Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: 2.7 Million Ethiopians May Need Food Help

Ethiopia finds itself in critical need of donors' assistance, in order to feed 2.7 million people. This announcement comes not long after its leaders were upbeat, reporting a bumper harvest of 231 million quintals of grain for the current fiscal year.

When donors and Ethiopian authorities met on January 24, 2014, to agree on the projection of the volume of humanitarian assistance needed for 2014, the resultant crucial document-the joint Government and Humanitarian partners' Document-showed that 2.7 million of the 91 million people in the nation, according to the latest estimate by the World Bank are in need of humanitarian aid.

The total food requirement is estimated at 388,635 MT. This is broken down to 314,684 MT of cereals, 31,468 MT of pulses, 9,441 MT of oil and 33,042 MT of blended or supplementary food.

This comes against the government's recent announcement that agricultural productivity in the nation is projected to grow in leaps and bounds.

Despite the normal and above normal 2013 meher rains, which further improved the food security situation in the country, humanitarian challenges will continue in 2014 in north eastern Amhara, Afar and the southern Tigray regions. These are all areas that receive inadequate seasonal rainfall. There is also a focus on other areas that could be affected by various hazards, like - floods, conflicts, crop pests and diseases, stated the report.

Water shortages persist in the drought-prone areas in northeastern Afar, South Region, southeastern Tigray and the lowlands of the southern pastoralist areas.

The nation's 12.27 million ha of land was covered with cereals during the year 2012/13. This was a 1.52pc increment compared to that of the previous year. The government planned to produce 22,907,055 tons of cereal, but exceeded it by 310,555 tons. However, the amount was not able to feed the nation. In the 2013/14 fiscal year, Ethiopia is planning to exceed last year's cereal production by 2,300,000 tons.

The alarm for the Ethiopian government is clear, despite the number of beneficiaries, decreasing compared to that of the previous year.

Crop production, according to the document, will most likely be affected in the major producing areas of Amhara and Tigray for the third consecutive year. This will worsen the food security situation in these areas.

But the number of beneficiaries is particularly high in Oromia and the Somali regions, which account for 27 and 25 pc, respectively. Tigray and Amhara follow close behind with 19pc and 16pc, respectively.

Oromia has 766,336 people out of its population of 31 million (according to the CSA's estimate of 2012) in need of humanitarian assistance. In the Somali region, on the other hand, 691,978 people are projected to be in need of food assistance out of a population of five million (according to the CSA's estimate of 2012).

The alarm for the government is going to remain intact if weather conditions do not improve, says Rahel Asfaw, a senior Resource Mobilisation Expert at the Disaster Prevention Preparedness & Food Security Sectoral Office.

"It all depends on whether or not there is timely rain," she said.

In the remote Somali Region where the meher season was rain-deficit, the number might even grow, she says.

The total food requirement for 2014 amounts to 388 million dollars. This includes 314,684 tonnes of pulses, 9,441 tonnes of oil and 33,042 tonnes of blended food.

The problem for the government is that it only has 51.6 million dollars. This total represents just 12.8pc of what is required.

While the remainder is expected from the international community, previous contribution trends show that a portion of the required amount is left to be filled by the government itself.

Last year the donors contributed only 68 pc of what was required.

"The contribution from donors may not be any different from the previous year," says Rahel.

For another food security expert, the international community's contribution might not even amount to 68pc. He cites priorities elsewhere in the continent and the world.

"This will worsen the situation," he fears.

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