The Drought Crisis - the Current Situation

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:

 

Relief Operations Remain Precarious

 

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.

 

The Rain

 

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.