Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in over fifty years, caused by a series of poor rainy seasons which have affected food production and livelihoods across large areas of the country, causing food crops to fail and livestock to perish. In December 2015 the Government of Ethiopia announced that a staggering 10.2 million people are currently in need of emergency food assistance – including over 5.75 million children - and these estimates have been further increased in some sectors reflecting increasing needs; an additional 800,000 MAM cases are now projected for 2016 as a result of the impact of harvest losses last year (see attached prioritization statement).
In early April the Government also revised the March 2016 Hotspot Woreda classification, increasing the number of Hotspot Priority 1 woredas from 186 to 219, and 443 in total (see revised hotspot map and FEWSNET IPC projection maps for 2016).
The 2016 Belg season is helping to break the drought conditions as normal or above-average rainfall has been received in many parts of the country during the month of April. This creates an opportunity for livelihood and recovery, although optimism is cautious as it will be several more months before people can harvest crops and animal herds can take at least two years to fully recover. Heavy rains, exacerbated by El Nino causing unseasonal heavy rainfall and by the lack of vegetation in highland areas due to prolonged droughts causing rapid run off, have also caused flash floods in many areas, causing further crop and livestock losses and challenges to manage food deliveries and nutrition support in remote areas (see attached flood hazard map).
The 2016 Belg harvest assessments will be conducted in June, and the results are likely to be reported in July, to form the HRD requirements for emergency food assistance for the second part of 2016. The safety net programme PSNP usually finishes in August, and there discussions ongoing about how to provide further support to those that are drought affected within the PSNP programme in the second half of the year. Nutrition projections based on historical norms and expectations from this year indicate a rise in OTP admissions of SAM and MAM cases throughout Q2 and Q3, which traditionally peak in August but this year could start as early as June in the lean season, for which Save the Children is continuously scaling up and strengthening our support to the Ministry of Health to ensure a robust management system in preparation for that peak, along with other sectors of our response strategy.
Save the Children has conducted two reviews of our overall response- one focused on operations and the second on program quality-, and will be developing a new plan for the next phase of the response strategy during June-July to coincide with data on the Belg harvests and with the intention on shifting into longer-term recovery.