UNICEF Emergency Programmes: Ethiopia Donor Update 1 Apr 2000

Situation Report
Originally published

Ethiopia is facing a major humanitarian crisis.

Following the apparent failure of the most recent OAU and United States diplomatic efforts to bring Ethiopia and Eritrea closer to peace, there are increasing concerns that a major round of heavy fighting is likely to begin in the near future as both sides build up military forces in the border area. In Ethiopia, some 340,000 people remain displaced, mostly in Tigray region. In 1999 UNICEF programmed some 1.8 million dollars in non-food assistance for displaced and war affected populations including $1.1 million from Netherlands and Danish Government.

Meanwhile, the effects of prolonged drought in southern and south-eastern parts of the country (Somali and southern Oromiya Regions) are being manifested in starvation, severe malnutrition, migration and depletion of assets. During a recent mission to Gode town in Somali Region, UNICEF provided technical support to a NGO giving wet feeding interventions to help arrest spiralling mortality among severely malnourished children. In one feeding centre, over 45 children had died in the previous 4 weeks. Earlier this year, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) estimated that 900,000 Mts. of food aid would be required for 8 million people country-wide in 2000. This includes typically drought prone highland areas of central and northern Ethiopia, reeling from the effects of poor short rainy seasons since the mid-1990s. In areas hard hit by drought, basic services are severely stretched, malnutrition has become widespread and vulnerability to disease and mortality are on the increase. Child school enrollment is being affected, threatening to reverse notable gains of the last few years. The drought crisis is increasingly being compared to the 1984-85 famine.

Increasing number of children suffering from malnutrition and disease.

With the second highest population in Africa, Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 172 out of 174 in the 1999 UNDP Development Index report. It has one of the world's highest levels of stunting among children due to under nutrition (64%), low net primary school enrollment (24.9%), poor access to safe drinking water and poor health care services. Ethiopia presently has an increasing rate of HIV/AIDs infection with over 3.2 million cases reported. In conditions of extreme stress exacerbated by the current food shortages--that exceed normal patterns of drought and hardship--traditional coping mechanisms and safety nets are being virtually wiped out.

The present food security situation for women and children is at its worst state since the 1980s.

In a country that is overwhelming subsistence agriculture-based, the food supply is deteriorating very fast. In the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of southern and eastern Ethiopia, the late arrival of the main gu rains resulted in high livestock losses and weakening of herds. In Gode zone, over 80% of the cattle have probably died since November. This situation is manifesting itself in high malnutrition and migration in search of relief. In central and northern parts of the country, many areas have been caught in the prolonged after-effects of the poor belg (short rains) season, which disrupted the normal farming cycle and resulted in delayed planting of main meher season crops. Other parts of the country suffered subsequent crop losses due to pest infestation and local flooding. The present epicentre of crisis, now in the south-east, may very well move north within the coming months.


BP-5 biscuits expected to arrive shortly ameliorate the drought situation.

The Norwegian Government has contributed three containers of BP-5 high protein biscuits for emergency nutrition interventions. This consignment, roughly 50 MTs of biscuits (net), is expected to arrive in the country in early April and will be targeted in consultation with DPPC and NGO partners to health facilities to ensure optimal clinical applications for malnourished children. Almost two months since the launch of the 2000 Emergency Appeal, no donor contributions have been made. However, a special emergency loan from headquarters for the amount of $460,000 for drought WES and health/nutrition interventions was provided in early March. This is being allocated to worst affected areas in Somali and Oromiya regions through government and NGO counterparts. A USAID in-kind contribution of additional stocks of BP-5 biscuits and ORS is expected along with additional support in health, WES and nutrition sectors.

Continuing provision of assistance to the increasing IDPs.

During 1999, UNICEF Ethiopia provided emergency assistance for displaced people in the northern Ethiopia regions of Tigray (316,000) and Afar (26,000). Many displaced live in makeshift shelters or in overcrowded conditions among the host community. Although Tigray region, where most of the displacements have occurred, benefits from a well motivated and organised human infrastructure, shortfalls in relief supply assistance and the extended circumstances of displacement have compelled an ongoing level of emergency assistance. Emergency assistance has intentionally covered critical needs of host communities with limited basic services. At present, UNICEF has developed contingency plans in the event of new displacements caused by the conflict. Lack of funds remains the overriding constraint.


Within the framework of the UN Ethiopia Country Team Appeal, UNICEF requested a total of US$ 7,719,900 to support emergency operations from February-December 2000 following an appeal launch on 28 January for activities in the following areas:

Total UNICEF budgets (includes direct support costs)

IDPs ($)
Drought ($)
Priority funding Needs
Relief /Shelter
*Children and Women with Special Protection Needs

UNICEF’s emergency response in these areas is based on core commitment project interventions intended to give greater overall cohesion and predictability. These include support to EPI and malaria control, supply of therapeutic foods and support to nutritional surveillance, the provision of shelter supplies and water storage and purification. In addition, UNICEF is committed in all emergency situations to continuous enrolment of children in school, and rapid assessment and care of children and women in need of special protection.

Planned 2000 emergency interventions for displaced and drought affected populations:

Health: Support to control diarrhoeal disease including provision of ORS (Oral Rehydration Salt), antibiotics and IV fluids among drought affected populations; provision of treated bed netting to reduce transmission of malaria, and support to child and maternal vaccination activities targeting low coverage areas.

Nutrition: Targeted delivery of special therapeutic foods including high protein biscuits for drought affected populations, and monitoring and technical support to improve national and sub-national nutrition surveillance and response capacities.

Water and Environmental Sanitation: Support to water tankering, supply of jerry cans, construction of shallow wells, repair of hand pumps and non-functional water schemes, limited drilling of bore holes where necessary, support to community hygiene education and environmental sanitation—all for drought affected and displaced populations.

Education: Provision of construction materials, benches and desks for temporary classrooms, teacher training, supply of clothing and learning materials including exercise books, pencils, chalk and black boards altogether to benefit 27,000 war displaced children. Basic support including data collection, provision of water tanks, education materials and teacher training benefiting over 120,000 children in schools in drought affected areas.

Children and Women in Need of Special Protection: Continuing technical support and guidance to community-based joint land mine awareness education project in Tigray, implemented with a local NGO, targeting displaced families in areas contaminated by land mines. rapid assessment of children and women in need of special protection including separated and unaccompanied children and traumatised children and women, and support to community-based training activities.

Relief, monitoring and co-ordination: Provision of shelter assistance including blankets and plastic sheeting for displaced populations. Supply of limited shelter materials and hand tools for drought affected populations. Deployment of technical monitors to ensure effective field co-ordination and monitoring of drought and displaced emergency interventions.

Constraints have included difficulties in working within an increasingly decentralised but still highly bureaucratic programme environment at national and sub-national levels. Weak information management and exchange on critical needs of women and children (especially in the drought areas) have been some major obstacles.



1999 Contributions by Donor
Income (US$)
Netherlands 675,045 Health, WES, Education, CWSPN and Relief - all for war displaced populations in Tigray and Afar
Denmark 139,082 Essential drugs for war displaced populations in Tigray
USAID 300,000 EPI Cold Chain, Water parts and equipment, urban sanitation and procurement of blankets - all for drought affected populations
Total $1,114,127


With a mounting drought disaster in south-eastern Ethiopia of proportions not seen since the 1980s and an increasingly unstable situation of war displaced in the north, UNICEF has remained largely unable to contribute its technical capacity in 2000, especially in supporting counterparts to address the situation with exception of some limited reallocations. While not quantified, the estimated impact of under funding is projected in the following areas: higher morbidity and mortality due to lack of access to ORS, essential drugs and treated bed nets and increased morbidity and spread of water borne disease for lack of safe drinking water. Also, reduction in levels of primary school enrollment with increasing numbers of schools being closed for lack of water, school feeding or learning materials as available income is entirely depleted, and higher numbers of separated and/or traumatised children as displaced and drought affected populations resort to migrating to access basic services.

Details of these projects can be provided upon request to:

Ibrahim Jabr
UNICEF Representative/ Addis
Tel: 251-1-517648
Fax: 251-1-511628

Robin Medforth-Mills
Tel: +41-22 909 5544
Fax: +41 22 909 5902

Isabel Crowley
Tel: +1 212 326 7656
Fax:+ 1 212 326 7165

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