work at the Fincha hydroelectric power plant has been completed and that the station resumed work effectively at the end of March. The rehabilitation work, which started on March 1, at a cost of US $3 million, had involved reducing power output and an electricity-rationing programme was in place throughout the month. The station now has a capacity to generate 100 megawatt of hydroelectric power and the Corporation has announced that the Norwegian and Austrian contractors engaged in the rehabilitation completed work ahead of schedule. The work on Finchaa is part of programme to rehabilitate five existing hydroelectric power stations in order to increase the capacity of power generation in Ethiopia. The rehabilitation works on Melka, Wakena, Koka and Awash has already been completed.
NGO Code of Conduct: A total of 165 local and international NGOs have endorsed and signed the Code of Conduct for NGOs in Ethiopia. The document establishes the "norms, principles and values to standardize the conduct, action and behavior of NGOs. NGO activities in Ethiopia have been "unregulated’ for almost three decades and although a guideline for NGO operation was prepared in 1995, it is not complete. In this regard, the adoption of the NGO Code of Conduct is expected to provide a basic input into the development of the regulation. The Code has two major sections, Standards of Conduct and Code Observance. A seven-member committee of five NGOs and two civil society representatives has also been established to ensure code observance by signatories of the agreement.
French aid worker abducted: On April 3 a French water
engineer working for the NGO, Action contre la Faim was abducted by unidentified
gunmen while on a mission to inspect water wells a short distance from
the town of Warder in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The aid worker was
taken along with a Somali colleague and a local elder who had been accompanying
the mission. In a later statement quoted by the BBC, the Ogaden National
Liberation Front in Moqdishu claimed responsibility for the abduction.
Earlier in March, a vehicle belonging to Médecins sans Frontiers
(Belgium) was attacked and burnt a short distance from the town of Degahabur,
also in the Somali region. No one was hurt in the incident. Both agencies
have since taken action to limit the operational movement of their staff
working in the region.
National relief assistance requirement update
The Federal Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission released a report on April 8 entitled "Emergency Relief Needs in Ethiopia - Inadequate Donors Response Against Increasing Needs." The report highlights rising concerns about the low level of food and non-food items pledged in response to the DPPC Appeal of December 1998. The report also provides new estimates of the total relief food requirement for 1999, based on the latest assessments of needs in the mainly pastoral areas of southern and south-eastern Ethiopia.
Though the 1998 meher harvest was generally favourable, the DPPC confirm that in some areas the harvest was poor. The appeal issued in December indicated that just over two million people would require food assistance plus another million whose situation was considered marginal and requiring close monitoring. Subsequent assessments of needs in the Somali region and the southern lowlands of Oromiya have confirmed the special vulnerability of people living in these areas following consecutive years of unfavourable rainfall, compounded by very poor short season rains in October/November last year. In these areas, the report says a total of 1,122,400 are currently in need of emergency assistance, some 467,000 more than indicated in the December appeal.
The DPPC report draws attention to the unexpectedly early emergence of food shortages in a number of cropping areas, which has necessitated the rapid mobilisation and utilisation of limited stocks of relief food. These operations have focussed on the Eastern Haraghe zone of Oromiya, parts of the Central and Eastern zones of Tigray, and the North Welo zone of Amhara where meher production was significantly less than first predicted due to unusually heavy rains late in the growing season. There are fears that the late commencement of the belg rains in Welo will further exacerbate the already critical food security situation in the area.
The report also seeks to highlight the continuing relief needs of civilians displaced by the conflict with Eritrea. Including an additional 5,366 people displaced (in Afar region) by the conflict, the total number of people requiring assistance in 1999 due to man-made causes has been revised upwards to 396,983. This figure includes over 50,000 Ethiopians displaced from Eritrea who are now in the process of settling into their areas of origin.
Taking into account both natural and man-made causes, the total figure for the number of people requiring food assistance in 1999 has now been revised upwards to 3,254,301. The food requirement has consequently also been increased to 319,586 metric tonnes, up from 260,651 metric tonnes given in the December appeal.
The breakdown of the food requirement is given in the table below. The DPPC emphasise that this analysis assumes that the coming belg harvest will be normal and that the existing food problems in the pastoral areas will improve after June. On current information, however, it is becoming increasingly likely that the belg harvest will fail in the north. Such a failure in the traditional food deficit areas of Welo, as well as in south Tigray, could have a catastrophic impact on the food situation in these areas.
Quarter (January - March)
2nd Quarter (April - June)
3rd Quarter (July - September)
4th Quarter (October - Dec.)
|Total Requirement 1999||
In describing the stringent measures currently being implemented by the organisation, (including cutting ration rates and making distribution intermittently against increasing relief needs), the DPPC report says, "this approach will not work...with rising levels of malnutrition and displacement in many areas of the country ...at a time when we are confronted by a belg failure in the north and a serious famine threat in areas like North and South Welo."
Agriculture and weather
During March, rainfall activity increased over most eastern, southern, central and south-eastern parts of the country. The rains, however, were late – too late for most major belg-dependent areas of northern and south-western areas of Ethiopia. Despite a weakening of the weather system during the middle of the month, even some northern and north-western areas enjoyed scattered showers associated with an increase in cloud cover. In the first dekad of March, eastern and southern Ethiopia received some unusually heavy rain with above 50 mm of rainfall recorded in many areas and intense daily rainfall reported in Metehara, Dire Dawa, Gode, Negele and Kibre Mingist.
During March, the southern and south-eastern lowlands, including parts
of eastern and southern highlands, exhibited generally normal to above
normal rainfall. In the belg growing areas of north-eastern, central
and south-western Ethiopia, however, there was below and much below normal
rainfall, continuing a pattern which has persisted since the on-set of
the season. As predicted by NMSA, the weather system associated with the
belg rains weakened towards the end of March, allowing dry weather
to dominate northern, central and eastern areas of the country through
the first dekad of April. NMSA expect the belg rains to resume and
perhaps intensify from the middle of April onwards, favouring land preparation
ahead of planting for the main growing season. In the eastern and south-eastern
pastoral areas, the main, gu, rains are expected to commence anytime
from the end of April.
UN Mission to Afar Region
As part of the continuous monitoring efforts of the United Nations Country Team, UNDP-EUE fielded a mission to Afar Region in late March with the objective of obtaining updated information from the regional authorities on the current humanitarian situation and to visit locations hosting displaced communities in order to get first-hand impressions on existing living conditions and needs. Coinciding with the EUE mission, UNICEF also visited the regional capital Asayita, following-up on their Wereda Integrated Basic Services (WIBS) programmes and on the conflict-related Relief Action Plan of the UN Country Team.
According to information provided by regional authorities, the Afar
region has currently, as a result of the conflict between Ethiopia and
Eritrea, a total of 29,275 displaced people, the vast majority of them
being nomads of Afar ethnicity. While food aid has been delivered regularly
since August last year, certain gaps remain to be covered. While a small
number of NGOs continue their efforts to support the regional government
in providing humanitarian relief assistance, a major concern appears to
be the negative impact of market closures in border areas, disrupting the
normal economy of pastoralist and sedentary people alike. Although the
mission was not in a position – due to security concerns raised by the
authorities – to visit concentrations of displaced people, the general
impression was that overall there has been an appropriate and well-coordinated
response to meeting the needs of people affected by the conflict. It is
necessary, however, to conduct a more detailed assessment of current humanitarian
needs in the region.
Food aid and logistics
The United Nations World Food Programme is to provide emergency food aid to 640,000 drought-stricken pastoralists in the Somali region of Ethiopia. A lack of rainfall during two previous rainy seasons has exacerbated drought conditions and the overall situation is further aggravated by a livestock ban from the region to the Gulf States because of the 1998 outbreak of Rift Valley Fever. The regional economy is dependent on livestock sales and the ban hurt the Somali speaking areas of Ethiopia particularly badly. In conjunction with the Ethiopian Government, WFP has reallocated a total of 8,000 tons of food from Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Jigjiga for the relief effort, which is to last one month. The government's Regional Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau will move the food locally to distribution sites throughout the Somali region. Local NGOs operating in the region will work closely with WFP and the regional DPPB in monitoring distributions to target beneficiaries.
In another agreement concerning food security, the Ethiopian government
signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Commission (EC)
for the provision of a US $26.5 million grant. The bulk of the funds, amounting
to US $13.8 million, will be used to locally purchase 50,000 tons of cereals
for use as emergency food aid by the Federal Disaster Prevention and Preparedness
Commission. US $6.6 million is to be used for an integrated food security
programme in selected weredas of the Amhara region, while US $4.4 million
has been earmarked for a similar integrated food security programme in
Tigray. The balance of US $1.7 million will be allocated for a capacity
building programme in food security. In other news, the United States Government
has announced an agreement to provide 10,000 tons of wheat in support of
the World Food Programme emergency operation for war displaced people in
the Tigray and Afar regions of Ethiopia.
Port operations and Logistics
The World Food Programme has encountered a number of problems with a 2,019 ton USAID Title II consignment of wheat grain destined for the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). Delays in discharge and finalising port clearance formalities, infestation of the cargo and an acute shortage of warehouse space in Mekele has severely hampered the operation. WFP is also expected to transport a consignment of 8,000 tons of wheat on behalf of the Canadian Food Grains Bank/LWF, but this shipment is not expected to arrive in Djibouti until around the third week of April.
During March, the WFP Food Aid Transport System (FATS) continued smoothly
with 249 trucks involved in the operation. In the period 1 – 15 March a
total of 15,346 tons of food aid was transported from Djibouti to various
destinations within Ethiopia with an average daily dispatch of 1,032 tons.
From March 16 – 29 a total of 11,074 tons of food aid was transported with
a daily dispatch average of 791 tons. In the period 30 March to 11 April,
the operation transported a total of 5,728 tons at a daily average offtake
of 440 tons. The decline in offtake is attributable to the gradual decrease
in cargo available at the port. WFP also continues to use the railway from
Djibouti to Dire Dawa thus increasing the potential off-take capacity from
Food aid pledges
As reported by the Federal Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission,
the response to the government's December 1998 appeal for food aid assistance
has been disappointingly sluggish. Confirmed pledges to date amount to
a little under 91,000 tons, of which only 10,000 tons had been delivered
as of April 13. Against the revised 1999 relief requirement of 319,586
tons, deliveries amount to little more than 3 percent. With recent field
assessments by the DPPC, the United Nations and NGOs suggesting that critical
food shortages are emerging in a number of belg-dependent areas
of the country, donors are urged to consider making early pledges. Once
confirmed, these pledges can be used to guarantee loans from the National
Emergency Food Security Reserve which currently holds in excess of 115,000
tons in uncommitted stocks.
|Deliveries as of 13/04/99||
The physical stocks of the Food Security Reserve continue to improve and with further repayments from the Canadian Food Grains Bank and WFP expected shortly and additional contributions from the European Commission/EuronAid in the local purchase pipeline, the outlook remains favourable. A new loan of 46,000 tons has recently been approved by the Technical Committee of the Reserve, the bulk of which will be drawn by the Federal DPPC. Taking this into account, as of April 13, the management of the Reserve report uncommitted physical stocks of 115,000 tons.
Health Issues: special report - Malaria
In Ethiopia, malaria is a major public health problem of epidemic proportions.
Accounting for about 6% of all outpatient consultations, malaria leads
the list of top diseases for outpatient morbidity. It is also among the
top causes of hospital deaths in Ethiopia. Every year, a vast area of the
country is affected by repeated malaria epidemics with the most recent
one occurring September to December 1998. In most areas, the disease’s
main transmission season is from September to November but the minor rainy
season, (February to March), also facilitates mosquito breeding and transmission,
so a short peak in cases occurs in malarious areas during this time. The
number of clinical malaria cases occurring every year in Ethiopia is estimated
to be one to two million.
Malaria control in Ethiopia
Following a major malaria epidemic in 1958, which resulted in three million cases and 150,000 reported deaths within a period of six months, the Ethiopian Malaria Eradication Service was established. The eradication campaign launched by the service in the north of the country involved blanket DDT spraying in all malarious areas. In 1971, the eradication programme was changed to a control programme and selective spraying replaced blanket coverage. This control programme continued until 1993 when the vertical organisation was decentralised and the Malaria Control Unit under the Central Ministry of Health was given the responsibility of regional capacity building, setting standards and guidelines, as well as providing technical support to regional health bureaux.
The malaria control strategy in Ethiopia comprises: vector control through
indoor residual spraying (IRS), larviciding and source reduction, disease
management, epidemic detection and control and the use of insecticide-treated
bed nets to reduce man/vector contact. There are 53 zonal health departments
with malaria control units. There are also 117 sector malaria control offices
located in malarious areas of Ethiopia. Almost all sector offices have
vector biology and control teams, microscopists and other malaria workers.
As of 1998, throughout the various regions of the country, there are 934
malaria control workers. At the central level, there is a core group of
five experts in the Ministry of Health. In 1998, the government allocated
more than US $3.7 million for malaria control activities alone. This budget
does not include allocations for other basic health services. Out of the
total malaria control budget, 40% is for insecticides, 20% for drugs, 18%
for operational activities and 22% for salaries.
Prevention and control of epidemics
The occurrence of malaria in Ethiopia is unstable with frequent waves of epidemics. Data on the epidemic prone areas show a dramatic increase of malaria cases over the past decade. During recent years, occurrence of El Niño Southern Oscillations (ENSO) events has caused repeated malaria epidemics in Ethiopia. Most of the periodic large-scale malaria epidemics occurred in 1980 – 81, 1988 – 89, 1991 – 92 and 1996, and these were also years in which strong ENSO events were reported. In 1992, hundreds of localities in the Rift Valley were affected by malaria epidemics associated with high mortality. An estimated population of 700,000 were at risk and a retrospective mortality survey carried out in seven localities revealed that 759 people died from malaria out of a total population of 13,000. The frequency of epidemic events has increased recently including highland areas previously known as non-malarious. These severe epidemics are associated with mortality and are mainly due to increases in temperature. In many warm lowland areas, excess rainfall has caused malaria epidemics.
Other factors that have contributed to recent outbreaks are:
Currently the main epidemic prevention and control strategies being employed include:
Due to the persisting problems of malaria in Africa during the last decade, the WHO Executive Board adopted a resolution in January 1996 to take action. Accordingly, it requested the WHO Director-General to strengthen existing malaria control programmes in Africa. In response to the call, extra resources were made available to selected African countries, initiating the WHO Accelerated Malaria Control Programme. In 1997, Ethiopia became one of the beneficiaries of these resources and launched programmes in 150 selected districts in the three regional states of Amhara, Oromiya and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’. The programme was planned and implemented by the respective regions with the guidance and technical support of the Malaria Control Unit of the Ministry of Health.
Under the WHO programme, a total of US $977,489 was allocated for Ethiopia in 1997. Prior to this, WHO Ethiopia’s regular budget allocation for a two year, nationwide malaria control programme amounted to US $345,000. Among the activities in this accelerated programme, the training of health workers at various levels was given special consideration in order to lay the foundation for an integrated control approach. In view of this, training programmes have been carried out, including management of uncomplicated and severe malaria, microscopic diagnosis of malaria, vector control techniques and strategies, techniques of insecticide-treated bed nets, epidemic prevention and control and strengthening the health as well as management information system in malaria control.
The programme’s 1998 plan and budget of US $700,000 included the training of instructors in medical colleges and nursing schools on the management of severe malaria and malaria control strategies. This was planned in order to improve the quality of training of medical students with regard to malaria disease management. In addition, funds have been transferred to regional health bureaux for further training of physicians, nurses, health assistants, malaria control staff and community health workers. Also in 1998, various vector control supplies and diagnostic supplies such as microscopes and reagents, anti-malarial drugs, bed nets and insecticides for bed net impregnation were requested.
Management information systems
The malaria control offices in many areas of Ethiopia continue to use an information system (for early detection of epidemics and management of the control programme), which was in place before 1993 and designed for use within a highly centralised malaria control programme. This is due to a lack of clear guidelines on how to adapt the former malaria control information system to the newly introduced decentralised and integrated health service system. In view of this problem, a series of workshops have been conducted at the central and regional levels and the Ethiopian Government is currently preparing national guidelines specifically dealing with the health and management information system for malaria control in the context of the current decentralised health service system.
WHO is a major supporter of the malaria control programme in Ethiopia. UNICEF is also supporting the programme by providing drugs and there is an interest in funding the insecticidal treatment of bed nets programme in the future. During the coming years it is anticipated that the control of malaria in the country will be intensified through WHO's continued support of the "Accelerated Implementation of Malaria" control programme and the global Roll Back Malaria initiative, (RBM). Launched in July 1998, the RBM initative is a global partnership of malaria affected countries, UN organizations, bilateral agencies, NGOs and the private sector working at local, national, regional and global levels to reduce the global malaria burden. UN system partners in the RBM effort are UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO.
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; CRDA Newsletter; Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC); European Union; FAO; FEWS; National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA); UNICEF; UNHCR; WFP; WHO. Also media sources: The Ethiopian Herald; AFP; Walta Information Centre; ENA.
14 April 1999
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