USAID/OFDA Fact Sheet No.16: Ethiopia drought

News and Press Release
Originally published


Note: This Fact Sheet updates USAID/OFDA Ethiopia Fact Sheet #15, dated August 27, 2003.


According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), a trend of insufficient rainfall during the past 17 years in Ethiopia has adversely affected crop production. Many local households are able to cope with the effects of a single poor rainy season. However, the cumulative effects of consecutive poor rainy seasons have resulted in some households experiencing chronic food insecurity while exhausting traditional coping mechanisms. The humanitarian situation for affected Ethiopians is exacerbated by a livelihoods crisis resulting from a decline in world coffee prices, decreasing labor wages, insufficient livestock production, environmental degradation, and market instability.

In 2002, below-average belg, or secondary rains that occur from March through May, coupled with delayed and sporadic meher, or main rains that occur from July through September, led to widespread food insecurity in Ethiopia. Insufficient rains affected pastoral and agricultural areas, particularly the lowlands and midlands of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Tigray, Oromiya, Amhara, Somali, and Afar Regions. On August 12, 2003, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s (GDFRE) Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) issued an updated appeal for emergency food assistance based on the July assessments led by the DPPC of pastoral areas following the belg rains. An estimated 13.2 million Ethiopians face ongoing food insecurity and require 1.8 million MT of emergency food commodities during the remainder of 2003, an increase of 600,000 beneficiaries and nearly 300,000 MT since September 2002. In addition, the DPPC appealed to donors for 200,000 MT of cereals and 50,000 MT of pulses that, if not used in 2003, can be used as contingency supplies during 2004. According to the Feinstein Center’s report, even if the rains return soon to normal levels, affected populations will have significant debt, poor overall health, decreased seed stocks, and fewer livestock than in 2003.

Ethiopia is currently facing three public health crises: malnutrition, malaria, and measles. Widespread malnutrition in Ethiopia is a public health crisis resulting from crop production failures, inconsistent distribution of food rations, single commodity cereal rations, high rates of diarrheal and infectious diseases, and lack of dietary diversity. According to a co-funded USAID/Ethiopia and USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) report by the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University, national nutrition surveys estimate that 11.1 percent of the rural population suffers from severe malnutrition. As a result of high malnutrition rates, the Ethiopian population is increasingly vulnerable to diseases. Under normal circumstances, 75 percent of Ethiopians are at-risk for malaria and the malaria threat increased significantly during 2003 due to the large numbers of severely malnourished children and adults. Despite an accelerated vaccination campaign, a measles outbreak in 2003 remains a serious health risk for unvaccinated Ethiopian children under the age of five.

Numbers at a Glance
Total Affected Population in 2003 13.2 million Source: GFDRE (Aug. 12, 2003)
Total Food Aid Requirements in 2003 1.8 million MT Source: GFDRE (Aug. 12, 2003)

Total USAID/OFDA Humanitarian Assistance in FY 2003 (to date): $30,845,012
Total USG Humanitarian Assistance in FY 2003 (to date): $512,038,570

Current Situation

On September 5, the DPPC and the United Nations (U.N.) issued a joint appeal for $40 million for health, nutrition, potable water, and sanitation programs for drought-affected populations.

Food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease in SNNPR continue to be primary humanitarian concerns. On September 3, FEWS NET stated that improving climactic conditions will not be sufficient to end the crisis. Food insecurity in SNNPR is rooted in chronic poverty, declining agricultural productivity, and reduced income-earning opportunities. In response to the crisis in SNNPR, USAID/OFDA provided approximately $7 million to date in FY 2003 for emergency seeds, nutrition, water and sanitation, and project coordination activities.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated on August 12 that the combination of malnutrition, the environmental impact of the drought, and the end of the rainy season could lead to widespread malaria epidemics. On September 7, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reported that the lack of malaria morbidity and mortality data available for SNNPR, the shortage of trained staff and organized malaria teams, and resistance to available drugs are significant setbacks to malaria response programs in the region. To prepare for the peak malaria transmission season that begins in late September, USAID/OFDA provided over $1.6 million to UNICEF for malaria intervention activities. Currently, two USAID/OFDA-funded malaria specialists, one seconded to UNICEF and one joining USAID/OFDA’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART), are increasing malaria monitoring capabilities in the most vulnerable areas and recommending appropriate intervention.

Ethiopian children remain vulnerable to a measles outbreak. The GFDRE plans to immunize approximately 23 million children against measles by the end of October 2003, an increase of 4.4 million from the original target for 2003. High levels of malnutrition affecting the Ethiopian population increase the measles threat.

On September 5, the GFDRE, UNICEF, and the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) began a joint campaign to vaccinate approximately one million children against polio as part of the global effort to eradicate the disease by 2005. In the Somali region, a weeklong polio, measles, and vitamin A supplementation campaign aims to hinder the spread of disease among malnourished children.

From August 28 to 29, a three-member USG Congressional Delegation traveled to Ethiopia to learn more about the humanitarian situation. The delegation visited USAID-funded projects responding to the food security and public health crises in SNNPR and met with high-level GFDRE officials.

On August 28, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) announced that U.N. agencies, state and individual donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the GFDRE have formed the Coalition for Food Security in Ethiopia improve nationwide food security within the next two to three years. The Coalition, with funding from USAID, the World Bank, and UNDP, will work to improve agricultural and livestock production, increase access to food, enhance coping mechanisms for rural communities, and decrease malnutrition levels.

U.S. Government Response

On October 29, 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa declared a disaster in response to the continuing drought situation. Heavy flooding in localized areas from concentrated rains prompted the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Aurelia E. Brazeal to issue a second disaster declaration for floods on May 9, 2003.

On May 9, USAID/OFDA deployed USAID/DART to enhance the non-food response to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. The USAID/DART continues to conduct field visits in all six of the drought-affected regions and recommend areas requiring humanitarian support.

To date in FY 2003, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $30.8 million to support emergency water and sanitation, health and nutrition, and agricultural recovery activities in drought-affected areas nationwide.

USAID/OFDA provided approximately $9.3 million to support health and nutrition programs nationwide through implementing partners UNICEF, WFP, Action contre la Faim (ACF), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Concern, GOAL, the International Medical Corps (IMC), Save the Children/USA (SC/USA), and World Vision (WV) to support more than five million beneficiaries.

USAID/OFDA and USAID/Ethiopia contributed approximately $10.2 million in response to the GFDRE’s estimated $10 million seed shortfall countrywide. USAID/OFDA provided approximately $6.2 million to its implementing partners CARE, Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Food for the Hungry International (FHI), German Agro Action (GAA), Save the Children Fund/United Kingdom (SCF/UK), Oxfam, and WV for emergency seed distributions for approximately 347,790 drought-affected households in Afar, Amhara, Oromiya, SNNP, and Somali Regions. USAID/Ethiopia provided $4 million to the GFDRE for the procurement of seeds.

USAID/OFDA provided more than $5.5 million to support water and sanitation programs through the American Red Cross (AmRC), CARE, CISP, Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), GAA, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Merlin, Oxfam, and WV to provide potable water for approximately 328,000 beneficiaries in the Afar, Amhara, Oromiya, SNNP, and Tigray Regions.

USAID/OFDA provided approximately $2.85 million to CARE, SCF/UK, and WV for cash for relief activities in Amhara, Oromiya, and SNNP Regions.

USAID/OFDA also provided $575,175 to UN OCHA and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for coordination of humanitarian assistance activities nationwide: $4,070,082 to CRS, Oxfam, and SC/US for multi-sectoral projects for approximately 400,000 beneficiaries including; $468,102 to Tufts University for animal health projects in Somali Region; $1,728,708 to SC/US and the DPPC for nationwide rapid response projects and distribution of humanitarian assistance commodities; and $1,025,482 to USAID and for administrative support.

In response to the May floods in southern Ethiopia, USAID/OFDA provided $110,000 in assistance through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the purchase of water containers, cooking pots, plastic sheeting, and blankets.

To date, USAID/Ethiopia has channeled $21 million in Development Assistance (DA) funds for emergency-related health and nutrition and agricultural assistance programs. USAID/Ethiopia has also devoted considerable personnel resources to alleviate the effects of the emergency. USAID/Ethiopia’s programs at the national and regional levels focus on building organizational capacity, as well as supporting food security initiatives, rapid response, food assistance, nutritional surveillance, therapeutic feeding, and the nationwide measles campaign. USAID/Ethiopia also provides ongoing technical support to the DPPC and the Ministry of Health.

The USG is the largest donor of food assistance to Ethiopia. USAID’s office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) contributed 878,790 MT of P.L. 480 Title II emergency food assistance valued at approximately $393.5 million since January 2003 through ICRC, WFP, and NGOs. Since the emergency began in August, 2002, USAID/FFP’s response to Ethiopia has reached more than one million MT of emergency food assistance valued at $475 million. The USG has provided more than 50 percent of the total donor contributions to date. In addition, USAID/FFP has deployed personnel to augment USAID/Ethiopia’s Food and Humanitarian Assistance Unit.

The Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (State/PRM) has provided $5.1 million in FY 2003 to support refugee assistance and protection, feeding, and literacy programs in Ethiopia.

U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to ETHIOPIA

Implementing Partner
FY 2003 (TO DATE)
ACF Nutrition Afar
ADRA Nutrition SNNPR
AmRC Water/Sanitation Oromiya
CARE Water/Sanitation, Seeds, Cash Grants Oromiya
CISP Seeds, Tools, Water/Sanitation Tigray
Concern Nutrition SNNPR
COOPI Water Amhara
CRS Agriculture, Water/Sanitation Oromiya
DPPC and SC/US Non-food Commodities, Transport Various
FHI Agriculture Amhara
GAA Water/Sanitation, Seeds SNNPR, Amhara, Oromiya
GOAL Health/Nutrition Afar, SNNPR
IMC Primary Health, Nutrition Oromiya, SNNPR
ICRC* Disaster Support Somali
IRC Water/Sanitation Oromiya
Merlin Water/Sanitation Oromiya
Oxfam GB Water/Sanitation, Seeds SNNPR,
Oromiya, Afar,Somali
SCF/UK Seeds, Cash Grants Amhara, Oromiya
SC/US Water/Sanitation, Seeds, Health Various
Tufts University Animal Health Somali
World Vision Health, Livelihoods, Seeds, Water/Sanitation, Cash Grants Afar, SNNPR
UN FAO Coordination Countrywide
UNICEF Health/Nutrition Countrywide
UN OCHA Coordination Countrywide, SNNPR
WFP Nutrition SNNPR
Administrative Costs
GFDRE Seeds Multiple
Carter Center Health/Nutrition Multiple
GOAL Health/Nutrition Afar, Oromiya
Other NGOs Health/Nutrition Multiple
UNICEF Health/Nutrition Multiple
WFP Nutrition Multiple
WHO Health/Nutrition Multiple
World Learning Nutrition Amhara, SNNPR
WFP 408,030 MT of P.L. 480 Title IIEmergency Food Assistance Countrywide
Joint Emergency
Operation Plan
549,220 MT of P.L. 480 Title II
Emergency Food Assistance
ICRC 29,740 MT of P.L. 480 Title IIEmergency Food Assistance Countrywide
Embassy Addis
Refugee Literacy Program, Refugee
Computer Literacy Program
IRC Refugee Assistance Tigray
UNHCR Refugee Assistance Countrywide
WFP Refugee Assistance Countrywide
*Non-food humanitarian assistance commodities for flood victims in Somali Region.

Public Donation Information

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for their drought response efforts in Ethiopia can be found at Information on other organizations responding may be available at

USAID encourages cash donations because they: allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, warehouse space, etc); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

More information on making donations and volunteering services can be found at:

  • USAID: -> "Disaster Assistance" -> "How Can I Help?"
  • The Center for International Disaster Information: or 703-276-1914
  • InterAction: -> "Guide to Appropriate Giving"

Information on relief activities of the humanitarian community can be found at

USAID/OFDA bulletins can be obtained from the USAID web site at

MAP - USG Programs in Ethiopia