Update on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia with a Special Focus on the Somali Region
As predicted earlier by the National Meteorology Services Agency (NMSA), the main
kiremt rains began in the first week of June in the western and central parts of the country.
The northern parts of Amhara region, where it began raining three weeks ago, were the first
areas to receive kiremt rains this year.
This early onset of the rains is favourable for land preparation and planting but the long-term
forecast for the meher cropping season remains the subject of some discussion. NMSA
forecast a generally good meher season while the regional Drought Monitoring Centre in
Nairobi is a little more cautious, indicating for northern Ethiopia "enhanced probabilities for
below normal to near-normal rainfall" while for the western and central areas there are
"increased probabilities of near normal to below normal" rain patterns. The Drought
Monitoring Centre also emphasizes that in areas that were severely affected by drought
over the last year or more "the accumulated rainfall deficits may not be offset even if normal
rainfall conditions are experienced between May and September."
In the Somali region, the main gu rains were late by several weeks, and some areas only
received ten full days of rains. Even so, the rains were very heavy, causing localized flooding
and making some roads impassable. The southern and south-eastern lowlands of Ethiopia
do not normally receive further rains until around October or November, so there remains a
question as to whether the very short but heavy rains in May have been sufficient to
produce enough pasture to last until the next rains.
Over the past few months the issue of the composition of the drought relief food basket has
been discussed extensively and WFP now plans to include edible oil in their food deliveries
to the most severely drought-affected areas from July onwards. The inclusion of oil, pulses
and blended foods into their relief food deliveries are part of WFP's ongoing efforts to
improve the composition of the food basket. Plans to purchase beans locally are currently
In other developments related to local food purchase, the Disaster Prevention and
Preparedness Commission (DPPC) has been able to secure and to deliver to their
warehouses 77,000 MT of grain out of a total of 100,000 MT committed by the Ethiopian
government to the drought relief program. Compared to last week's figure this is an
additional 12,000 MT.
Clearance to operate the UN helicopter, which arrived from Kenya on 6 June, was
obtained from the Ethiopian authorities on June 5. The medium-lift MI-8 helicopter is to be
used to support drought related humanitarian operations mainly in the Somali region.
The performance of the railway system has shown improvement with10,864 MT of various
commodities being transported from Djibouti to Dire Dawa for refugee programs, internally
displaced programs and drought relief programs between 16 May and 5 June.
Secondary deliveries from the main warehouses to distribution points of sub-warehouses
has also improved and recently averaged about 3,500 MT per day. However, there is still
deep concern regarding tariffs charged for short-haul transport and further consultation is
needed on this issue.
Special Update on the Situation in the Somali National Regional State
Gode has been at the centre of drought relief operations in the Somali region since the
beginning of the year. The town has become a support base for UN relief operations in the
central part of the region and a number of non-governmental organizations have launched
emergency assistance programs in the town and surrounding area. ICRC have expanded
their long-standing presence in Gode to enhance their drought relief program in the area.
This special section provides a brief update on the situation in Gode Zone.
Clashes between two sub-clans of the Abdalla clan, the Rer Qasin and Hassan Adan are
reported to have taken place on 3 June in Bardo-Qorah, 25 km west of Gode. Fights
erupted due to disagreement about land usage. Tension between the two groups is reported
to have been high for the past eight months; attempts to mediate have so far been
unsuccessful. Army, police, local administration, in conjunction with local elders and clan
leaders, have joined forces to end the fighting and convince the Rer Qasin and Hassan
Adan to negotiate.
Tensions about land ownership have also been reported at Karinka, 60 km further to the
southeast, near the town of Kelafo.
Stress Migration, Internally Displaced Peoples
Further unusual population movements have been observed into Gode and other local
centers, such as Denan and Imi. The Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS) reports that around
700 new arrivals came to Gode town during the last days of May. According to Save the
Children/US (SCF-US) and Médicins sans Frontières/Belgium (MSF-Belgium) 7,000 new
people are estimated to have arrived in Denan and the camp of internally displaced peoples
outside of Denan between end of April and end of May. Since then, a further increase of
population has been observed.
Most of these migrants come from areas where no feeding centers have been set up. After
completing an assessment mission to Gode, a field officer of the UN Emergencies Unit
reported that farmers from Kelafo were complaining that food aid meant for this area had
only arrived after some delay and in insufficient amounts. These same informants also
indicated that needy people who still felt strong enough to move had migrated to Gode once
they knew for sure that food aid and supplementary and therapeutic feeding were available
While the search for drinking water initially seemed to be an important factor that made
people decide to move, currently the existence of feeding centers and food distributions
may be acting as a pull factor. Gode also has a special attraction for migrants, as there is a
wide spread conviction in the whole of Somali region that Gode is receiving more
international attention and services than any other area of the country.
The Haraghe Catholic Secretariat, in a recent report on Shinille Zone of the Somali region,
has also noted unusual population movements with large numbers of cattle moving in search
of pasture. In the western part of the zone, beginning in mid-May, people and herds began
to move towards Gedawit along the Awash-Gewane road while more recently large herds
were observed moving towards the Deketa Valley. In both these cases it was reported that
many animals had already died and that those on the move were in sick and in poor
condition with significant losses taking place along the route. Another area of major concern
was the high incidence various livestock diseases and ticks and the fear that pasteurolosis,
blackleg, anthrax and foot and mouth disease would spread to the local herds.
Relief food operations
Although there are indications that food dispatches have improved recently, administrators
and officials of the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Bureau in Somali region have
complained about the very slow pace of food aid deliveries. Less than the required amounts
of food aid reached distribution points in Somali region from Jigjiga and Dire Dawa, and
transport of food aid to some parts of the region began as late as mid-April.
Another factor that slowed the operation down were the late but unusually heavy gu rains
that resulted in food trucks aid getting stuck in floods, deep mud or in not being able to pass
broken bridges. Local officials also complain that food deliveries are delayed due to lack of
fuel and suitable trucks in the area.
Livestock and Agriculture
The late rains did improve pastures and the availability of drinking water for cattle and other
livestock and there is now some increase in the availability of milk on the local markets.
However, the heavy rains killed many weak animals and those that survived the drought are
prone to suffer from enzootic diseases, such as endoparasities, ectoparasites,
trypsansomiasis, bronchitis and mange. Camels and goats are reported to have faired
slightly better and there is now good forage from the shrubs and trees.
As the flood water along the banks of the Wabe Shebelle River recedes, farmers around
Imi, Kelafo and Mustahil have begun to plant their fields.
There are reports from the Somali region of epidemic malaria, measles, acute diarrhea,
dysentery, pneumonia and a trebling of the incidence of tuberculosis over the past three
months in both children and adult males. Gode hospital with a 40-bed capacity has doubled
its patient intake. Most new admissions are severely malnourished children and adults
suffering of tuberculosis. Deaths related to these diseases are reported. Anaemia, especially
among pregnant women is reported to be very common.
Health records in Gode indicate a five-fold increase in admission of children below 60%
weight-for-height over the last six months - most of which were brought during the past
On 27 May, 2,764 beneficiaries were being fed in the ten supplementary feeding centers
that have been established in Gode Zone so far. The number of beneficiaries in the feeding
centers is still on the increase, mainly due to stress migration and the fact that previously
discharged children are being returned to the feeding centers.
The Gode town water supply system is in urgent need of maintenance and further
development, especially as the additional influx of drought affected people is putting more
demand on the system. What is currently needed most are spare parts and fuel to operate
the pumps drawing water from the Shebelle River.
Although the short but heavy rains have relieved the drinking water crisis, surface water,
especially in ponds, is polluted, due to the accumulation of garbage, faeces, animal dung,
etc., during the long dry spell. There is a serious health risk and chances are high that water
borne diseases will spread. The internally displaced in the whole of Somali region are at
most risk, as they often have no possibilities to boil or treat water before drinking it.
UN Country Team Field Unit in Gode
The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) has established a temporary Field Unit in
Gode that provides common services and office space for all UN agencies operating in the
area. The premises, leased from the regional administration, also include the offices of the
local government-led Gode Task Force that acts as a main coordination and
information-sharing platform for all humanitarian organizations operating in the area.
A generator has now been installed and connected along with a HF radio system that
provides voice communication and an e-mail service for both the UN and NGOs operating
in the area.
For more information please contact any of the following members of the UN Country
(All numbers prefixed with +251 1, if calling from outside Ethiopia)
Office of the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Rosa Malango: 44 44 00 (fax:
Office of the UN Resident Coordinator: 51-10-25 (fax: 51-51-47)
UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, Caroline Stiebler: 51-37-25 (fax: 51-12-92)
World Food Programme, Roberta Rossi: 51-51-88 (fax: 51-44-33)
UNICEF, Venus Easwaran: 51-51-55 (fax: 51-16-28)
WHO: 51-40-31 (fax: 53-15-50)
FAO: 51-72-33 (fax: 51-52-66)
UNHCR: 61-28-22 (fax: 61-16-66)
UNDP: 51-51-77 (fax: 51-45-99)
UNFPA: 51-19-80 (fax: 51-53-11)
IOM: 51-16-73 (fax: 51-49-00)
UNESCO: 51-39-53 (fax: 51-14-14)
UNIDO: 51-51-77 (fax: 51-27-33)
World Bank: 51-42-00 (fax: 51-14-41)
IMF: 51-14-11 (fax: 51-11-18)
ILO: 51-43-13 (fax: 51-45-99)
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this document do not imply
the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the UN concerning the legal status of any
country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers
10 June 2000
UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia
PO Box 60252
Tel.: (251) (1) 51-10-28/29
Fax: (251) (1) 51-12-92