Ethiopia: Humanitarian aid "needed until June 2009"

NAIROBI, 28 October 2008 (IRIN) - The government and Ethiopia's humanitarian partners should prepare for significant increases in vulnerability until at least June 2009 if rains are poor between October and January, an early warning agency has said.

In its latest food security alert, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) stated that food insecurity could deepen in parts of the country should below-normal rains fall in the October-December/January season.

"Regardless, food aid and nutrition interventions remain a priority," the agency said. "Water-provisioning activities (catchments and increased water trucking) during the coming dry season (December-March) may also be necessary."

Livestock interventions, such as commercial de-stocking, veterinary care and vaccinations, are also required before and during the dry season, FEWS Net said.

Coping mechanisms

Households have cut down on meals and are selling productive assets to meet their immediate needs, the agency said.

At least 45 percent of Ethiopia's 63 million people live below the poverty line, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the incidence and severity of poverty higher in rural areas - where 80 percent of the population live.

According to FEWS Net, the emergency food requirements for Ethiopia from September to December are estimated at 270,245 mega tonnes (US$218 million), with an additional $7.8 million required for supplementary feeding, and $39.8 million for non-food needs.

With forecasts pointing towards the possibility of poor rains, continued deterioration of livestock welfare and pastoral terms of trade and extremely high prices for staples, FEWS Net said, the number of food-insecure people in affected parts of the country, such as the Somali Region, Oromiya, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region and northern Afar regions will likely increase between now and June 2009.

Extra help

Aid agencies estimate that 6.4 million Ethiopians are already acutely food-insecure, 1.9 million of them from the Somali Region.

"Even if current forecasts prove inaccurate, recovery of highly and extremely food-insecure populations in these areas will require several consecutive normal rainy seasons and continued assistance in rebuilding their asset bases," it said.

Already, parts of south-eastern and northern Ethiopia are experiencing high or extreme food-insecurity levels.

"To prevent further deterioration of food security, additional assistance is needed until at least June 2009, when the next rainy season for these areas is complete," FEWS Net stated.