Humanitarian aid to assist the victims of livelihood insecurity, climatic hazards and conflicts


Location of operation: ERITREA
Amount of Decision: EUR 6,000,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/ERI/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1 - Rationale:

The year 2005 can be described as a highly tense and difficult year for Eritrea in economic and social terms as well as the role it has played on the regional and international stage. The five year long unresolved border dispute with its neighbour, Ethiopia, has continuously led to decline in many sectors: livelihoods, health, food security, engendering greater levels of poverty. Despite estimated better harvests in 2005 - around 200,000 MT, as compared to 80,000 MT of the previous year - Eritrea will not be able to cover its annual national food consumption needs, estimated at between 500/600,000 MT. It is classified as a structural food deficit country.

At the end of 2005, the risk of the resumption of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea, due to the stalemate on common border demarcation, was extremely high. In the meantime, the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) faced challenges preventing it from performing its peace-keeping tasks. UNMEE's mandate could potentially be reduced to a sole observation role in the course of 2006, increasing the possible risk of dispute in the United Nations Security Council. The eastern part of its neighbouring country, Sudan, is becoming more unstable: various rebel armed factions, along with Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) troops, control this part of Sudanese territory, also known as the territory of Northern Democratic Alliance (NDA). Early January 2006, the Sudanese national army launched an attack on its main city, increasing the possibility of an influx of refugees into Eritrea. Any SPLA withdrawal from NDA territory could lead to an increase in violence and to an influx of refugees.

Eritrea is currently facing challenges posed by years of chronic drought, desertification, poor infrastructure and continued insecurity along the border with Ethiopia. The scope of the needs arising from the present situation is large and diverse. From a humanitarian point of view, the immediate consequences of the situation affect primarily the health and nutritional status of vulnerable populations. The risk of a resumption of hostilities on the border with Ethiopia and in the eastern part of Sudan, makes the need to prepare for possible large population movements all the more necessary.

Economic decline has led to worrying humanitarian indicators. A rate of 21.9% of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is estimated within children under 5 years old, even more in some areas(1). Rate of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is estimated at 4.1% (2). More than 50% of the women and children are reported to be chronically malnourished. There is a structural lack of water resources, and the agro-pastoralist sector remains in a constant state of precarity, barely ever entering a recovery phase.

The scarcity of available food has a direct impact on widespread malnutrition throughout the country. At the same time, since August 2005, WFP was not able to implement general food distributions for its 1.26 million beneficiaries in some regions of Eritrea, due to the unresolved dispute regarding its operations. Eritrea, which has suffered from persistent droughts in the recent years, is currently the most food aid-dependent country in the world, with two/thirds of its population requiring food assistance.

The penury and poor quality of water, consequences of successive years of drought (2002, 2004 and partially 2005), insufficient and unbalanced distribution of rains, lack of water points and weak maintenance, are directly responsible for the worrying water-borne disease morbidity rates commonly found in rural areas.

Livestock production has a crucial impact on the nutritional status of the population, mainly children, as milk is providing a large part of the caloric intake in agro-pastoralists communities. Losses of livestock have been commonly reported over the past years, leading to asset depletion and less and less resilience on the part of the rural communities to cope with harsh periods. An estimated 40% of the Eritrean population relies on livestock as its main source of income.

Eritrea's capacity to cope with this situation has declined in 2005. Out of an estimated population of 3.8 million, about 2.3 million - including IDPs, refugees, expellees, returnees, host communities and children - are threatened by hunger and extreme poverty, according to UN agencies. This represents a negative trend : compare 1.7 million people in 2003 to 1.9 million people in 2004 in need of assistance.

DG ECHO's(3) intervention will seek to address the immediate acute needs through its few partners present in the country, in the following sectors of intervention: water, nutrition, health, livestock support and assistance to IDPs.


(1) CONCERN, Anseba zone, rapid assessment March 2006.
(2) UNICEF regional CAP 2006. The most recent nutrition surveys show GAM ranging from about 9% to 24%
(3) Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO