The Drought Crisis - the Current Situation
Addis Tribune (04/21/00) By Our Staff Reporter
The rain has started to fall in various parts of Ethiopia. Donors are pledging and food has started arriving at the port of Djibouti. Reports coming from the Somali Region indicate that the problems in Gode and other parts of the state are severe. More has to be done besides food distribution - feeding the weak and controlling the spread of diseases. Following is a summary of the current situation:
The situation with regard to drought relief operations remains precarious. Food availability remains the key concern. According
to government sources there is only 51,000 metric tons in the Emergency Food Security Reserve (EFSR) with an additional
41,000 metric tons presently under withdrawal for distribution. EFSR stocks are likely to remain low over the coming months.
For the months of April, May, June, a total of 400,000 metric tons of food aid is expected to arrive at the port of Djibouti
alone. World Food Program (WFP) is taking steps to enhance the handling capacity of the port through a US $2.6 million
special operation, which will include improvements to berth number 13, and the construction of a movable warehouse facility.
Another special operation, budgeted at US $3.5 million will be used to finance emergency repairs of roads and other critical
sectors in Djibouti - Gallafi road which is the main road linking the port to the border with Ethiopia. The projects are viewed as
very important and additional donor cash support is being sought.
Emergency Health Interventions
In the drought-affected lowlands of Somali Region and Borena, and South Omo in southern Ethiopia, emergency health
interventions are highly required. Diarrhea and other communicable diseases are rapidly spreading in the area. Essential drugs
and health supplies are seen as especially critical. It is also feared that with the coming of heavy rains, the problem will be
compounded - the outbreak of malaria and other communicable and life-threatening diseases may rise.
In the past week, UNICEF has airlifted nearly a ton of essential drugs and other urgent medical supplies to Gode. Another
additional 12 metric tons of health and emergency shelter supplies are en route to Gode by road.
Shortage of Water
Access to safe water has been very critical now for months both for humans and livestock. Recent surveys among pastoral and
agro-pastoral communities in the area of Borena, adjacent to the Kenyan border indicate very high levels of wasting and
malnourishment among children under five years of age. Mortality amongst breeding animals has been very high due to a
shortage of pasture and water. As a result there has been little or no milk production in the area.
The Visit of Catherine Bertini
Catherini Bertini, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General on the Drought in the Greater Horn of Africa, visited Ethiopia
from 11 to 15 April. According to UN Country Team Ethiopia report, she has assured the Ethiopian government that the
United Nations would do everything possible to work alongside international donors, the government and Ethiopian people in
helping to avert a major human crisis.
As a result of the Special Envoy's visit, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has established a high-level inter-agency Task
Force on the drought. The objective of the Task Force will be to work closely with the governments of the region to identify a
set of comprehensive strategies to tackle the longer-term issues of food security and drought mitigation in the Horn of Africa.
There was some rain over the highlands of Ethiopia towards the end of March and the first few days of April. These were
generally considered to be too little, and too late for over 2 million farmers who are dependent on the small rains.
There is still a critical need to pre-position food in remote areas before the heavy rains, which normally start in July. Right now
enough food is not available to meet even immediate needs. With the additional requirement to ferry about three months of food assistance for millions of people in remote areas, there will be a desperate race against time.