Ethiopia’s pastoral areas to remain stressed, forecast says, “even with humanitarian assistance”

20 Aug

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Suseptibility to possible famine and evident hunger have again reared their ugly heads in some of Ethiopia’s regions, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS.Net) and some representatives of affected areas.

Thanks to the presence of humanitarian organizations and ESAT, lest, if the past is any guide, the hunger of these people – possible deaths and decimation of livestocks – would have been ignored, at least for a while. Nobody wants the party spoiled. In a country of profound poverty for 90 percent of the population, as is Ethiopia’s case, the slightest change in the weather brings hunger and deaths closer by the day – unless aid arrives in time.

Acute food security map: Yellow represents stressed situation; the red crisis situations (Source: FEWS.NET)

Acute food security map: Yellow represents stressed situation; amber crisis situations (Source: FEWS.NET)

Already many families have been afflicted and in some instances, hunger targeting sizable communities. From the lowlands of Oromia, already communities have sent 50 representatives to Harar to alert the administration of their situation, according to the representatives that spoke to ESAT. They also indicated that in Girawa district, especially Burka, Fedis, Midiga and Tola districts are most affected, urging the administration to get there in time before the population begins to trek out in search of food and water and relief for their surviving animals.

Luckily, so far there is no report of families leaving their localities or of death reports, although the situation of long dislocated populations is now made even worse. In particular affected are pastoral areas in Afar, parts of Oromia, Somali and Tigray.

There is FEWS.Net forecast that the agropastoral areas in Jijiga and Kebribeyah Woredas in Fafan (formerly Jijiga) Zone, Dembel, Erer, Meisso, and Shinile Woredas in Sitti (formerly Shinile) Zone in northern Somali Region, and in Abala, Berhale, Dalul, and Megale Woredas in Kilbati Zone (formerly Zone 2) in Afar Region would experience below normal crop production due to the erratic distribution of the rains, a long dry spell, pest infestation, and late planting.

The network’s July to December 2014 forecast foresees:

    Central Oromia

    *   Poor households in the highlands of Arsi Zone in central Oromia have moved into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) having lost Belg crops typically harvested in June/July and a large number of livestock. Their food security is unlikely to improve until the Meher harvest in October.

IPC Phase 3 refers to condition wherein household group experiences short-term instability, according to FEWS.Net. The affected household would have significant food consumption gaps with high or above usual acute malnutrition. It is also possible that a household group is marginally able to meet minimum food needs only with irreversible coping strategies, such as liquidating livelihood assets or diverting expenses from essential non-food items.

FEWS.Net reports:

In the highlands in Arsi Zone and the lowlands in West Arsi Zone in Oromia, the cumulative March to May Belg rains were below average, and they were unevenly distributed. The unusually dry conditions reduced crop growth to an extent that there are hardly any Belg crops to harvest. Poor pasture regeneration and refilling of water sources have led to poor livestock body conditions and productivity. A large number of livestock, primarily cattle and sheep, have died since April. With less income and no Belg crops, poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The government and humanitarian partners have dispatched relief food for around 70,000 people in four woredas in Arsi Zone, and they have deployed water trucks.

Southern & south eastern pastoral areas

    *   In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, poor households in most areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with the presence of humanitarian assistance. This is due to low livestock prices due to poor body conditions. However, with improved livestock body conditions and productivity anticipated with the start of the likely above-average October to December Deyr/Hageya rains, households are likely to move into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with less dependence on assistance by late October.

In IPC Phase 2 situation, household group experiences short-term instability. It is also the case where the household’s food consumption is reduced and is minimally adequate, preventing the need to engage in irreversible coping strategies.

Afar pastoral areas & northern Somali Region

    *   In northern pastoral areas in Afar and northern Somali Region, households are unlikely to become more food secure between now and December. The continuation of the below-normal July to September Karma/Karan rains will bring only a minor, insignificant increase to pasture, browse, and water availability. Households will continue to depend on humanitarian assistance as a key source of food.

FEWS.Net reports:

Primarily due to the low and less-than-usual livestock productivity, many areas are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to the presence of humanitarian assistance. March to May Diraac/Sugum rains had mostly near normal cumulative amounts outside of northeastern Afar, but there were long dry spells and generally very erratic temporal distribution. This means that pasture, browse, and water have been depleted earlier than usual. In many cases, these resources did not regenerate. As a result, livestock have poor body conditions.

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