Ethiopia: Update on the current situation and assistance requirements

Situation Report
Originally published


Joint Government - UN Addendum
Executive Summary

The year 2002 was characterized by one of the worst droughts of recent years. The poor performance of the Belg rains and its absence from many lowland areas of the country in April and May significantly affected planting and early planting of the long cycle crops of Maize and Sorghum, which account for 40 % of national production. Poor Belg rains and associated agricultural performance was then compounded by the delay of the main rains (kiremt) of between one - one & half months, which magnified the effects of early year drought. As rains did not continue past their normal cessation date, some areas had less than one month growing season.

The November multi-agency pre-harvest assessment conducted by over 20 teams in 53 zones confirmed lowland areas in the North, East, South and Central parts of the country as severely affected. Some midland areas are also badly affected, where main long-cycle crops withered with the extended dry period between mid-April and the end of July. Maize and sorghum reduction in drought affected lowland areas is estimated between 70% and 100%. Some surplus producing parts of the country have also been adversely affected, causing significant decline in the overall national food availability. Central Statistics Authority's production assessment results indicate that total annual production is 25.8% down from last year.

Pastoral areas are also affected, especially Afar Region and Shinille and Jijiga Zones in Somali Region, which experienced their lowest rainfall in five years for both rainy seasons (Belg (short) = GU and Kiremt (long) = Kerma). As a result, many traditional hand dug wells, temporary rivers, ponds and "Elas" dried up, leading to water shortages for both humans and livestock and a shortage of pasture and moisture in lowland cropping areas.

The Food Supply Prospects in 2003 report issued by the DPPC in February 2003 provides the latest projections for food requirements and beneficiary numbers for food assistance. In addition, rapid joint assessments are being conducted countrywide to determine adjustments to be made in current beneficiary numbers and to identify areas where assistance requirements are particularly acute.

This March update of the Emergency Assistance Requirements and Implementation Options for 2003 (often referred to as the "addendum") attempts to draw attention to the latest needs estimates for all sectors in relation to the drought emergency. It stresses the need for an increase in commitments and deliveries of emergency assistance for all sectors, for the distribution of full cereal rations and the attainment of supplementary food distribution targets to an estimated 35% of the population expected to need enhancement of their diet.

The challenges that lie ahead in the delivery of general food assistance nutrition, health, water, agriculture, livestock, education, HIV/AIDS and capacity building and in the coordination of these interventions can best be overcome by continued and enhanced collaboration among all partners and the sustained support of donors whose generosity to date has allowed the relief effort to contain the problem but not override the impact of the emergency.

This addendum represents the consultative and collaborative efforts of the Government of Ethiopia and its partners through the sector task forces established to deal with emergency.

1. Food

Millions of subsistence farmers and pastoralist families are faced with a desperate food situation. Relief food needs for 2003 will peak between April and June, with a possible respite for some areas if there are good February-June rains. The multi-agency assessment teams concluded that a peak of 11.3 million people will need food aid in 2003 while just under 3 million people are expected to be able to cope but will remain under close monitoring. There are indications that some of the population under close monitoring already needs food assistance. Multi-agency teams led by the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) are being deployed in March for a rapid re-assessment of selected districts. Food aid requirements may be adjusted on the basis of these re-assessments and results will be communicated to donors.

The relief food needs for 2003 are currently estimated at 1.46 million tonnes of food, including 1.3 million tonnes of cereals and 132,000 tonnes of fortified blended food and vegetable oil as supplementary food. The blended food and oil is for particularly vulnerable groups (children under-five, pregnant/nursing women, the sick and the elderly) and are provided as a supplement to the general cereal ration as a "blanket" distribution. In order to ensure maximum coverage of targeted beneficiaries, the cereal rations have been reduced from the planned level of 15kg/person/month to 12.5kg/person/month so far in 2003. While this has also been the practice in previous years, as food insecurity is especially acute this year, a reduction in ration risks that household food availability will be unacceptably low. A quantitative inadequacy of cereal ration can lead to supplementary food (i.e. blended food and vegetable oil) being consumed by all family members rather than only the intended vulnerable members. The reduction in rations and the shortage of blended food has meant that some of the nutritional requirements so far in 2003 have not been met: distributions for January to March are estimated to reach 80% of planned levels: 332,000 tonnes against requirements of 414,000 tonnes; the shortfall has contributed to high rates of malnutrition in some parts of the country. The current pledges of food assistance meet 58% of requirements. This can cover food need only until end of June, even if lower cereal ration rates are used and supplementary foods are targeted only to the worst-affected districts. The consequences of delays or breaks in food distributions in the remainder of the year will be grave, both for cereals and supplementary food.

Some areas of the country become inaccessible between July and September, at the height of the main rainy season. Thus there is the need to pre-position relief food for certain districts during May and June for the requirements between July and September. The needs for this action are 80,000 tonnes of food and it is essential to secure enough food resources to pre-position this food in time; the current pledges would not allow this to happen.

Key strategies being pursued:

Coordination: Relief food agencies coordinate food distribution activities based on the national requirements. These are disaggregated to district-level populations in need and the corresponding food requirements. The coordination body is in the government's DPPC. The Food Aid Task Force (DPPC, WFP, NGOs and donors) reviews the relief food situation every two weeks.

Effective Employment Generation Schemes (EGS): though most people identified for food assistance will be reached through gratuitous relief distributions, food-for-asset creation will be used to the extent possible, utilizing relief resources.

Early warning: vigilance of the population under close monitoring, mid-year assessment of the pastoral areas and belg rains, close monitoring of meher season preceding the next main harvest in late-2003.

Capacity Building: Support to the Emergency Nutrition Surveillance Coordination Unit (ENCU) in the DPPC will facilitate improved targeting of resources and co-ordination; improving communication and logistics equipment; modernizing government and counterpart information communication technology; training district level staff in the use of National Food Aid Targeting Guidelines.

Key emergency response activities:

Resource mobilisation:

  • The contingency planning scenarios and requirements and the early release of the Joint Government-United Nations Appeal has assisted in providing donors with advance information. The response from donors has been encouraging in late-2002 and early-2003. Continued efforts to provide accurate and timely information to donors and the media will be needed. WFP aims at resourcing around 40% of total requirements, with 60% covered by contributions to the government and NGOs.
  • International procurement: Most of the relief food requirements in 2003 will be met though imports. These will either be in-kind or as cash contributions for international purchases.

  • Local procurement: For cash contributions (as opposed to in-kind contributions), agencies preference is to purchase locally, if possible. However, local purchases are subject to prices being equivalent or less than import price parity; local purchases must also meet delivery schedules for timely distributions to beneficiaries or to meet repayment obligations to the Emergency Food Security Reserve (EFSR). Cereals for local purchase in 2003 are substantially less than in 2002 and will be quantified by a WFP/European Commission Cereal Availability Study. Limited quantities of blended food may be purchased locally.
  • Port Operations: Djibouti will remain the major port for delivery of relief food into Ethiopia. Vessel arrivals will be scheduled in accordance with port capacity and there is good co-ordination between relief agencies, major importers of bulk cargo, and the port authorities.

  • Djibouti Port Capacity: Using an average offloading rate of 5,000 tonnes per day, a 12-month period and an average of 25 operational days per month for vessel discharge, the port could handle relief food shipments of at least 1.5 million tonnes.

  • Overland Transport: The available truck fleet transferring inland from Djibouti is over 3,000 trucks, which would be able to cope with the potential off-take (WFP's contracted transporters have a total of 1,350 trucks and are able to transport an average of over 5,000 tonnes per day from the port). The railway offers between 4,000 to 7,000 tonnes of capacity per month.

  • Inland Warehousing, Transport and Distribution: Emergency relief food is received directly by DPPC and NGOs or by the EFSR as repayments for loans. With up to 424,000 tonnes of DPPC and EFSR storage capacity available at strategic locations, there is adequate warehouse space.

  • Alternate Routes into Ethiopia: consideration has been given to alternate import corridors in case vessel arrivals coincide to the degree that they exceed Djibouti's port capacity: a) Berbera Corridor - up to 30,000 tonnes of food per month could be routed through Berbera (Somalia) targeted for distribution within the Somali Region and for other adjacent areas of Oromiya such as East Harerge; b) Port Sudan Corridor -with the distance involved, importing through Port Sudan would be possible but relatively expensive for overland transport.
  • Food allocation plans are based on the DPPC Early Warning System information in consultation with the Regions, donor and relief agencies (e.g., WFP or NGOs). Relief agencies may borrow cereals from the EFSR against a pledge. Food aid imports are normally received at Djibouti port and, as with local grain purchase, commodities are transported to primary storage locations or repaid directly to the EFSR. The food basket is cereals for the general ration (including EGS) and fortified blended food is targeted to particularly vulnerable groups. Children under-five, pregnant/nursing women, the sick and the elderly are considered particularly vulnerable groups, estimated at 35% of the population requiring food assistance. These distributions are to be complemented by the targeted supplementary and therapeutic feeding requirements set out under Chapter 3 "Health and Nutrition".
  • This includes between port and primary warehouses/distribution sites (commodity tracking); mid-level monitoring - distribution monitoring, utilization reporting; and post-distribution monitoring.

  • A commodity tracking system (COMPAS) has been established both for WFP and DPPC food, including despatches from the EFSR. COMPAS provides information to monitors on food dispatches down to more than 1,000 food distribution points.

  • For mid-level monitoring, DPPC and WFP compare food allocations against requirements and allocations against dispatches by district, including NGO and bilateral donations.

  • Periodic food utilization studies and post-distribution monitoring complement the regular post-distribution monitoring system operational at field level through relief agencies' sub-offices.
March 14, 2003
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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