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Ethiopia: ICRC gears up to assist up to one million victims of conflict and drought

17-12-2002 Operational Update No REX 02/1222, Update No. 30/2002, Ethiopia No 3

The ICRC is extending its urgent preventive action in Ethiopia to assist the most vulnerable people suffering from the combined effects of poverty, severe drought and ongoing armed violence.

 Executive summary  

  • The ICRC is extending its urgent preventive action in Ethiopia to assist the most vulnerable people suffering from the combined effects of poverty, severe drought and ongoing armed violence. The ICRC plans to distribute over 40,000 tonnes of food, seeds and fertilizer to up to one million people over a period of 11 months between January and November 2003. On the basis of its field assessments, the ICRC is targeting extremely vulnerable subsistence farmers living mainly in lowland areas experiencing up to 90% crop failure, and who are exposed to potential security threats or marginalization. The areas targeted are Erob region, in north-eastern Tigray, the lowlands of Wolayita and Sidama zones of the SNNPRS -- Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Regional State -- and the lowlands of Eastern and Western Hararghe in Oromia. ICRC surveys are currently underway in the Bale region in Oromia and Zones 1 and 2 of the Afar region to determine the extent of needs there. The timely distribution of seeds and fertilizer is intended to allow farmers to plant during the short, February- to-May rainy season, thus restoring their productive capacity and self-sufficiency. Food assistance aims to ensure that the families do not consume or sell the seeds, do not leave their land to look for work to feed their families, and that the poorest among them are not forced to sell their remaining possessions, mainly livestock, to survive.

  • The action is being planned and will be carried out in close coordination with other national and international humanitarian orga nizations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), the United Nations and its specialized agencies, in particular the World Food Programme, NGOs active in the country and the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission of the Ethiopian government. 

  • This urgent preventive action is an extension of the food distribution programme launched in October for 100,000 farmers affected by drought and conflict in north-eastern Ethiopia (Afar Zone 3 and Afdem and Mieso woredas (districts) of the Shinile Zone, Somali region). One distribution has been completed, with the second underway and two more scheduled.

  •  This action is in addition to the 2003 budget for Ethiopia set out in the ICRC's recently released  Emergency Appeals 2003.   The final cost and breakdown of expenses will be published in January in a Budget Extension Appeal. Donors are, however, urged to contact the ICRC immediately concerning pledges of cash, cash-for-kind and in-kind contributions.  

    

 Humanitarian situation  

Food production in 2002 in Ethiopia is reported to be 20% lower than the national average of the past five years, and 90% lower than 2001 in the worst hit lowland regions. Acute food shortages are expected to peak between the end of the dry season in March and the first harvest of 2003 in July. The food crisis is due to the accumulated affects of late and scarce rainfall, economic factors, farming techniques and, in the areas where the ICRC plans to assist up to one million people, ongoing int ernal disturbances or the potential for violence.

Assessments by ICRC specialists in November confirm the severity of the plight facing poor, subsistence farmers in the lowland regions of the SNNPRS and Eastern and Western Hararghe in Oromia, and in the Erob region of Tigray.

The most vulnerable subsistence farmers in the lowland regions till small plots of land, on average just half a hectare, may have one ox or cow, and have experienced crop failure of between 50 and 100%. Some have already exhausted their own food stock. Others have just enough to feed their families for up to a maximum of four months. They are coping, but only just, and at the risk of losing their livelihood. To get money to feed their families, farmers are being forced to sell their remaining possessions, namely cattle. However, the animals have little value because the market is flooded and the livestock that are surviving the drought are in poor health. Over the years, many households have increasingly turned to alternatives to earn money during hard times, such as selling wood and charcoal or fetching water. Now, because of the drought and weakened economy, these jobs are scarce and competition for such work is fierce. The vulnerability of these farming families is heightened as a result of living in regions prone to violence. Tension between the Wolayita and Sidama communities is high in the SNNPRS, and Eastern and Western Hararghe in Oromia are affected by the presence of the Oromo Liberation Front.

The ICRC survey revealed that the situation is even grimmer in the Erob region of Tigray. It is clear that farmers have exhausted all available means of providing for themselves and can no longer survive without outside support. The region suffers from prolonged drought, deforestation and heavy erosion, and livestock are unable to migrate to traditional pastureland in Eritrea.

 ICRC response  

    

The ICRC is expanding its urgent preventive action to assist the most vulnerable people suffering the combined effects of drought, economic problems and armed violence, ethnic clashes and disturbances. The targeted population comprises up to one million people: 30,000 beneficiaries in the Erob region, north-eastern Tigray; some 330,000 beneficiaries in the lowlands of Wolayita and Sidama zones of the SNNPRS;S and some 570,000 beneficiaries in the lowlands of Eastern and Western Hararghe in Oromia. ICRC surveys are currently underway in the Bale region in Oromia and Zones 1 and 2 of the Afar region to determine the extent of needs there. This action is an extension of the food distribution programme launched in October for 100,000 farmers affected by drought and conflict in north-eastern Ethiopia (Afar Zone 3 and Afdem and Mieso woredas of the Shinile Zone, Somali region). One distribution has been completed there, with one underway and two more scheduled.

Strong evidence, as outlined above, suggests that if assistance is not undertaken imme-diately, these vulnerable populations will face acute food shortages within a few months -- in some cases the onset of famine -- and will certainly be unable to cope with any new hardship.

All beneficiaries will receive a combination of food (wheat/grains, pulses and oil), seeds, and, where appropriate, fertilizer. Distributions will be carried out according to needs defined by ICRC assessments and continuous monitoring. The peak distribution period will be in March at the end of the dry season when food shortages are expected to be most acute. Based on current findings, some 330,000 farmers in the SNNPRS will receive a one-off distribution of food intended to ensure " seed protection " – that is to ensure that the farmers plant, and don't eat or sell, the ICRC-donated seeds. In Eastern and Western Hararghe, where the situation is more critical, some 200,000 farmers will receive food distributions for between four and seven months. The aim is seed protection, but also to encourage farmers to till their fields rather than look for other work to feed their families, and prevent them from having to sell their remaining possessions. In the Erob region of Tigray where extreme poverty is endemic, some 30,000 farmers will receive food distributions for 10 months to prevent the onset of famine.

 Area  

 No. of  

 beneficiaries  

 Seeds  

 and fertilizer  

 Food  

 (wheat, pulses, oil)  

 Soap  

SNNPRS

330,000

3,450 MT

7,200 MT

44 MT

Oromia –

Eastern and Western Haraghe

570,000

1,420 MT

24,800 MT

62 MT

Tigray –

Erob region

30,000

50 MT

5,100 MT

4 MT

 Total  

 930,000  

 4,920 MT  

 37,100 MT  

 110 MT  

 Humanitarian coordination  

    

As with the ongoing Afar operation (for more details, see ICRC Updates: REX 02/951, Update No. 26/2002, Ethiopia: conflict and drought in the Afar region , dated 04 July 2002) coordination is taking place at various levels. The ICRC is coordinating closely with the local, zonal, regional and federal authorities, in particular the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission (DPPC) of the Ethiopian government, and also with other national and international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, namely the World Food Programme, and NGOs present in Ethiopia, both in Addis Ababa and in the field. In fact, all major humanitarian organizations are consulting closely with the authorities and with each other to avoid duplication.

The different components of the Movement present in Ethiopia -- the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC -- are also working closely together in the field and at headquarters'level to streamline efforts and maximize efficiency. In particular, to respond to the urgent needs of the affected populations, the ICRC and ERCS will work together to promote the most efficient use of the Movement's human, material and financial resources and to mobilize these resources as rapidly as possible in relief operations and capacity-building initiatives.

 Other ICRC activities in Ethiopia  

    

The ICRC in Ethiopia responds to needs outstanding in the aftermath of the 1998–2000 international conflict with Eritrea and those arising from internal disturbances, needs which are, in several contexts, aggravated by poor seasonal rainfall. The ICRC:

  • ensures compliance with international humanitarian law regarding any remaining persons protected by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions

  • provides protection and assistance to the population affected and/or displaced by the recent international conflict and by internal armed violence in various parts of the country

  • visits detainees held in connection with the 1991 change of government and for reasons of State security    

  • in the Somali National Regional State (SNRS), implements integrated health, veterinary and water rehabilitation programmes for nomadic populations and carries out flood-management projects in areas particularly at risk.

The first ICRC office on the African continent was opened in Addis Ababa in 1935 during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and was operational for the duration of the conflict. The ICRC has been continuously present in Ethiopia since 1977, at the outbreak of the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia.