Failed spring rains this year in parts of Afar, Amhara, Oromia and Somali regions have renewed concerns about another drought affecting children, further compounding vulnerabilities in regions already suffering from chronic food insecurity, prolonged and complex population displacements, and increased risks to outbreaks of cholera and measles. These regions also have over-stretched health care systems, poor access to water, and recurrent outbreaks of preventable diseases.
As of April 2019, UNICEF has supported the screening and admission of 110,826 children under the age of five for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) treatment and the numbers are expected to grow with the projected drought in the country.
UNICEF Ethiopia urgently requires US$ 5.4 million to replenish its nutrition commodities pipeline for the expected surge in severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2019. In addition, US$ 2.45 million is required to rehabilitate 35 water schemes and provide durable safe water and sanitation for the most vulnerable children, including displaced children, in drought affected areas.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) report that there is increased likelihood of drier than normal conditions for much of Ethiopia from June to September 2019. An early cessation of rains in eastern Ethiopia is also expected, potentially resulting in long dry spells. Despite some revitalization of water points for livestock and human consumption in some woredas1 in the Somali region, Borena and Guji zones of Oromia region, and South Omo zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ region (SNNPR) due to the Gu/Genna2 seasonal rainfall, improvements in livestock body conditions and productivity are not expected until the Deyr/Hageya season in October 2019.
Food security is expected to deteriorate in southern and south-eastern pastoral areas due to the poor performance of the Gu/Genna rains. These pastoral areas will remain in crisis (IPC Phase 3), with a risk of increased malnutrition. In addition, 190 cholera cases have been reported in Amhara plus 11 in Oromia regions since the start of the rainy season, further straining already under-resourced health systems.
Following the announcement of the Government-led strategic plan for the return and relocation of conflict-displaced people in April 2019, the Government has already implemented the first phase, with the reported return of over 1.4 million4 internally displaced people (IDPs) to their places of origin.
In the West Guji zone, Oromia region, Protection Monitoring Teams are reporting significant protection concerns among the returnees, especially for girls and women (over 51 per cent) and children (61 per cent) who are residing in temporary sites in their kebeles of origin and are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and neglect. Children continue to be at risk of separation from their caregivers during the return process, with 594 children currently reported to be unaccompanied and separated, all of whom require family reunification services. Furthermore, the IDPs and returnees are hosted in drought-affected areas, thus exposing children to food insecurity. An increase in SAM among returnee children has been noted and more cases are expected as drought and displacements continue to compound existing vulnerabilities.
Without adequate investments in early actions in the drought-affected areas, children are exposed to increased vulnerabilities to disease outbreaks, malnutrition, and morbidity due to limited access to essential health care services and sanitation. Children are further exposed to exploitation and abuse, child marriage and child labour as a negative coping strategy, increased school dropouts and a decrease in regular school attendance due to migration for economic reasons and potential school closures. Investments in early actions for children in pastoral communities, such as the provision of fodder and water, restocking and veterinary care of livestock, are critical as children’s milk intake in these areas could fall by 90 per cent with livestock depletion, leading to SAM.