18 March 2018

Ethiopia: Need for Relief Swells Despite Decrease in Number of Affected

Photo: Challiss McDonough/WFP
Rahima Dadafe, a 23-year-old mother of four, is holding her youngest son, Nebiyu Jemal, age 1. She says the family is surviving on food assistance from the government, along with the special nutritious food from WFP to help baby Nebiyu recover from malnutrition. “When the rain stopped raining, our crops failed and our livestock started dying because there was no grass for them to feed on. I had three cows. They all died. Now we are {living on} the assistance from the government.” she said.

In its 2018 Humanitarian & Disaster Resilience Plan (HDRP), the Ethiopian government, jointly with its humanitarian partners, has revealed that the amount of people in need of humanitarian assistance has decreased.

The amount of funding that is needed for aid has increased, however, as a result of the one million displaced people due to conflicts along the administrative demarcations of the Oromia and Somali regional states.

There are currently 7.8 million people in need of assistance in the southern and southeastern parts of Ethiopia, down from 8.5 million people last year.

The humanitarian requirement has been bumped up by close to half a billion dollars to 1.7 billion dollars - of which the government has already contributed 182 million dollars. Over a billion dollars of this will be needed to buy food, and 198 million dollars will be used for the 3.8 million people that are malnourished.

The Plan is the result of a three-week assessment conducted by a team of 200 staff members from the government and humanitarian partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF) and United Nations' agencies.

The Plan includes three pillars for humanitarian response, prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response, and strengthening of national systems, the last of which aims to increase the response systems of the country.

Released bi-annually, the report assesses the performances of the Belg and Meher seasons. This recent one is compiled in the last Meher season, which dates from early June to early October of last year.

The report showed that the after-effects of the 2015 El Niño and last year's Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) induced droughts, which left 10 million and 8.5 million people in need of relief, respectively, are still being felt.

This has been attributed to the low levels of rainfall in Meher in the southern parts of the Oromia Regional State and in South Eastern parts of the country that are known as the Drought Belt, covering Afar and Somali.

Forecasts are more optimistic, however, for the current Belg season, which will stay until May. The National Meteorolgical Agency (NMA) indicates that the southern part of the Oromia region will get a healthy and above-normal level rainfall. The weather is forecast to be drier in the southeastern part of the Somali region.

The forecasts are conducted by analysing eight areas of the nation with similar climates.

The Belg rainfall distribution in February and March is satisfactory, according to Asamnew Teshome, director of Meteorological Forecast & Early Warning.

"In those parts of Somali, although there will be rain that can be good for farmers, it will be accompanied by dry moments," he said.

A lecturer and researcher for nearly two decades at Addis Abeba University's (AAU) Centre for Food Security believes that the only way to get out of this is the proper use of natural resources.

Mesay Mulugeta (PhD) added that afforestation and reforestation have to be promoted, rivers and lakes have to be protected from pollution, climate-smart agriculture has to be introduced and the population growth rate has to be capped.

"Otherwise, the country will not stop being needy," he added.

The National Disaster Risk Management Commission of the country is currently focusing on redirecting the humanitarian fund to sustainable developmental activities such as irrigation and the construction of deepwater wells, according to Debebe Zewdu, public relations director of the Commission.

"A study is being conducted in 412 weredas to assess their level of exposure to disasters," Debebe told Fortune.

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