Success as Ethiopia Downsizes Drought Figures

The Humanitarian Requirement Document jointly released by the Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners has revealed some good news for the effort to contain the effects of the drought in some parts of the country. The report, compiled on the basis of the Meher assessment, indicates that 4.6 million people moved out of humanitarian need curve, in comparison to last year’s similar report.

The report puts the number of people in need of assistance at 5.6 million. The humanitarian requirement has also declined by 1.3 billion dollars to 948 million dollars. Out of the total budget needed for the relief effort last year, 726 million dollar was mobilized and allocated by the Ethiopian Government with the rest coming from partners. The United States is a major donor with a fund of 389 million dollars.

In the midst of political turmoil over the last six months with the declaration of the first state of emergency since 1991 as well as one of the coldest seasons in recent history, Ethiopia has managed to bring about some improvements in its effort to curb the humanitarian crisis caused by the El Nino-associated drought. Exactly one year earlier, Ethiopia experienced one of its largest scale droughts in the past 30 years which was linked with failed Belg and Meher harvest seasons in some areas of the country. The National Meteorology Agency (NMA) declared in June, 2015 that the El Niño weather phenomenon would affect 56pc of the country’s agricultural yields while putting 10pc of the total population into a cycle of need in the coming year. Last year El Niño has affected close to 60 million people in the world, with Ethiopia having a 16pc share of this number.

Following this, media reports both from local and international sources started to emerge about the growing concerns across the nation. Farmers in Arsi, in Oromia regional state were said to be out of farming pattern and inputs. Similar patterns were also seen in parts of North Wello, Afar regional state, and Somali regional state. At the time, Fortune visited these areas and observed that the drought affected not only the people but also livestock.

The impact has shaken the whole economy – food inflation has gone up as high as 9.6pc–the highest level over the past three years. In its previous reports, Fortune also observed that there was a decline in the price of cattle in highly affected areas.

The International Food Policy Research Institute, in its study conducted a year ago, find out that the price effect of the recent drought has been much lower compared with the drought in 1997/98. It did not affect the labour and cereal markets

Despite all this, the government and humanitarian partners have reduced the number of people in need of assistance by almost half in the one year effort. Unlike its preceding record of humanitarian efforts, this time around equal efforts were made by the EPRDF-led government. A high-level committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen supervised the effort to curb the impact of the drought after the country was hit by the El Niño caused drought. In an effort to mitigate the effects of the drought, last year Ethiopia bought and distributed 627,000 metric tons of wheat. Currently, more than 450,000 metric tons of wheat are available in the country’s reserves.

Last year, the drought contributed to the displacement of 718,000 people. The latest figures predict a decline to 376,000 displaced people this year due to drought, floods and conflicts.

In order to fully recover, households who lost small livestock such as sheep, may need two years, while those who lost cattle will need four years to go back to where they were in pre-drought, the FAO’s prediction indicates. The El Niño weather phenomenon was followed by another weather system called La Niña which caused heavy rains and resulted in flooding in lowland areas. Close to half a million people who live along the course of the Awash River, Abay, Baro Akobo, Gibe and the Lower Omo drainage were affected by the flood . At the time, 188.9 million Br was allocated to prevent flooding and an additional 40.2 million Br to control possible disease outbreaks.

The latest HRD report predicted that low land areas of Afar, Oromia and Somali regional states would be the most vulnerable in the coming months.

The report revealed that all areas except some in Afar and Somali regional states showed progress in decreasing the number of people who are in need of assistance. Oromia Regional State saw the highest decline by half to two million people.

The report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affars (UNOCHA) indicates that there have been improvements on the prioritization of areas. By December 2016, a total of 454 priority weredas received emergency support. From this, 192 were priority one, 174 were priority two and 88 were priority three. The number of priority one weredas has reduced by 12pc, from 216 in July 2016 to 192 in December 2016.

Afar and Somali regional states will have 400,000 and 1.6 million people in need of assistance, respectively. Much of the reason behind the lack of progress in the areas the failed autumn rainy season from November to December..

“The failed autumn rain in pastoral areas tipped southern and eastern pastoralist areas into severe food insecurity,” stated the report.

Pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in Borena, Guji, Bale and East Hararge zones of Oromia regional state, all nine zones of Somali regional state and Omo, Gamo Gofa and Segen zones of SNNP regional state are the most affected, according to the UNOCHA Humanitarian Bulletin released in January 9, 2017.

Early migration and excess livestock mortality rates were already observed at the end of 2016. To support the livelihood of 1.9 million pastoral households and their livestock in south and southeastern areas of Ethiopia will require 42 million dollars.

Some areas have also experienced their coldest season in recent years. The impact is feared to affect yields which are vulnerable to rust.

“We are hearing there the cold has covered many areas,” said a humanitarian worker who operates mostly in Amhara region. “But we have yet to see the impact.”


Published on Jan 24,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 873]



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