October - November 1999

Consolidated UN report prepared by the Information Section of the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia from information and reports provided by
specialised UN agencies, media sources, the Ethiopian Government and NGOs.


General Events and Developments  

Constitutional conference on economic rights: A constitutional symposium was held in Debre-Zeit town between October 14 and 17 under the theme "Economic rights in the constitution of the FDRE". The symposium was the 5th in a series of symposia on the provisions of the Federal Constitution and is part of efforts by the House of Federation to raise constitutional awareness and ensure effective implementation of the rights provided for in the Constitution. Members of the House of Representatives attended the meeting, which was organised for state governments and public institutions. A total of four research papers were presented by experts in law and economics. The subject of property rights and the issue of the Addis Ababa administration’s legal position were extensively debated by participants. A paper presented at the conference noted "The issue of the right to use land indefinitely, by means of private ownership, however, remains still unresolved. This in turn acts as an impediment to efforts by individual farmers to properly manage their plots and assist in the implementation of the Environment Policy and international conventions to fight desertification, which are dependent on land rights." On the subject of Addis Ababa’s administration, it was charged that the Addis Ababa city administration levies taxes and collects revenue in contravention of constitutional provisions. He was stated that only regional states and the federal government are entitled to levy taxes and collect revenues. "As Addis Ababa is only a seat of the federal government and not a regional administration it was only entitled to collect municipal revenues." Zeru Gebre Selassie, representative of the Addis Ababa Finance Bureau, refuted the charges, claiming that the Addis Ababa Administration has a mandate given to it by its charter. (Ethiopian Herald,7 November; Seven Days Update, October 25)

Addis Ababa hosts International Conference on HIV-AIDS: "Medhinu Hiwot" or "Fighting for Life" was the theme for an international conference on HIV-AIDS held in Ethiopia from November 7–10 at the UN Conference Centre. Attended by over 700 prominent local and foreign researchers who presented 50 research papers on the subject of AIDS, the conference was intended to result in the design of effective long term HIV-AIDS prevention policies. The specific suggestions and recommendations of the conference are expected to benefit Ethiopia’s efforts to design a national AIDS control programme and establish a national council for HIV-AIDS. The conference brought together people living with the virus and HIV-AIDS orphaned children, prostitutes, business and religious leaders, senior government officials and recognised scientists and researchers in a unique forum for dialogue and awareness raising on HIV-AIDS. The conference was sponsored by the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, USA, the Harvard AIDS Institute, the Science Faculty of the Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and the Harvard Institute for International Development. Support for the conference has come from, amongst others, the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Agency, UNFPA, UNAIDS, various religious organisations and commercial companies such as the Levi-Strauss Corporation and Ethiopian Airlines. The conference Executive Director, Elleni Gebreamlak West, has a mission to build a permanent centre for HIV-testing and treatment of AIDS sufferers in Ethiopia. Noting that AIDS has been a taboo subject in Ethiopia for a long time, Gebreamlak said she initiated the conference to "facilitate discussion of an issue of vital importance to Ethiopia". For AIDS to be defeated, she added, "we must create open and honest dialogue." (The Monitor, November 9; The Ethiopian Herald, November 5 & 9; Fighting For Life, First International Conference on AIDS in Ethiopia, conference publication)

President of Djibouti ends visit to Ethiopia: Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, accompanied by high ranking government officials, parliamentarians and representatives of chambers of commerce, paid an official state visit to Ethiopia from 1-4 November 1999. The visit of the president included a tour of the northern state of Tigray where he became the first African leader to visit the mosque of Negash built by the first followers of the Prophet Muhammed exiled in Ethiopia. A joint communiqué issued at the end of a four-day visit highlighted common concerns over "destabilising and terrorist activities directed at the two countries by [Eritrea]". The two leaders also agreed on the need for a summit of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as soon as Guelleh, the current chairman of IGAD, consults the leaders of the other member states. (AP, November 4; Walta Information Centre, November 3; Office of Government Spokesperson November 4; PANA, November 1)

Symposium on good governance: Six main opposition parties, yet to announce their participation in the May 2000 elections, have met with the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) for discussions on how free and fair elections can be guaranteed in the country. After the two-day symposium, held at the UN Conference Centre, the opposition parties presented the EPRDF with five demands. The groups recommended that the EPRDF guarantee: access to state-owned media by the opposition parties; the neutrality of civil servants; freedom of movement of opposition throughout Ethiopia and not only Addis Ababa; participation of international observers during upcoming elections and, most importantly, the impartiality and neutrality of the National Election Board. In conclusion, a representative of the Walta Information Service presented "points of agreement" that highlighted issues and positions taken by the EPRDF. These points included references to a change in government position regarding international observers, the willingness of the government to consider providing financial support to opposition parties and ongoing efforts to make the Election Board more neutral.

The symposium was organised by the Walta Information Centre who chose the theme, "Features of a Democratic Order and the Ethiopian Reality." According to The Reporter newspaper, the meeting was made possible through the financial support of international NGOs and governments interested in Ethiopia’s development in democracy, "Parliament in turn handed over a certain amount of money to Walta, which used it for organising the panel discussion." The meeting was attended by representatives of the EPRDF and high-ranking office-holders from the All Amhara People’s Organisation, the Council of Alternative Forces, the Ethiopian Democratic Union Party, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Union and the Oromo National Congress. (The Reporter, November 10; Sunday Herald, November 7)


While the official 1999 main season (meher) harvest assessment has yet to be completed it is already becoming clear that crops have been negatively affected by a number of factors that vary from one part of the country to another. Some areas have been caught in the prolonged after-effects of the poor belg season, which disrupted the normal farming cycle and resulted in delayed planting of main season crops. In addition, some parts of the country suffered subsequent crop losses due to pest infestations and localised flooding. Most significant, however, has been the failure of the belg rains which appear to have resulted in a reduction in the area planted with maize and sorghum this year. Maize and sorghum are normally planted as long maturing crops in the belg season to be harvested in September/October. The two crops account for about 40 percent of the annual grain production of the country. The shifts in the usual cropping calendar in response to the lack of rain, has meant farmers planted late and/or opted for shorter cycle, and thus lower yielding crops. The unusual rains that fell in cropping areas in late October have also introduced an additional element of uncertainty into current projections of main season production this year.

The abnormal timing of rainfall this year and subsequent change in planting patterns have also resulted in unusual weed infestations over large areas. Armyworm, Qwelea bird and black beetle (Pachnoda interrupta - "Sorghum Chafer") infestation have also occurred. Many farmers faced with such problems have not had sufficient seeds, or the damage occurred too late, to be able to replant. Substitute crops, to replace high yield cereal crops with shorter cycle, lower yielding cereals and pulses, such as teff and some pulses, have also been badly affected by the late and then unusually heavy rains. In the east and north of the country heavy rains have washed away young plants and caused water logging. In recent weeks, the highland runoff from these heavy rains has caused flooding on lowland river-bank farms along peripheral rivers such as the Baro in Gambella region, the Awash in the Afar region and the Shebelle in the Somali region.

In many chronically food insecure areas, such as Welo, parts of Gondar and parts of southern Ethiopia (Konso and Borena, for example), farmers and agro-pastoralists have been pushed to the limit of their ability to cope by the gradual erosion of assets and a failure to increase food production. The decimation or sale of plough animals and overall erosion of assets will prevent many people from being able to prepare for the next agricultural (particularly the belg 2000) season. Studies conducted in parts of Amhara Region (SCF-UK) show that the number of household heads who own animals has decreased significantly this year as compared to 1995. This gradual slide of better-off community members into increasing poverty will affect the poorest farmers who rely on their neighbours to assist with ploughing, seeds and other forms of social welfare.

In the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas, the late arrival of the main gu rains in the east, south and south-east, resulted in high livestock losses and weakening of herds, a situation which has been made worse by the poor performance of the current deyr (short) rains. Although the Saudi Arabian livestock embargo has been lifted, a sustained improvement in terms of trade have yet to be felt with livestock prices currently low because of an excess of animals being brought to market and the Hajj season (which normally generates considerable export trade) not due to begin until early 2000.

Overall, the current food relief requirement, which is unusually high for the time of year, reflects the extent to which some parts of the country have faced a series of crop failures this year. Even in areas where some belg production was obtained, it appears farmers are facing severe food shortages having nearly exhausted what meagre stocks they were able to harvest. Compounding the problem, it is now expected that many of the cropping areas will experience yet another poor meher harvest, with serious implications for food security next year. Of particular concern are farmers who are predominantly dependent upon the belg and who have exhausted their assets over the last several years and many of whom now have to wait until at least June before they can expect to harvest another crop.
Bridging Appeal Launched

In a preliminary assessment based on currently available information, on November 5 the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission released figures giving the expected extent of relief food requirements for the first quarter of the year 2000. The document, entitled "Emergency Relief Needs In Ethiopia, January-March 2000", is a bridging appeal designed to provide donors with provisional information on anticipated food requirements pending completion of the DPPC-led nationwide assessment now underway with the participation of UN agencies, donors and NGOs.

Previously, the annual pre-harvest crop and emergency food needs assessment was conducted in October and was followed by the launching of an annual appeal for relief assistance either in late November or early December. The process did not give room for any adverse conditions that sometimes occur in the period after the assessment and before the harvest. As a result, there have been repeated and significant errors in the estimation of crop yields. Yield reductions by hazards like unseasonable rainfall, frost, pests could not be adequately incorporated in the appeal. In addition, the relief needs of most of the pastoral areas were not included in the annual appeal and the impact of the October/November short rains on pastoral areas of Ethiopia could only be conducted after the appeal was launched.  

As a result of these inherent problems, the DPPC, together with its partners, has decided to delay the annual food needs appeal until mid-January and conduct the crop assessment over an extended period in November/December. This allows both meher crop and pastoralist areas to be included in the assessment and will improve the accuracy of the figures to be used in the final appeal. The release of the bridging appeal in the meantime is intended to allow donors to begin planning their response and thereby avoid delays in the delivery of relief assistance that might otherwise result from this change in scheduling.

According to the DPPC’s bridging appeal, the anticipated poor meher harvest, the impact of the drought in the pastoral areas, as well as the displacement of people as a result of the conflict with Eritrea is expected to put the lives and livelihoods of about 5,779,300 people at risk during the first quarter of 2000. The emergency food assistance required during this period is provisionally estimated at 260,069 MT. The breakdown of the number of affected people and the amount of food assistance required by region is shown in Table I below.


Table I: Likely number of people needing food assistance from January – March 2000
Target Beneficiaries
    1999 Cropping and Pastoral Area Assessment

Preparations for the annual DDPC-led multi-agency meher crop and food needs assessment mission have begun with a series of orientation workshops on the methodology to be implemented during the assessment. The Logistics and Planning Group of the DPPC’s Early Warning Working Group scheduled the missions to begin on November 6 with a record total of 20 teams engaged in the nationwide exercise. Each of the 20 teams will spend 3-4 weeks in their respective areas. The teams, which comprise representatives of the DPPC, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, NMSA, Ministry of Water Resources, donors, UN agencies and international NGOs, will travel to Tigray, Amhara, Benishangul, Oromiya, SNNPR, Gambella, Harari, Afar and Somali Regions as well as the City Administrative Council of Dire Dawa and visit almost all the zones in the regions.

By scheduling the teams to visit crop-growing areas closer to the harvest period it is hoped to minimise discrepancies between pre- and post-harvest figures. Also, for the first time, the timing of the assessment will allow for pastoralist areas to be included in the assessment. Three of the 20 teams will be travelling to pastoral zones in Oromiya, SNNP, Afar and Somali Region. This will enable the annual appeal to reflect more comprehensive national figures and avoid the need for additional separate appeals.

Meanwhile, the annual FAO/WFP Crop Production and Food Needs Assessment Mission will visit the country from 15 November to 5 December. The mission will assess the 1999 meher crop performance and estimate production and food import requirements in 2000, including food aid needs. With the assistance from FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning Services the mission will also collect and analyse dis-aggregated weather data and provide field verification of satellite images for the 1999 season. The mission will spend a few days in Addis Ababa to consult with national authorities and other relevant agencies before undertaking field trips to the regions, zones and weredas.


In the first dekad of October, with the exception of parts of South Tigray, parts of southern Oromiya, some areas of northern Afar, north-eastern Amhara and parts of eastern SNNPR, the rest of the country exhibited normal to above normal rainfall. Heavy falls ranging from 30-69 mm in one day were reported from the northwest, central western, southern and northeastern highlands of Ethiopia.

During the second dekad, rainfall greater than 50 mm was reported in most parts of north-western, western, northern parts of SNNPR and the south-eastern and eastern highlands of Oromiya. The condition caused physical damage to crops and water logging. The below normal rainfall over western parts of Tigray and Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambela, western Oromiya and SNNP had a negative impact on crops which had not yet reached maturity.

In the third dekad of the month, western and southern areas of the country received rainfall ranging from 5-100mm. Rainfall was particularly heavy in some parts of the southern highlands. Among the reporting stations Dilla and Neghelle recorded around 45 mm of rain in a single day. Such unusually heavy rain may have had a negative impact on harvest and post-harvest activities and affected crops which are in the final stages of maturing. Heavy runoff from the Shebelle River watershed during this period led to localised flooding downstream around Kelafo and Mustahil. Near normal rainfall (deyr season) was anticipated during this period over areas of southern and south-eastern parts of the Somali region favouring an improvement in pasture and water availability, however, reports from the field indicated only sporadic and less than satisfactory rainfall. Throughout the month, below to much below normal rainfall was also observed over areas of northwestern Tigray, Afar and central and northern parts of the Somali Regional states.

The official weather outlook for the first part of November 1999 anticipated an increase in cloud coverage and rains over the lowlands of Somalia and near normal rainfall in western Oromiya, Gambella, western and southern parts of SNNPR, Bale and Borena. With the normal southerly movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), seasonally light rains were anticipated for the southern half of Somali, Borena and other southwestern and southern portions of Ethiopia. Meanwhile, much of the northern and central half of the country should be dry, with cool nights.

Wabe Shebelle Floods

The Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS) has reported on extensive flood damage in Gode Zone of the Somali National Regional State following its participation in a regional Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau-led rapid assessment mission to flood affected areas from October 27-29. According to the mission’s findings, the flooding was caused when untimely and prolonged heavy rains in the central highland areas of the country swelled the Wabi Shebelle River.

The river burst its banks October 22 and 23 along its lower courses around Kelafo, and extending 160 kms through Mustahil, up to Ferfer, on the Somalia border, and covered the entire area with 3-5 meters of water. The first victims of the floods, in Kelafo wereda, were hit by the sudden floods in the middle of the night when they unprepared to evacuate. OWS reports that 80% of the population in the Kelafo area was forced to move to higher ground while some groups who remained behind found themselves cut off by the floods and were stranded on rooftops and in trees. In Mustahil the town became encircled by the over-flooded waters. The rapid assessment mission was unable to visit Ferfer due to time constraints but reports were received in Mustahil that the situation in Ferfer was similar to conditions further upstream. According to the OWS report, out of an official zonal population of 327,156 people, the floods affected 70,000 - 80,000.

The riverside weredas of Kelafo, Mustahil and Ferfer are known for their agricultural activities with perhaps 80% of the population involved in a combination of irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, growing maize, sorghum, sesame and soybeans. In the current flooding, a total of 7,500 hectares of farmland along the riverbank were inundated, damaging crops and destroying traditional grain stores. The loss of grain stocks is a serious setback for the population which has been surviving with no rain and little food aid over the past year.

The federal Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission responded quickly to the emergency with an airlift of wheat grain, high-energy biscuits and shelter materials, sent to the flooded areas on 2 and 3 November. In addition, 20 truck loads of grain has been sent to the area from Dire Dawa. The regional Bureau of Health also sent a medical team to instigate malaria and diarrhoeal disease control measures and dispatched its entire stock of medical supplies to the flood sites. The Ogaden Welfare Society is currently appealing for assistance to 70,000 to 80,000 flood victims who are urgently in need of food, drugs, tents, plastic sheets, clothes, blankets, household cooking and eating utensils. The most urgent needs reported are medical supplies and drugs, supplementary food, shelter materials and seeds for the use of farmers as the floods recede.

Food Aid and Logistics

1999 food aid requirement, donor response and current shortfall

The need for additional food aid pledges in 1999, despite an already good donor response to Government appeals, is attributed to the further deterioration in the food security situation made evident by the emergence of additional cropping areas which are vulnerable, the growing impoverishment of farmers affected by the 1999 belg failure and rising pastoralist needs. In order to meet these increased needs with existing resources, food is being shared among larger numbers of people than otherwise targeted for assistance, with the result that in many cases people receive less than the standard monthly cereal ration of 15 kgs.

In an effort to keep donors informed of changing needs, the federal DPPC has issued a number of revised appeals during the course of the year, and it is expected that a similar strategy will be adopted for 2000. Following the poor belg season rains, the first appeal update issued in May requested 320,392 MT of relief food assistance for 4.2 million drought-affected beneficiaries. There was a further upward revision in July 1999 when the DPPC indicated 368,586 MT of food assistance was required for 5.3 million beneficiaries for the period June to December 1999. Based on field assessments, in October the DPPC issued a final update for the last quarter of the year, identifying just under 7 million people in need of food assistance in October, 6.5 million in November and 4.2 million in December. On the basis of a standard monthly ration of cereals, this translates into a need for over 160,000 MT of relief food for the months of November and December alone, with a shortfall in pledges of around 70,000 MT

With large scale relief programmes underway this year, it is unlikely that there will be a significant amount of food to be carried forward to next year. Although substantial food deliveries are expected within the coming three months, the bulk of these deliveries will be repayments to the Ethiopian Food Security Reserve and, as a result of this, carry-over stocks from 1999 to 2000 are expected to be minimal.

Table II: Status of pledges against 1999 Food Aid Requirements - Cereals & Pulses
(Covering the Period, January 1 to November 16, 1999)
1999 Pledges
Relief (MT)
Regular (MT)
Monetisation (MT)
Italy - -
France - - 10,000 - 10,000
UK  9,000  - - - 9,000 
Norway 4,143 850 - - 4,143
Canada 2,400  3,487  - - 5,887
Denmark 8,912 2,280 - - 11,192
Spain  716 716
Belgium 2,000
Total 426,009 120,065 67,673 50,000 663,747
Deliveries as of 16/11/99 145,201 81,855 57,673 - 284,729
Source: WFP (16/11/99)

WFP to revise Emergency Operation for Drought Victims

WFP is responding to persistent food needs with a proposed budget revision to its current drought emergency operation (EMOP 6143) with the aim of meeting the increased needs for a five-month period from 1 November 1999 to 31 March 2000. The revision will call for continued assistance for the remainder of 1999 and the first three months of 2000 to be extended to:



The proposal will not include the internally displaced.


Based on feedback from recent assessments conducted in North Welo, North and South Gondar, and South Tigray, plus additional information from the DPPC concerning conditions in pastoral areas WFP proposes to meet the unmet needs (based on committed pledges) of 30 percent of the people estimated by the DPPC to require food assistance for the last two months of this year and the projection for the first quarter of 2000. On this basis, WFP is expected to approach donors for an additional 21,308 MT of cereals to help meet the November-December shortfall and a further 36,908 MT as a contribution towards the projected requirements for the period January-March 2000. In addition, due to reports of increasing malnutrition among vulnerable groups, WFP will be requesting 1,492 MT in high energy/high protein foods to enable provision of a monthly supplementary ration of 3 kgs of supplementary food to 35 percent of the total population receiving WFP assistance. Furthermore, the budget revision is expected to include 706 MT of famix resourced under the UN Country Team drought appeal launched in July 1999.





The WFP food aid transport system (FATS) trucks have been released to be called back mid-November in anticipation of the arrival of a total of 66,000 MT in food aid expected to arrive at Djibouti Port during the period 15 to 30 of November. In order to solve the logistics challenges posed by the sudden increase in traffic at Djibouti, WFP has launched a special operations proposal for infrastructural improvements at the port. Specifically, the project aims to increase access to and utilization of Berth 13 and improve the storage and weighing facilities of the port. The goals of the proposed operation are to enhance the port’s operational efficiency; to facilitate emergency operations in Ethiopia; and, reduce overland and external transport costs related to its Ethiopia operations.


The proposals, presented to donors in early November, aim to sustain Djibouti port’s current port handling capacity and improve the ability to cope with the expected increased relief tonnage in the coming year. The operation will also improve the port’s ability to control and account for food and non-food movements. The operation includes a plan is to provide the port with four truck weigh bridges and additional WFP storage in the form of a semi-permanent storage facility of the Rubb-Hall type, with a capacity of 5,000 MT. The Infrastructure and equipment support to the Port of Djibouti is expected to last 4-6 months and will cost an estimated US $2,585,153. The financial support of interested donors is being sought.



Emergency Food Security Reserve Update


As of November 3, the Ethiopian Emergency Food Security Reserve’s stock at hand was 52,531 MT, well below the recommended minimum level. 81,496 MT was under withdrawal and 217,858 MT was outstanding pending repayment. Up until mid-October, the EFSR stocks stood at an acceptable level of 116,000 MT. During the last two weeks of October, however, a total of 64,000 MT issued in loans to the DPPC and 5 NGOs. Most of the incoming food aid at present is in repayment to the EFSR. The EFSR is expecting a total of 96,000 MT in November and 46,000 MT in December as repayment to the stock.



Refugees and Returnees


UNHCR suspends Voluntary Repatriation Operation of Kenyans in Ethiopia


The Government of Kenya has asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to suspend the return of 4,700 Kenyan refugees from Ethiopia. UNHCR said the repatriation had been called off due to security concerns and clan fighting in the refugees area of return. Earlier the Ethiopian government had agreed to return some 550 Kenyan refugees originally from Isiolo in Kenya’s North Eastern Province from refugee sites in Moyale along its border with Kenya. A spokesperson for UNHCR told reporters, "the government did send in Kenyan officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, who went in and met with the refugees and verified that these indeed were Kenyans. I think that the government is saying to us that the timing perhaps could be withheld for a short time." The spokesperson said that the situation of the first group of 550 refugees that were turned back from Moyale was critical since the agency did not have further supplies of food and water for the refugees. UNHCR staff who had been re-deployed to Moyale to carry out the operation were recalled pending agreement on the resumption of the operation. The refugees had sought asylum in Ethiopia in May 1993 after Kenya’s first multi-party elections in December 1992 which provoked hostilities between the Somali Degodia and Ajuran clans living in the Wajir district of northern Kenya. (IRIN, November 4)



Refugee Statistics as at 31 August 1999

West (Sudanese) 


Bonga 13,140 

Fugnido 29,965  

Dimma 8,464  

Shirkole 16,411 


Sub-total 67,980 


South (Kenyans/Somalis) 


Moyale 4,780 

Dolo* 8,000 


Sub-total 12,780 




East (Somalis) 


Hartisheik (A & B) 29,535 

Aisha 15,283 

Kebribeyah 11,622 

Teferiber 30,444 

Derwenaji 27,017 

Camaboker 28,590 

Rabasso 16,811 

Daror 33,950 


Sub-total 193,252 


Addis Ababa (various) 470 


Afar (Djiboutians) 1,099 


*Not a formally recognised refugee settlement

Administrative Map of Ethiopia













UN; Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC); National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA); EFSRA Newsletter; UNHCR; WFP; FAO; Ogaden Welfare Society Field Assessment Report on Flood Affected Areas. Also media sources: The Ethiopian Herald; AFP; Walta Information Centre; ENA.


14 November 1999

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

PO Box 5580, Fax: (251) (1) 51-12-92

Addis Ababa, e-mail: ETHIOPIA