Ethiopia: International Save the Children Alliance Food Security Update Mar 2003

Situation Report
Originally published

Overview of the Current Situation
Drought conditions have continued to prevail over most parts of Ethiopia in early 2003, extending the dramatic decline in crop production in certain areas of Somali, Tigray, Oromiya, Amhara and SNNPR Regions. According to current reports, over 11 million people, or 17% of the population are facing difficulties in accessing food because of the drought. The most recent research emanating from the WFP and the Government Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) indicates that, as of mid-February, areas still experiencing critical drought and critical food insecurity include Wag Hamra, Shinille, Korahei, Oromiya, North and South Gonder, North and South Wollo, and East Gojjam. It is expected that the impacts of the poor rains in 2002 will be experienced throughout 2003. So far, according to estimates, crop production in 2002-03 was 21% lower than the five-year average for the country overall. According to the WFP food aid needs have been rising, from 7.1 million in need of food in January, to 9.9 million people in March. There are concerns that the situation in some areas which are currently being closely monitored will deteriorate to the degree that intervention will be imminently needed. Assessment teams are being sent out to all of the affected regions in March to analyse the zones and woredas in which this is the case.

In general, in 2002, rains were late in coming, and ceased early, with widespread impacts on crop and livestock production in late 2002 and early 2003. They led to losses of short season crops (teff and pulses), as well as severely impacting long-season crops (such as maize and sorghum). Many pastoralists and agro-pastoralists hadn’t recovered sufficiently from the 2000 drought, meaning their ability to cope with further problems in 2002 had been eroded. In many areas livestock prices have been steadily declining, while cereal prices have sharply increased, disrupting people’s ability to access food. Water and pasture deficits have led to unusual migrations of households and cattle in some of the drought affected areas, particularly in Somali Region, in search of better pasture and water availability. Livestock deaths have also been experienced throughout the country, affecting not only livelihoods, but people’s access to milk and dairy during the dry ‘hungry’ season.

The severity of the drought is even more critical in the pastoral areas, particularly in Afar and Somali Regions, which experienced a near failure of the Karan/Gu rains (due in July and late March, respectively). In these regions, impacts of the drought include widespread livestock losses, rising grain prices, the distress sales of household assets, depressed prices, unseasonal migration, increased selling of wood and charcoal, increased labour competition leading to reduced wages, and rising malnutrition.

Affected Population
Affected Population
Dire Dawa

Food Availability and Donor Response

FAO/WFP estimate that the meher harvest is currently 25% smaller than last year’s Ministry of Agriculture post-harvest estimates. This represents a 21% decline from the average for the previous five years. According to the FAO/WFP assessments, Ethiopia will face 2.3 million metric tonnes (mt.) of food deficit in 2003. There are concerns that the situation in some areas which are currently being closely monitored will deteriorate to the degree that intervention will be needed imminently, and assessments are currently underway to ascertain whether or not this is the case. According to the DPPC and WFP, food reserves are currently sufficient to cover May at a reduced ration size of 12.5 k per person, as opposed to 15kg. However, there is likely to be a shortfall of 32% in June. Meanwhile, just 50% of the total supplementary food needs were met in February. With current pledges, 74% of the supplementary food requirements are planned to be met this month, and some 60% in April.

Impact of Recent Rainfall

In December, untimely rains fell in central Ethiopia, with mixed impacts, though overall the impact was more positive than negative in terms of improving pasture and water supplies. According to the DPPC, these rains had the potential to help some livestock recover but did not have a significant impact on the food situation overall. In general, the rains that occurred in December were not used to plant crops, with the possible exception of belg-dependent areas in the northeast and transitional crops in the southwest region of SNNPR. In the north, farmers used these rains to begin land preparation for the belg season. In Central, Southern and Eastern Tigray, the unexpected December rains helped to alleviate water and pasture shortages. While there were fears that the rains would damage crops that had been planted, evidence has shown that most farmers had collected their crops by the time they arrived. Further south in the highlands, and in Amhara region, Central Oromiya and SNNPR, rains contributed to post-harvest losses, however, minimal. Meanwhile, in the lowlands of Oromiya and SNNPR, the rains contributed to better water and pasture conditions. In the Somali region, the short rains that had been expected in November, were late and thus had less impact than hoped, leaving drought conditions to persist. This was particularly the case in the Zones of Shinille, Korahei, and parts of Jijiga and Gode, where water shortages have led to unusual livestock migrations. These short hais rains however, never have a significant impact since they rarely last more than a few days.

This Bulletin outlines the current food security situation and the subsequent response by the International Save the Children Alliance, which is made up of five agencies in Ethiopia: Save the Children Denmark, Norway, Sweden, UK and US. These agencies are operational or work through partners in the Zones of Somali, Amhara, Oromiya and Tigray, some of the most drought-prone Zones in the country. The International Save the Children Alliance has a wealth of experience in these areas, and has developed an in-depth understanding of livelihoods and food security related issues in each of them over the years. Through the early warning monitoring work that the Alliance undertakes with local partners, including government authorities, UN agencies, and other NGOs both local and international, it is able to closely monitor changes as they occur region to region, and district (woreda) to district to develop a picture of the ever changing food security situation, and the likely effects of change upon communities.

International Save the Children Alliance Response

Somali Region


The situation in Somali Region continues to be mixed. Save the Children is operational in Shinille, Jijiga, Fik, Gode, and Liba Zones,, all of which are described as being in critical condition by the WFP. According to the DPPC, the food security situation generally deteriorated in January, but this was expected, as the region is in the midst of the long dry jilaal season. Throughout the region the deyr rains started early or on time, but in the Zones of Degehabur, Fik, and Gode they also ceased early. Whilst improving pasture and browsing resources, the rains did not have much of a long-term impact in Shinille, Fik, Korahei, Jijiga, Gode or Afder Zones. In all of these Zones, the food security situation is deteriorating and is expected to continue to do so as the dry season progresses. Areas of Shinille, Fik, Warder, Gode, Korahei and parts of Liban and Jijiga are also critically in need of water interventions, with Shinille the most critically affected.

The livelihoods of pastoralists have been severely affected, leading to widespread livestock migration in the region, in particular to Oromiya, Afar and Somaliland.

Terms of trade for pastoral and agro-pastoral groups were mixed across the Region. In Shinille, Warder, Korahei, Gode, and most of Degahbur they have been steadily declining, disrupting people’s access to food. The poor condition of livestock has led to a low market demand, and poor terms of trade between shoats and grain. The failure of agricultural production in the neighbouring areas of Oromiya has contributed to food insecurity.

Incidences of diarrhoea have been widely reported, although the situation is generally improving. Many areas with chronic water problems in the dry season have started to face shortages.

According to the DPPC’s plans, while December food aid requirements in the region were 9,552 mt., distributions amounted to just 2,836 metric tonnes (mt.) meaning just 36% of the total needed was received. In January a total of 11,056 mt. of cereals, and 367 mt. supplementary food were allocated to the region. This represents 74% of the Region’s cereal requirements, and 56% of the supplementary food needs. WFP predicts that approximately one million people will be in need of food aid in Somali during 2003: 284,224 of them in Shinille; 215,338 in Jijiga; 199,332 in Fik; 91,500 in Gode; 44,161 in Korahei; 96,000 in Afder; and 50,800 in Liban.

Shinille, Fik, Gode and Liban

Water shortages have been prevalent in all of these areas though this is expected during the jilaal. While Fik, Gode, and parts of Liban and Jijiga Zones have all been affected, Shinille Zone has experienced the most severe impacts of the drought.

The emergency situation in Shinille deteriorated during January as distress migrations continued, and high malnutrition rates emerged. Jijiga and Shinille usually receive four to five days of rainfall in December but in 2002 these rains started late. Though Shinille eventually received a decent rainfall, it had little impact on crop production conditions. In early January, many drought-affected people started to migrate with their livestock from eastern Shinille in all directions, many of them to Adwal Region. Herders migrated to East Hararghe, and parts of Jijiga and Fik Zones in an effort to preserve their remaining herds. Unusually, pastoralists also began moving from Ayesha and Shinille districts to Guba, Somaliland. Significant numbers of livestock have been dying on their way, particularly near the Somalia border. While significant numbers of camels, shoats and some cattle remain in the Zone, they are predominantly concentrated in the southern foothills. Diseases associated with unsanitary water conditions broke out in the Zone in January, according to the Ministry of Health. As Shinille enters the harshest period of the jilaal (locally known as kaliil) enhanced water, food and supplementary feeding interventions are needed.

In Fik Zone, according to the DPPC, approximately 35,000 people have been affected by the drought. Many of the common water points have dried up, leading the Disaster Prevention, Preparedness Bureau (DPPB) to scale up tankering operations in the Zone with the help of international NGOs. While SC-UK and Government food interventions have helped to improve access to food and to keep prices down in early 2003, the food security situation is still precarious now that the jilaal is underway. Water and pasture conditions have become very poor in most parts of the Zone meaning livestock condition and production has started to deteriorate. This has partly been due to an influx of large numbers of livestock and people from neighbouring Zones in the last quarter of 2002. Agro-pastoral groups, which comprise about 20% of the population, are among the most affected by the current hardships, largely because their herd sizes are relatively smaller than those of pastoralists.

In July and August 2002, the western part of Afdem and Meisso districts received karan rains. However, the failure of the Wabi Shebelle, Fafen and Weyb rivers to flood has meant that agro-pastoralists in these districts will receive minimum harvests this year. ENCU, SC-UK, funded by UNICEF, and the Federal and Regional DPPC undertook a nutritional survey in these districts in December 2002 . A summary of the findings indicated that Global Acute Malnutrition rates were approximately 13.7% The food security situation in Afdem district seems to have deteriorated faster than expected, despite decent deyr1 rains. According to the DPPC, the immediate concern focuses on internally displaced people (IDPs) who are living in the Zone. Livestock migration is taking place earlier than usual from these districts to other parts of the Zone. Restrictions in cross-border trade from Somali and the failure of local crops meanwhile, have resulted in low cereal supplies.

In Gode, the 2002 deyr rains were the worst in three years, lasting six days instead of the usual 30. Accordingly, livestock conditions have continued to deteriorate due to a shortage of pasture and water, leading to livestock migration from Kalafo and Mustahil to other parts of Gode Zone, as well as to Somalia. Food insecurity is prevalent due to crop failure, early exhaustion of pasture, and water shortages, and these conditions are expected to continue as the dry season progresses. The food security situation of pastoralists meanwhile, seems to be stable.

The deyr rains continued up to December 2002 in most parts of Liban Zone, and their positive effects were felt until January, with pasture in decent condition in most parts of the Zone. The food security prospects are nevertheless unstable, due to poor human health, and large numbers of IDPs residing in the Zone. The water situation will require both short and long-term interventions. While livestock conditions are currently good to normal, some diseases have been reported.

Save the Children Response

SC US is currently operational in Erer and Ayesha districts, while SC-UK is sub-granted through USAID to run emergency operations in Shinille and Dembal.


Through grants obtained by the Gates Foundation, SC-UK and SC-US worked in conjunction with the DPPC and the Federal DPPC to conduct a nutritional survey in the pastoral/agropasroal districts of Erer, Ayesha, Shinille, Meisso, Afdem and Dembal. Its aim was to estimate the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and thereby forward recommendations for short and long term intervention. UNICEF funding was provided for the Meisso/Afdem assessments. According to the survey, GAM rates were particularly critical in Shinille, at 15.7% Meanwhile, a joint SC-UK-US December nutrition assessment reported 16-18% malnutrition rates in Afdem and Meisso districts.

Food Aid

Humanitarian interventions continued during January, February and March. SC-US, SC-UK, and ICRC allocated and distributed food aid in Shinille Zone; SC-UK in Dembal and Shinille, and SC US in two other districts. SC-US and SC-UK have been provided with funding through USAID, and JEOP2, DFID, and the Gates Foundation in this Region. Both organisations work in conjunction with the Regional and Federal DPPC throughout the region.

In December, through grants obtained by the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, SC-US and SC-UK worked in conjunction with the regional and Federal DPPC to conduct three nutritional surveys in the above Zones. Results indicated that Global Acute Malnutrition rates, at 15.7%, were particularly high in Shinille. SC-UK provided 6,400 mt. of DFID-backed food aid to until January 2003. The organisation also distributed 1,478 mt. of grain to Fik Zone in February through USAID/JEOP funding, and plans to provide a total of 4,434 mt. until May 2003. Meanwhile, between January and May 2003, SC-UK will provide 722 mt. of supplementary food to Shinille. Between December 2002 and February 2003, the organisation already delivered 3,160 mt of USAID-funded grain to Shinille. Another 4,317 mt. is expected to be distributed from March to May.

SC-US provided 3,807 mt. of food aid to Somali Region in December and January of this year. The organisation plans to deliver a total of 15,168 mt. for Somali, East Hararghe and Amhara regions, between January and May 2003. SC US will also distribute 1,963mt. of supplementary food to Somali Region between March and May. Meanwhile, over the next five years, SC-US has additional plans to provide $6 million worth of USAID-funded supplementary food to malnourished children in this region, as well as income generation activities for the Afdem district.


Several common water points, including shallow wells, hand dug wells, and ponds, have dried up throughout Shinille Zone. SC-US received Gates Foundation funding to provide water tankering to Shinille and Dembal. SC-US with help from SC-UK, has provided four water tankers for Ayesha, Shinille, and Dembal, and thus far has distributed over 2.2 million litres of water to 50,000 beneficiaries in 22 distribution sites. Nevertheless, these amounts are not sufficient to meet people’s daily requirements.

Emergency Education

SC-US will be intervening in school feeding, water and sanitation, and the provision of teaching materials to 250 schools in drought-affected districts across Afar, Somali, Oromiya and Gembelle Regions, in an USAID-funded project.


Funded by the Gates Foundation, SC-US conducted livestock vaccination and treatment campaigns in Ayesha and Dembal districts, providing four types of vaccines, veterinary instruments, and related field materials to these areas in December 2002. The operation was headed by a SC-US team, and involved two veterinary teams from the Shinille Zone Ministry of Agriculture. Though a total of 243,847 and 116,330 heads of livestock were vaccinated, severe shortages of livestock drugs continue to be a problem in the region.

Amhara Region


Save the Children is operational in four Zones in the region: North and South Wollo, Wag Hamra North Gonder. In 2002 crop production in Amhara was severely affected by poor rains in the later part of the belg season, delays in the onset of the meher rains, and their disruption between the second and third weeks of July 2002. Because of the short belg, and late meher, planting of long-cycle crops was delayed leading agro-pastoralists to switch to short-cycle varieties. Poor harvests were reaped due to poor soils and limited preparation time. Overall, in 2002, production was estimated to be 17% lower than 2001. Reductions meanwhile, at Zonal level, vary from 51% in Wag Hamra to 9% in North Gonder.

The eastern lowland areas of Amhara, including East Gojjam, and parts of North and South Gonder, North and South Wollo, experienced acute shortages of pasture and water by the end of 2002. Significant numbers of cattle died throughout Amhara Region, including Save the Children’s operational areas of North and South Wollo, and North Gonder.

In 2003, the belg rains seem to have been promising in belg crop-producing areas of North and South Wollo, meaning planting and cultivation has gone ahead. No rain has been reported as of yet for Wag Hamra or North Gonder Zones, though none is expected. There are no current reports of livestock problems, or of unusual coping mechanisms.

According to the DPPC, a total of 5,553 mt. of food aid was distributed in Amhara in December. In this month, unseasonal rainfall fell throughout the region, with the exception of North Gonder. According to the WFP, drought-affected areas, including lowland areas of Wag Hamra, benefited from improved pasture and water resources, reducing some of the stress migration that had been taking place.

North and South Wollo, North Gonder and Wag Hamra Zones

Save the Children Denmark is operational in Gidan woreda in North Wollo. The economic mainstay in this woreda is subsistence agriculture, but unreliability of rainfall, poor soil fertility, and environmental degradation have led to poor agricultural production. The area is primarily belg producing, but in 2002 it faced a failure in both belg and meher rains. According to the DPPC, a total of 4,189 people have been critically affected.

South Wollo, according to the WFP, experienced production declines of 40% in 2002-03 compared to 2001-2002. Nutritional surveys in hard hit areas along the eastern escarpment such as Dessie Zuria and Kalu, indicate that the situation has not significantly improved with the meher harvest. The NGO ‘Concern’ reported malnutrition levels of up to 17.2% and 16.6% in certain areas of the region. In Sekota woreda for instance, households in a typical year meanwhile, will obtain 41% of the food they need through their own crop production, will purchase 31% of their food needs, and are reliant on food aid to cover the rest. However, as a result of the drought, are facing significant reductions in their own crop production, as well as their purchasing power, thus their reliance on external help has significantly increased.

According to the WFP, North Gonder Zone experienced production declines of 44% in 2002-03, as opposed to 2001-02, severely affecting the livelihoods and food security of poor households. The DPPC reports that 473,000 people are affected by the drought. However, while the region is keen to re-assess certain areas due to potential late losses of crops linked to the unseasonal rainfall in November, there are currently no areas causing immediate concern.

Save the Children Response

Save the Children Denmark (SC-D) is operational in Gidan district in North Wollo. SC-D is strengthening its ongoing education work by providing school-feeding and nutritional support to 2,000 children and mothers, and by distributing grain to 4,189 people. The organisation will be providing 324 mt. of grain, and 8,775 litres of oil to malnourished children and drought-affected adults over the course of 2003 through DANIDA backing, and has also distributed 614 litres of oil, and 18 mt. of supplementary food to schools. SC-D is also focusing on awareness raising on childcare issues, employment growth schemes and income generating schemes in the woreda.

A nutrition survey carried out by SC UK indicated that malnutrition rates in West Belessa woreda of North Gonder Zone had reached critical levels in July 2002. A post harvest assessment undertaken by the DPPC indicates that 43,005 people will be in need of food aid between March and September of this year. SC-N will be providing $540,000 worth of emergency relief through Norwegian government funding. Since June 2002 the organisation has also been involved in Dabat woreda in the same Zone, and will continue to provide a food security response to the tune of $459,770 until December 2003. Finally, SC-N, in collaboration with Norwegian Church Aid, has planned to erect 30 relief food centres in drought-prone areas of the country as part of capacity building efforts by the DPPC.

In North and South Wollo, from January - March 2003, SC-UK delivered 2,432 mt. of EU backed grain. The organisation, meanwhile, plans to deliver 416 mt. and 276 mt. of USAID/JEOP funded food in these Zones until May 2003. The organisation is currently trying to obtain more funding to support future projects in these Zones. In addition to providing relief, SC-UK is running a three-year USAID-funded programme that is designed to link relief to development in innovative ways by adding additional support to food relief to help farmers become self-sufficient. Finally, the organisation is providing cash for relief to 52,300 people in select communities.

As part of a separate USAID grant, SC-UK’s Relief to Development Programme in Wag Hamra and North Wollo will be providing 57,720 mt. of cereal to 137,000 in Sekota and Gubalafto over three years. As part of this, the organisation plans to deliver 19,240 mt. in 2003.

Oromiya Region


Save the Children is operational in East Shewa, East and West Hararghe and Boreno Zones of Oromiya Region. The eastern part of Oromiya was most severely affected by the drought in 2002. Particularly hard hit were East and West Hararghe and the lowlands. In December, the highlands of East and West Hararghe experienced unseasonal rainfall. While there are fears that this rainfall could potentially have had a negative impact on the unthreshed teff and unharvested sorghum crops in the region, it also proved to be positive, enabling land preparation to begin in the lowlands, causing increases in production of chat and coffee, and improving pasture conditions and water resource availability. Nevertheless, towards the end of 2002 deteriorating nutritional status was reported in parts of Oromiya, including East and West Hararghe, Arsia, East and North Shewa. East Shewa experienced a 47% decline in its 2002 crop, compared to the five-year average, and experienced chronic food insecurity. Production in North Shewa meanwhile, fell to 74% of the long-term average. Household food security in these areas has been further affected by the negative impact of food and water shortages on livestock production, increased supply of labour and thus declines in wage rates, and high cereal prices leading to poor terms of trade. According to the DPPC, 82% of the total food requirements for December were distributed, which in real terms amounted to15,807 mt, 14,952 of it distributed by NGOs. The DPPC estimates that 3.1 million beneficiaries will be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2003.

Save the Children Response

Save the Children Sweden (SC-S) is undertaking food aid in Siraro woreda, one of 12 woredas in East Shewa Zone, through the Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI), a local NGO. With 62 peasant associations, it is one of the largest woredas in the Zone, and 50% of its population are children. SC-S purchased 42 mt. supplementary food and 14,678 litres of oil for 6,000 children in the region to be provided through education centres, and to ensure the continuity of alternative basic education in the area. Thus far, 254 mt. of grain, and 15 mt. of supplementary food have been distributed to affected children and their families. According to SC-S’s assessment, 45 peasant associations faced severe food shortages, and it is estimated that over the next 12 months 79,377 people or 40% of the total population will face a severe food crisis.

In January 2002 in conjunction with CARE, WFP, SC-UK and other NGOs in the area, undertook an assessment to examine coping strategies in East and West Hararghe, as well as the development of an index for impact monitoring of food aid.

SC-UK recently conducted an assessment of people’s coping strategies in the region, alongside CARE and WFP. SC-UK has provided 2,100 mt. of food aid through USAID/JEOP in East Hararghe since December 2002, and will deliver 2,100 more through the end of May 2003. SC-UK will also provide a total of 352 mt. of supplementary food between January and May 2003. $516,000 has been obtained through SC-Norway, and Save the Children Canada (SC-C) with the Canadian Government to test community based therapeutic feeding for malnourished children and lactating mothers in East Hararghe. The programme is being implemented through SC-UK.

SC-US meanwhile, is focusing on supplementary feeding, early warning, and long-term income generation, through a seven year USAID-funded project in Borena district. Between December 2002 and January 2003, SC-US delivered 964 mt. of food in Oromiya, reaching a total of 51,964 beneficiaries.

Tigray Region


WFP estimates that 1.8 million people will be in need of assistance in Tigray region, for a period of up to nine months. SC-S works in the Southern, Eastern, and Central Zones of the Region. There are two principal rainy seasons a year in these Zones, locally known as azmera, (March to early June) and tsidiya (mid-June to the end of September). In 2002 these rains were very poor, which had serious affects on the planting of long-cycle crops and land preparation. As a result, production in 2002-03 in the region as a whole, was 47% less than the five-year average. In December, rains did occur in these Zones, providing marginal improvements in poor pasture and water conditions, and enabling land preparation for Belg crop production to take place.

Save the Children Response

Save the Children Sweden (SC-S) is active in Tigray Region. From December 2002 - June 2003, SC-S will be providing 116mt. of food aid through a $57,471 SIDA grant. The organisation also plans to provide supplementary food to 13,000 children under five between February and April 2003.


1 The deyr rains occur in November and December.

2 JEOP stands for Joint Emergency Operation Plan of USAID.