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Update 00/02 on ICRC activities in Ethiopia (Conflict and drought in south-eastern Ethiopia)

19-04-2000 Operational Update

 1. Introduction  

Although scattered rains were reported in parts of the drought-affected Somali National Regional State last week, they have so far had little impact on the overall situation , as they were too isolated and limited.   Since there are no clear forecasts about the future " Gu " (April-June) rainfall which is due to start at the end of April at the latest, the threat looms large that the famine may expand beyond the particularly vulnerable communities in the Gode Zone and bordering areas.

 2. ICRC emergency response - initial phase  

Since 17 April 2000, food distributions have started for the communities in the four districts of Imi, Gode, Denan and Adaadle where high malnutrition rates have been registered by ICRC survey teams. ICRC rations will come as an essential nutritional complement to the wheat distributed by the Ethiopian Government's Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission (DPPC).

Based on analysis of the humanitarian situation, the ICRC has drawn up a plan of action with a phased, targeted approach, and is actively working to set up the ICRC's food pipeline and general distributions of high-protein food and oil to the most affected communities as quickly and effectively as possible. As it is still the early phase of an extremely complex operation, a number of adjustments are expected to the logistical set-up and the emergency programmes.

  • Since the last update, based on ongoing assessments, the ICRC's contribution to the monthly food ration has doubled   (see below for further details);

  • In the Gode Zone, independent ICRC food security assessments continue to be carried out at the same time as emergency programmes in areas both along and at some distance from the Wabi Shebele river (see below for further details).


The combination of extremely difficult terrain - covering a large area with dirt roads that are often hazardous and difficult to traverse - combined with the potential security risks posed by the presence of armed groups and the prevalence of banditry in some areas, means that the constraints are already formidable. The airlift option was chosen as clearly the quickest way of transporting urgently needed aid to the area. Paradoxically, in the event of rainfall, the emergency response could well become seriously hampered - trucks stuck in the mud for days at a time - and many people may therefore be unreachable by road. The inherent risk of disease associated with rainfall could also mean that in the short term, i.e. for the initial 3-4 weeks, the death toll could rise before the population and their animals start the recovery process in 1-2 months time.


 Food assistance  

The ICRC began the first of its daily flight rotations to Gode airport from Nairobi on 12 April with the arrival of an ICRC-chartered Hercules C-130 carrying 17 metric tonnes of emergency food aid. These daily flight rotations from Nairobi to Gode are expected to continue over the next two months in order to secure a minimum of food security for the affected population. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, this assistance started to be distributed on 17 April 2000 to the population living in Denan district, where earlier ICRC assessments revealed very high rates of malnutrition, particularly among drought-related displaced people who have flocked to this location over the last few weeks. Early emergency distributions are also planned in the districts of Gode, Adaadle and Imi. Owing to very poor road conditions between Gode and Imi, an air bridge will be set up between Nairobi and Dire Dawa so that assistance to Imi district can be flown in and delivered by truck from Dire Dawa to Imi town and its surrounding villages. The first flight to Dire Dawa is due to take place on 20 April. Warehousing for this part of the operation will be done in Jijiga, the regional capital, which will serve as the second logistical base for the operation.

The primary objective of the ICRC emergency relief programme is to balance the food distributed by the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Commission (DPPC) by adding pre-cooked fortified blended food, together with oil for energy. The ICRC presupposes that the DPPC is in a position to continue to provide 6 kg wheat/person/month to the whole population of the four districts mentioned above. Since the last update, the ICRC's contribution to the monthly food ration per person has now been increased to:

  • blended food

  • oil

10 kg/month/1,310 Kcal/person/day (ICRC)

2 kg/month/590 Kcal/person/day (ICRC)

Combined together with the 6 kg of wheat/month from the DPPC, the ICRC ration will give the targeted population a daily energy intake of approximately 2,550 Kcal/person/day. In view of the changes to the rations mentioned above, the total amount of food required has been increased from 1,130 tonnes/month to 2,260 tonnes/month from the initial calculation. If necessary, the programme will last until the next harvest season at the end of December 2000, but if the expected " Gu " rains are adequate and nutritional and household surveys indicate that the affected population is well on the way to recovery, the programme may be terminated by the end of July.

In its initial phase, the ICRC will be concentrating on setting up an assistance pipeline in order to secure the minimum food needs for the population in the region through general food distributions. However, in the event that other humanitarian organizations are unable to adequately respond to the crisis, the ICRC does not exclude the possibility of establishing therapeutic feeding centres if appropriate, and has the necessary equipment and supplies in Nairobi ready to be transported. The ICRC's response is based on the fact that malnutrition in a given area cannot be addressed simply by therapeutic feeding centres alone. The food security of the general population must first be secured to ensure that people treated in feeding centres do not continually return to them seeking assistance.

Whilst carrying out general emergency food distributions, at the same time the ICRC will continue to conduct independent assessments of the affected communities in order to monitor the impact of food assistance on the nutritional status of the targeted population. At present, many destitute internally displaced people continue to flock towards the nearest settlements in search of food. The ICRC remains in constant contact with all parties concerned to be in a position to pursue its essential surveys.

 Seeds and non-food assistance  

In preparation for possible " Gu " seasonal rainfall, and in order to improve the longer-term food security of part of the population, the ICRC is currently endeavouring to distribute a total of 186 tonnes of sorghum seeds to 18,600 farming families (10 kg each) in the rain fed districts (those living far from the Wabi Shebele river) of Imi, Denan, Gode and Adaadle. The seeds distributed to these people will be in addition to ICRC food distributions.

To reduce the risk of epidemics spreading caused by poor hygienic conditions, and to provide the displaced and destitute with basic shelter from the elements, the ICRC is in the process of purchasing soap and tarpaulins for distribution at a later date.

 Veterinary emergency response  

Although the arrival of rains will be a blessing for the drought-affected people in Gode Zone, this same rainwater will render the already weakened livestock extremely susceptible to many endemic diseases. In order to maximize the chances of survival for the remaining livestock, the ICRC, in co-operation with the South East Rangelands Project (SERP), will carry out an emergency veterinary programme for approximately 100,000 head of livestock, treating these animals for e ndo and ecto parasites and some common bacterial diseases. A second round of treatment will take place in June.

 Water and sanitation  

The ICRC continues to support the digging or rehabilitation of wells in Afder Zone. In Denan and Gudis towns, most wells have dried up, and in the event that NGOs, which presently supply these towns with water trucks, are unable to increase or continue the supply of water, the ICRC plans to act and start water-trucking to complement existing water supplies.



In the initial phase, the food will be briefly stored in Gode and Jijiga by the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society before being transported to the affected towns and distributed by community elders under Red Cross supervision. All food required is currently being mobilized by the ICRC's regional logistics centre in Nairobi and by ICRC headquarters in Geneva.


 3. Humanitarian coordination  

A substantial relief operation involving the Ethiopian authorities (DPPC), the Red Cross, United Nations agencies and NGOs is presently the top priority in the region. All major humanitarian organizations are closely consulting with the authorities and with each other to try to plan a complementary approach which avoids duplication. The different components of the Red Cross Movement present in Ethiopia, (i.e., the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the International Federation and the ICRC) are working closely together both in the field and at headquarters level to streamline efforts and maximize efficiency. Elsewhere, the International Federation is also supporting the efforts of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society to assist farming communities hit by the drought in the two districts of Ambassel and Kutaber in South-Wollo. The ICRC, for its part, has always regularly coordinated with other organizations who have been working in the Somali Region for a number of years.

As mentioned in the previous ICRC update, the Ministry of Health and MSF-Belgium have completed a measles vaccination campaign in the whole of the Gode Zone. Where necessary and appropriate, the ICRC is prepared to assist with the continuation of vaccination activities carried out by NGOs working in therapeutic feeding centres. The Ogaden Welfare Society, a local NGO, has started to distribute blended food in Denan and Imi districts. Other NGOs have opened therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres, or are trucking water.

Ref. LG 2000-047-ENG