Ethiopia Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 29 February 2016

Key Issues

  • Given procurement and transportation lead time required, the food sector funding gap should have ideally been covered by the end of February. Without international support, the Government will cover the life-saving gap, but at the cost of planned development programs.

  • The Government and partners are expediting the distribution of seeds to farmers to capitalize on the good belg season forecast and before the planting window closes, but significant gaps remain.

  • Health sector partners are supporting the Government to respond to various disease outbreaks, including measles, AWD, meningitis, dengue and scabies. Poor funding (3%), poor access to WaSH services, and inadequate drug stocks are some of the challenges faced by the sector.

Ethiopia is responding to an El Niño-caused drought emergency:

The El Niño global climactic event has wreaked havoc on Ethiopia’s summer rains. This comes on the heels of failed spring rains, and has driven food insecurity, malnutrition and water shortages in affected areas of the country. A well-coordinated response is already underway and expanding rapidly, although the scale of the developing emergency exceeds resources available to date. Given the lead times necessary for the procurement of relief items, the Government and its international partners have called for early action to this slow onset natural disaster.

The window for timely action is closing

The Government and the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team are increasingly voicing their concern over the looming pipeline break of relief commodities, and are asking donor partners to rapidly fill the gap. While the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP), the USAID-funded NGO consortium, has enough food in stock until mid-June for the 2.6 million people it assists, WFP needs US$228 million to prevent a food pipeline break in May and June for 7.6 million people. Given the 120 days procurement and transportation lead time required, the funding gap should have ideally been covered by the end of February. The window for timely and effective action is rapidly closing.

Delayed action usually turns an emergency into a crisis

Each day without food assistance exponentially increases human suffering, lengthens the recovery period of affected people, puts increasing pressure on the humanitarian and development systems in place, and the interventions become that much more expensive. Food assistance with supplementary feeding for the moderately malnourished is three times cheaper than responding to severe acute malnutrition that include life-long cognitive impairments for those affected.

Early warning – early action?

During the 2011 Horn of Africa drought, early signs of an oncoming food crisis were clear months before the emergency reached its peak. Yet, it was not until the situation had reached crisis point that the international system started to respond. This time, the international system has a great opportunity to do it differently; the peak of the hunger season is still in-front of us. The Government and the humanitarian community have been raising the alarm since July/August 2015. Some donors have gradually stepped-up, and more than $617 million was mobilized so far. But this is not nearly enough to meet rising needs. Without international support, the Government will cover the life-saving gap, but at the cost of planned development programs.

Capitalizing on the forecast good belg season

According to the National Meteorological Agency, above-normal rainfall is expected in much of south and south eastern Ethiopia; predominantly normal rainfall in the north, central and eastern parts; and below-normal rains in the west and north western parts of the country. Field reports already indicated the start of the rainy season in most parts of Amhara region, including the severely drought-affected Wag Himra zone, and in Southern and South Eastern zones of Tigray region since Wednesday, 24 February. The Government and partners are expediting the distribution of seeds to farmers before the planting window closes, but significant gaps remain. For more information, contact: ocha-eth@un.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.