Save the Children/USA Ethiopia Drought Emergency Update #1, Sep 2000

from Save the Children
Published on 13 Sep 2000

Ethiopia ranks third among the world's poorest countries, with a per capita income of US $100. It is also one of the most food insecure countries in the world. Approximately 64% of children under five are considered stunted due to poor nutrition. The current population of Ethiopia is estimated at over 60 million. The average mother in Ethiopia cares for seven children.

In late 1999, a severe drought hit southern Ethiopia, as well as the northern and eastern parts of the country. The drought was a culmination of three consecutive crop failures in these areas. Many pastoralists lost all of their livestock as a result of the drought, which also has depleted household reserves and traditional coping mechanisms.

According to the United Nations (UN), an estimated 10 million people, including 5 million children, in Ethiopia are at risk of serious food shortages. The southern parts of the country, such as the regional states of Somali, Oromia, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), are most affected.

Current Crisis1

The ongoing drought emergency has caused hundreds of deaths and massive displacement. Due to the emergency, relief agencies established therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers in early 2000. Admissions in these centers dramatically increased during the March - June 2000 period.

Limited transport capacity and infrastructure hampered initial efforts to respond to the crisis. The situation improved by July because of rains in April/May. General food distributions by the UN World Food Program, the Ethiopian government, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have improved since July and are reaching more beneficiaries.

Some agencies are phasing out supplementary/complementary food rations in southern Somali Region, due to a slight improvement in the food security situation. It is, however, generally acknowledged that livelihoods will not be re-established before well into next year for large segments of the population. Relief agencies remain concerned about the situation in some pockets, including Shinile and Jijiga zones, which are located in the northern part of the region.

Ongoing nutrition surveillance is required to assure that the situation does not revert to earlier conditions following phase out. Main season rains or kiremt are falling in most highland areas but will not begin until late September/beginning of October in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

Save the Children/USA's Response

In late 1999, Save the Children/USA was the first international agency to report a serious drought emergency in Somali Region, located in southeastern Ethiopia. In early 2000, Save the Children/USA initiated a Drought Emergency Program (DEP) and established emergency nutrition and water activities for children and families in the region. SC/USA also initiated food distribution and veterinary care activities in drought-affected areas in both Oromia and Somali regions.

RELIEF From May - July 2000, Save the Children/USA worked with a consortium of three US NGOs to transport mixed commodities to more than one million drought-affected people in Ethiopia. With Catholic Relief Services in the role of Administrator for the consortium, the Cooperating Sponsors worked closely with local and regional government officials and supported monitoring efforts. SC/USA targeted areas included: Arero district (Oromia Region) and Dollo Bai and Dollo Ado districts (Somali Region). To date, SC/USA has distributed about 6,000 MT of commodities to 149,000 beneficiaries in these areas. Pastoralist Concern for Ethiopia (a local NGO) assisted in monitoring the food distributions, which will continue until December 2000. In addition, Save the Children/USA is currently distributing non-food items such as blankets, plastic sheeting, and jerry cans to beneficiaries in Somali Region.
NUTRITION & HEALTH Save the Children/USA's Nutrition and Health program began in February 2000 and primarily targeted children under five in Gode. In collaboration with UNICEF and in partnership with a local NGO (the Ogaden Welfare Society), Save the Children/USA established therapeutic and supplementary food distribution centers. An average of 3,000 beneficiaries has been assisted per month since the centers opened. As of early September 2000, there were more than 2,000 children in the supplementary feeding centers and about 220 in therapeutic feeding centers in Gode.
Save the Children/USA's therapeutic feeding centers (TFC) are located near the Gode Hospital, where children who have been clinically diagnosed with tuberculosis receive treatment. Save the Children/USA medical staff also treat common childhood illnesses, such as diarrheal diseases, malaria and acute respiratory infections, and provide technical assistance and training to health personnel from the hospital, as well as the community, on a frequent basis. SC/USA has assigned nurses and community health workers to screen for common diseases and assist in the feeding process. In addition, Save the Children/USA provides water/sanitation services and health education in the TFC, which led to a decline in reported and observed diarrheal diseases in July. Caretakers and mothers in Save the Children/USA's therapeutic feeding center also receive food rations since most of the mothers are malnourished and/or pregnant and lactating.

UNICEF has begun a measles/Vitamin A campaign in southeastern Ethiopia. SC/USA plans to participate in the campaign, which will target approximately 2.4 million children under five in all drought-affected areas.
EDUCATION In a joint effort with UNICEF, children in the Gode area receive basic education in the SC/USA supplementary feeding center. About 700 children are being taught daily in their local language and receive important hygiene-related information.
NUTRITION SURVEY & MONITORING In July, Save the Children/USA conducted a nutritional assessment in Gode district, in conjunction with UNICEF and the US Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Preliminary findings suggest that the prevalence of malnutrition in Gode Zone is 29%. The assessment found that lack of a comprehensive surveillance and coordination system, as well as the lack of an integrated response, has hindered humanitarian efforts.
WATER TANKERING & SURVEYS Save the Children/USA’s Water program is currently assisting about 41,000 people in Somali Region. This program is providing life-saving emergency water supplies to these beneficiaries. In July, Save the Children/USA made 555 trips to seven sites. A total of 5.7 million liters of drinking water -- or a daily average of 4.38 liters per person -- was delivered. This average is below minimum standards, but water provided by SC/USA is limited to human consumption. Other non-potable sources do exist in some areas for non-consumptive purposes. Demands for water continue to increase and more distribution sites are needed. Save the Children/USA is working to develop a sustainable water program and is concentrating on finding water sources, in collaboration with the Somali Region Water Resources Development Bureau (WRDB). SC/USA and WRDB recently conducted joint hydro-geological investigations and assessed the quality of the water supply in Gode zone. The survey revealed that water source development is feasible in some critical areas, and SC/USA is seeking funding to establish urgently needed hand-dug wells and shallow boreholes near villages. In total, 12 sites in Afder, Gode, Liban and Fik zones will be targeted for further surveying.
VETERINARY CARE Save the Children/USA recently established an ongoing animal health program which aims to provide an effective and sustainable model of veterinary service delivery for pastoralists in Dollo Ado and Dollo Bai districts (Somali Region). SC/USA has already facilitated development of a government-recognized vet scout association, which provides administrative and technical support. The program is targeting 21 veterinary scouts operating in the area. About 210,000 livestock owners are expected to benefit from the program. In August, SC/USA initiated an emergency veterinary service project in Gode zone targeting 200,000 head of remaining livestock. About 20,000 livestock owners will benefit from the program.


Overall, Save the Children/USA’s emergency program is assisting more than 400,000 drought-affected people in Somali and Oromia regions, with donations from, inter alia, the US Agency for International Development, the European Union, NetAid, the Gates Foundation, and other private donors to SC/USA's efforts. The program has saved lives and is restoring the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. SC/USA is now in the process of developing a transition strategy for the emergency program but is prepared to continue the program if the main rains in southern Ethiopia fail in October and November. Long-term efforts to improve access to water and basic health services for vulnerable children and their families in this poorly developed area are also needed.

More support is urgently needed to save lives and rebuild livelihoods and to monitor the situation in drought-hit areas in Ethiopia in the coming months. If you would like to receive additional information and/or are interested in contributing financial assistance to support SC/USA’s ongoing programs in Ethiopia, please contact us at the following addresses:

Ethiopia Field Office
PO Box 387
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: (251-1) 65-54-09
Fax: (251-1) 65-36-15

Home Office
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06881
Tel: (203) 221-4000

Save the Children/USA has worked in Ethiopia since 1984, in response to the famine of that year. Since then, the SC/USA Ethiopia Field Office (EFO) has implemented a wide range of activities in food security, health, water, education, veterinary services, and conflict mitigation. Currently, the EFO is supporting emergency and rehabilitative programs in Addis Ababa, Oromia, and Somali regions. In 1999, Save the Children/USA also established a project in refugee camps in eastern Ethiopia and opened a sub-office in Hargeisa, Northwest Somalia, focusing on basic education and child protection services for resettled children.


1 For more information on the crisis, readers should refer to the "Save the Children/UK Emergency Update: Ethiopia Food Crisis July 2000." Save the Children/USA is working closely with SC/UK and other SC members from Holland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden in ongoing emergency response efforts in Ethiopia.