By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
The drought situation in Ethiopia has become so worrisome to the United Nations and the international humanitarian community that reently it has embarked on “a 90-day campaign to raise awareness about the food crisis in the country [to] raise funds to bridge a $700 million gap”, according to UN sources. This campaign is now needed because there is inadequate local resources and, for various reasons, international humanitarian response.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) in Ethiopia says, humanitarian needs in Ethiopia have reportedly tripled since the beginning of 2015 as the drought has led to successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths. At the same time, out of the $1.4 billion appeal, the Ethiopian regime and the international community have contributed more than $758, leaving substantial assistance gap.
While the needs are enormous, unfortunately the regime’s preoccupation with its image and false propaganda are hardly facilitating efforts toward ensuring the needs of the affected population are met without dangerous interruptions.
In exaggerating their performance, the first deputy prime minister told the ruling party media Sunday that long-term preparations have already been finalized, including food-stocking in all places, and plans for distribution during the winter season.
Nonetheless, on one hand caught between the enormous needs of the affected population the regime is devoted to pretension that ‘the situation is under control’. It is in such situation that of late hungry citizens from many parts of the nation started breaking out of the security cordon in several localities because of unavailability of food and water to move to better off places to beg.
Moreover, the TPLF regime has hardly managed to facilitate and coordinate arrangements for the relief goods to reach beneficiaries without life-threatening interruptions. The UN humanitarian arm in late March complained, “Ethiopia’s on-going drought response is challenged by inadequate logistical capacity to efficiently manage ever increasing relief commodity fleets and delivery.”
In the circumstances, NGO-UN-agencies operated Logistics Cluster is being activated to support the regime’s effort scale-up and handle the “colossal increase in humanitarian needs.” In that regard, it is announced that UNICEF has arranged contract with a private transport company, possibly the ruling party’s business, to deploy an additional 100 trucks. This is expected to help reduce the water trucking gap to 95, according to OCHA briefs. More than 350,000 people are reached, receiving five liters per person per day.
Severely affected regions and districts
Fews.net reports that for a very substantial number of districts in different parts of the country the worst is yet ahead of them. Accordingly, poor households in Sitti Zone of Somalia Region and southern parts of Afar Region are experiencing Emergency (IPC Phase 4, see terminology list below) acute food insecurity. Similarly, households in the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia Region and parts of Wag Himra Zone in Amhara Region are currently facing large deficits in their basic food needs following very significantly below-average harvests in 2015. Poor and very poor households in these areas are also currently in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
Many households in eastern parts of Amhara and Tigray Regions (including Belg producing areas), according to Fews.net, central and eastern Oromia and northern SNNPR along rift valley are exhausting their own production stocks much earlier than normal. Income from livestock sales is lower than normal due to poor livestock body conditions and high supply on markets. Food from purchase has been challenged by higher staple food prices on markets. Poor households in these areas are currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity as they are unable to fully meet their basic food needs without accelerated asset depletion. Were it not for ongoing humanitarian intervention, many of these households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as well as those in central and northern Afar Region, would be experiencing much larger gaps in their basic food needs, the forecast indicates.
Households lesser affected by poor 2015 seasonal performance in Tigray, Amhara, central Oromia, the rift valley of SNNPR, and northern Somali Regions have somewhat better food availability and access as cropping and pastoral conditions were less affected. Households in these areas do, however, still face reductions in seasonal incomes from wage labor and crop and livestock sales. As many poor households are unable to meet their basic nonfood needs, large areas of these regions classified in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) where humanitarian assistance is ensuring households are meeting their basic food needs.
Outside of central and eastern regions of the country, much of the rest of Ethiopia experienced seasonably good rainfall in 2015. Average Meher harvests in western cropping areas of Tigray, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, western Oromia, Gambella, and southern and western SNNPR are providing good food availability for most. Markets are relatively better supplied and prices are generally in line with seasonal norms, affording good food access for households who rely on market purchase. These areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, reports the early warning systems network.
* El Niño-related drought in 2015 significantly impacted Belg and Meher harvests across much of central and eastern Ethiopia, and contributed to very low levels of pasture regeneration in northern pastoral areas. More than 10 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in 2016 as a result of subsequent impacts to food availability and access.
* In drought-affected Afar Region and Northern Somali Region, the March to May Sugum/Dirra rains are below average, limiting pasture regeneration, improvements in livestock body conditions, and associated access to food and income. Most households are relying on humanitarian assistance as the main source of food. Southern Afar and Sitti Zone of Somali Region will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September 2016.
* Area planted is below average in Amhara and eastern Oromia due to below-average rainfall and seed availability.
Humanitarian assistance is ongoing in eastern Tigray, Amhara, and eastern/central Oromia Regions. However, depleted household stocks and low cash income from livestock and labor continue to significantly constrain food access. Severely affected areas of Waghimra zone in Amhara Region and lowlands in eastern Oromia remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), while most other areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least May 2016.
* Forecasts for near-average Belg rainfall are likely to result in near-average crop production in lowland areas of the Rift Valley of SNNPR, with farmers continuing to plant until early April. Below-average labor income and above-average staple food prices, resulting from previous below-average harvests, are likely to result in a continuation of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. Harvests in June/July should improve food security outcomes for poor households to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July through September 2016.
IPC Phase 1
IPC Phase I relates to a situation that would not lead to acute food insecurity. This means that household groups do not experience short-term instability; or it is possible that they may experience short-term instability but are able to meet basic food needs, without engaging in disruptive coping strategies.
IPC Phase 2
IPC Phase 2 represents a situation, wherein 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.
In IPC3, a household group experiences short-term instability. 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.
In IPC 4 household group experiences short-term instability; and it is possible that a household group may have extreme food consumption gaps. This would result in very high acute malnutrition or excess mortality. It is also possible that a household may have extreme loss of livelihood assets. This is likely to lead to food consumption gaps.
A household group experiences short-term instability and also would have near complete lack of food and/or other basic needs. This would make starvation, death, and destitution an inescapable reality.