GOAL Ethiopia: Report # 1 - Afar Zone 3 Emergency Needs Assessment, Aug 2002


This emergency needs assessment has been undertaken by GOAL in order to complement and expand the information collected in the GOAL nutrition survey and address the severe lack of clear, quantitative information about the needs of the population in Zone 3 of Afar Region. The report uses the information collected to identify the key needs and make recommendations as to the priority interventions required. The report also outlines the problems and issues that must be considered in planning relief operations in Zone 3.


This assessment started on 5th August and involved the following;

  • standard 30/30 nutrition cluster survey conducted in the Zone using standard methodology, this included household survey of 220 households.

  • Key informant questionnaires (30 - 1 in each cluster).

  • Meetings with Government officials in all Woredas and representatives from Ministry of Health, Water, Agriculture Departments.

  • General observations and informal interviews with other individuals and agencies.

  • Comprehensive reviews of existing baseline data and other recent assessments of the area



  • The current most reliable estimates of the Zone's population is around 164,439.

  • Increased population movements have taken place, however these are virtually all within the Zone and have reversed with the start of the current rains.

  • There are at least three "enclaves" of Issa populations physically situated within Zone 3 who consider themselves administratively and politically part of Shinille Zone in Somali Region. The boundary between the two Zones is not clearly delineated.

  • Ethnic clashes are reported to be higher than normal but are not considered to have significantly exacerbated the current crisis.

  • The only significant population movement from outside the Zone due to the drought was a movement of approximately 3,000 people from Sumurobi Woreda in Zone 5 to Gewane Woreda.


The first recorded meher rains fell on 20th July in Argoba Woreda. Rainfall has now fallen in all parts of the Zone with the best rains falling in the southern and eastern Woredas. However rainfall has not continued as normal in many areas, particularly the northern Woredas. Rainfall has caused rivers to rise which has severely affected access to certain parts of the Zone.


  • 90% of the Zone's population rely on unprotected water points (rivers, streams and ponds etc) as their main source of water

  • Given the onset of rains, water quality has become a more serious issue than water quantity. In particular the lack of basic environmental health education is a critical problem.

  • There are 53 man-made water points in the Zone, of which 28 are non-functional. These are extremely unevenly distributed.

  • Non functional water points reflect chronic water problems in the Zone and have not been exacerbated significantly by the current crisis.


GOAL's household survey showed livestock losses to be 75% for cattle; 69% for shoats and; 66% for camels. However GOAL believes an overall mean average mortality rate of 50% for all livestock to be more realistic. The cattle population in the Zone is assessed as follows;

  • Pre-drought cattle population: 491,036
  • Estimated current cattle population: 245,518

Starvation has been the primary cause of virtually all livestock death. Mortality rates peaked just as the rains started as weakened animals succumbed to cold and wet conditions.

No major outbreaks of animal disease recorded.

No fodder has or is being distributed and breeding stock is not being targeted or prioritized for feeding.

Human Health and Nutrition

GOAL's nutrition survey indicates the following:

  • 17.9% global acute malnutrition (6 - 59 months)

  • 2.9% severe acute malnutrition (6 - 59 months)

  • Malnutrition amongst the 6-29 month age group was particularly high at 25.2%

  • Under 5 years mortality rate is over twice the expected average - poor malnutrition and contaminated water sources appear to be key factors affecting this

  • EPI rates are 3% and measles immunization 17.6%

  • Milk production from cattle has virtually ceased and over 73% of children are not receiving milk daily - this is the usual source of essential nutrients.

  • Milk production from shoats is continuing although yields are much lower and the supply is increasingly limited given livestock mortality rates.

  • Disease epidemics were reported in 44% of the areas surveyed (diarrhea and ARI common).

  • Exceptionally high human mortality rates were recorded in 12 of the 30 PAs surveyed.

  • Health facilities in the whole Zone are poor and there is no cold chain facility in three of the six Woredas.

Current Emergency Response

Most households (73%) have received relief food allocated by DPPC and distributed through DPPD and Woredas in July and August. These allocations were based on a DPPC assessment that 62,490 were in need of assistance. However it is clear that rations were not targeted and were shared throughout the population. Therefore rations received would be significantly below minimum requirements.

The DPPC has now established an emergency co-ordination point for the Zone near Melke Sede.

No other emergency, relief activities are currently ongoing in the Zone.


GOAL recommends the following interventions are undertaken immediately:

1. General ration distribution of to entire population of 164,000.

2. Blanket supplementary feeding to vulnerable groups, particularly under 5s.

3. Emergency measles vaccination and vitamin A campaign to targeted groups.

4. Address the issue of poor environmental sanitation and water quality through massive public awareness campaign and other direct interventions to improve water quality.

1.0 Introduction and Background

1.1 Background information

Afar is a large, semi-arid region of north-eastern Ethiopia, structured into five zones and 29 Woredas. The Afar Region is one of the poorest and least developed regions of Ethiopia. It is predominantly populated by the Afar people (numbering approximately 1.25 million), most of who are subsistence pastoralists heavily dependent on livestock for their existence.

Although naturally semi-arid, since August 2001 the region has experienced a prolonged period of drought, made worse by the delayed onset of the current main rains. Since June an increasing number of reports have described the deteriorating state of livestock in many parts of the Region and neighboring East Shoa zone. Reports also describe lack of pasture, decreasing water availability and heightened ethnic tensions between the Afar and other ethnic groups such as the Kereyou, Ittu and Issa. All reports mention significant livestock deaths, particularly cattle, and many report unusual migration patterns. These are clear signs that traditional coping mechanisms are failing and that an emergency situation is emerging.

However, although the situation appears serious, GOAL and a number of other agencies, including USAID, identified a key problem as being a severe lack of any systematically collected and quantitative data available. This has made establishing the scope and scale of the situation, and planning any response difficult. The lack of data is partly attributable to the nomadic nature of the rural population which makes them difficult to track. However it is aggravated by the following:

  • the region is so vast and sparsely populated

  • the capacity of the Woreda, Zonal and Regional authorities is low

  • the Afars are traditionally very disdainful and independent of formal authorities

  • there are very few NGOs or other development agencies present in the area

As a result GOAL applied and received funding from USAID to undertake a comprehensive needs assessment of the situation in Zone 3 of Afar Region. This zone is adjacent to GOAL's existing area of operation, Fentale Woreda, East Shoa Zone, and is one which many reports claimed to be one of the hardest hit. GOAL consider this assessment to be vital in planning any appropriate and effective emergency responses.

The assessment comprises two elements - first a broad general needs assessment examining needs in all sectors; and secondly, a comprehensive 30 x 30 nutrition survey including household and key informant questionnaires. The assessments took place concurrently in mid-August. This is the first of two separate reports which together comprise GOAL's Emergency Needs Assessment of Zone 3, Afar.

2.0 Objectives

The overall Emergency Needs Assessment of Zone 3, Afar Region was commissioned with the following four specific objectives:

  • To undertake a statistically sound nutritional assessment to identify health and nutrition status of the Zonal population.

  • To undertake a systematic assessment of the emergency situation in all Woredas of Zone 3.

  • To determine the most acute areas of concern

  • To propose appropriate, practical and logistically feasible mechanisms for intervention.

The first objective has been thoroughly addressed in the accompanying Nutritional Survey Report (Report 2 of this commission).

This Emergency Needs Assessment (Report 1 of this commission) draws on the findings of the Nutritional Survey report as well as addressing the remaining three specific objectives.

Specifically GOAL has sought to verify and clarify the following:

  • Population numbers, identifying the proportion affected by the drought, especially vulnerable groups.

  • Population movements - in particular to monitor and map the locations of the affected populations, noting any abnormal clustering or movements that are currently, or likely to take place.

  • Livestock numbers and condition - the number of livestock in each Woreda noting their location, feed availability, mortality and morbidity rates etc.

  • Status of any other crop production and use of other sources of food e.g. wild foods.

  • Assess the current security situation, particularly ethnic tension or fighting between different groups or clans.

  • Map out water sources by woreda, assessing their current capacity and functionality.

  • Status of current emergency interventions, particularly food distributions by governmental and non-governmental organizations.

3.0 Methodology

3.1 Geographical Scope

Both the Emergency Needs Assessment and Nutritional Survey covered Zone 3 of the Afar Region, which is one of five zones in total. Zone 3 was selected because many of the assessments and reports about the drought claimed that it was one of the most acutely affected zones. Also because it neighbors Fentale Woreda where GOAL's are currently undertaking a drought relief program area. A map is provided as Appendix 5. Within Zone 3, the assessment covers all six woredas: Awash Fentale, Amibara, Burumadaitu, Gewane, Dulecha, and Argoba. It specifically surveyed 30 different kebeles within the Woredas, out of a total number of 71 kebeles. The chosen kebeles were randomly selected based on population density estimates, and the scope of the assessment was not limited to villages located off the highway, but rather penetrated areas far from tarmac roads, deep into the heart of nearly inaccessible rural areas.

Given the lack of roads and fixed settlements in the Zone, physical boundaries are often very unclear. In Zone 3 this is particularly true of its eastern boundary with Shinille Zone, Somali Region, which is far from any fixed reference points such as roads, rivers or permanent settlements in either zone. The incursion of Issa populations (from Shinille Zone) further blurs the boundary. The assessment team found that the accepted physical boundaries shown on most maps of the Zone do not necessarily correspond to local political and administrative delineations. This issue is discussed more fully later in the report. However the map shown overleaf gives the best representation of the geographical scope of the assessment, the location of the various Woredas and the estimated location of Issa areas within Zone 3.

3.2 Methods of Data Collection and Analysis

The findings and recommendations outlined in this report are drawn from both primary and secondary data.

Primary Data

GOAL's 30 x 30 nutritional cluster survey. The survey not only collected anthropometric data on over 900 children (6-59 months), but also collected household and village information through a survey of 220 household and 30 key informant questionnaires. Surveyed clusters were located randomly throughout all six woredas of Zone 31.

Additional unstructured interviews, meetings and conversations with a wide variety of local Government officials, representatives from DPPC, Regional Bureaus, UN agencies, community groups, locally active NGOs and local individuals.

Secondary Data

Baseline statistics on the area were collected from a range of Government sources, particularly DPPC, DPPD, Ministry of Health, WFP and WHO.

A thorough review of all recent assessment and other reports from a wide range of sources. A complete list of source documents is contained in Appendix 1.

Figure 1 Map of Zone 3 with Estimations of Issa Areas

Fieldwork for this Assessment and the Nutrition Survey took place between 5th - 16th August 2002. Both before and during this period ongoing data collection and consultation with sources based in Addis Ababa also took place.

Key informant questionnaires in the sampled clusters usually comprised kebele chairmen, however key Woreda officials were consulted in each of the six Woredas. In the field representatives from the Ministries of Health; Agriculture; Water, Energy and Mines were widely consulted and provided extremely useful information.

On occasion the assessment team would visit villages with the nutritional team, but not usually. Though the pace of the assessment was slowed because it was tied to the nutritional assessment, it meant that more time was spent in locations enabling more detailed observations to be made. It also meant more primary data was gathered, and that the assessment has the weight of the results from the nutritional survey.

Once the results of the nutritional survey were analyzed they provided the key source of original data against which all other data has been reviewed, compared and assessed. The findings set out in this report represent GOAL's evaluation of the situation to date.

3.3 Constraints and Limitations

One of the key problems in undertaking an assessment of this nature is making judgments on a situation that is constantly changing, often very quickly. Consequently the assessment represents a snapshot of conditions at the time of the assessment and must be read with an understanding that new information and events emerge every day. Despite this the Assessment faced two major constraints; time and baseline data.


Clearly emergency assessments must take place quickly. However this directly affects the amount of information that can be collected and amount of time that can be spent in the field. Although arrangements were made to undertake the Nutrition Survey - the most time consuming element, as quickly as possible (five separate survey teams were mobilized), unforeseen factors hampered the fieldwork. In particular the onset of rains significantly affected access around the Zone as rivers rose and off-road tracks became impassable. As a result this meant that to access populations in Dulecha, Argoba, and most of Burumadaitu, the team was forced to drive around to Debre Birhan and Shoa Robit and establish as new base of operations for a few days. This involved detouring either back through Addis Ababa or via Mille and Kombolcha resulting in unforeseen travel days and long commutes to survey clusters - delaying the completion of the survey. As a result a rapid nutritional assessment of the Issa population of the Zone, which was originally planned, was not possible.

Baseline Information

There are a number of limitations in the amount and quality of baseline data that exists for this Zone. One particular problem was the difficulty in getting accurate maps prior to leaving for the assessment. Because the team was focusing only on Zone 3, instead of the whole region, we found that the maps lacked detail. One of the chief problems was the way the Awash River's course has been shown on maps in relation to each of the woredas. Also, there were no maps to delineate accurately the borders of the woredas, only very generally, and the team found them lacking in accuracy.

Other statistical data was also completely lacking, making comparisons and assessments difficult. For example information regarding livestock populations, other than cattle, does not exist at the Zonal level making it difficult to estimate current populations even when mortality rates are established. Much of the other baseline statistics available are unreliable and inconsistently reported.


1 See Report Number 2 - GOAL Nutrition Survey for details on sampling methodology.

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