Ethiopia is vulnerable to major disasters such as drought, famine, and epidemics. Recurrent droughts accompanied by famine and epidemics had been documented since the ninth century. But the degree and geographical coverage of the problem was much more limited then.
During the past four decades, however, drought induced famine has been affecting thousands of individuals.
The northern, eastern and southern parts of the country are the most drought prone areas, accounting for about half of the total areas of the nation.
The drought-induced famine has been dictating the intervention of national and international organisations which have been providing food aid. The provision of food aid and health care in the past saved lives, but failed to address the root causes that make people vulnerable to disaster and it has thus been neither preventive nor sustainable.
Based on lessons drawn from past experience of relief and development operations, a shift in direction has been made. An approach, which aims at integrating relief with development, was launched with the National Policy on Disaster Prevention and Management in 1993. In addition, the government has put policies aimed at tackling the root causes that make people vulnerable to disaster in place. The government has also been working with NGOs, UN agencies and other donor countries to find lasting sustainable solution to food insecurity and epidemics.
To this end, vulnerability profiles (VPs) are being prepared with the participation of Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and the Southern nations, Nationalities and Peoples states. these VPs are different from the past ones, since they involve in developing the local capacity to plan, collect, and analyse the primary as well as secondary information and use it directly for response package and development planning.
Vulnerability refers to the full range of factors that place people at risk of becoming affected by disaster. It is the propensity of a society to experience substantial damage and disruption as the result of hazards (e.g. drought, flood) and difficulty to cope with, and recover from them. People can be highly exposed to specific hazards but have the resources to cope and, therefore, are not vulnerable, or are less exposed. The degree of vulnerability for an individual, household or group of persons is determined by their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to cope with or withstand stressful situations.
The vulnerability profiles to be issued at federal, state, zonal and woreda level will be information guides through which policy makers, planners, donors and relief and development practitioners would get informed about the nature, magnitude, and the factors that make people vulnerable to disaster. The profiles will be used as tools to understand the underlying and associated causes of vulnerability to disaster. The profiles will also help to guide medium and long-term programme directions. This includes targeting of high-risk groups and areas by identifying causes and conditions that exist in each specific area.
Moreover, for all levels of the administrative hierarchy the profiles will provide better and more up-to-date information to planners and members of civil society concerned with disaster prevention and preparedness and will facilitate assessments of policy and programme options to improve the situation. In general, the profiles will provide information to be used in: development planning, incorporating disaster prevention; vulnerability reduction; preparedness planning; baseline data for relief and rehabilitation planning; policy formulation and review; and programme management and evaluation.
The National Policy on Disaster prevention and Management (NPDPM), the Integrated Food Security Programme and other policies which aimed at promoting food security and tackling disaster requires accurate and timely information on the incidence, prevalence, nature and causes of disaster if they are to be effective. Such information is critically important for both national and states or local decision makers to formulate and implement effective plans and programmes and to target beneficiaries, in a way that can address the root causes of disaster vulnerabilities and enhance the food security strategy.
The existing informations, which are generated from small-scale studies, are inadequate in terms of area coverage and diversity of indicators. While vulnerability to disaster is the outcome of many interrelated factors (such as asset, poverty, poor rainfall, dependency burden, isolation from major services, low level of farming technology, land degradation, poor topography, backward cultural practises, poor health and sanitation environment, etc.), the existing profiles and studies failed to cover all possible factors in their vulnerability studies. For this reason, DPPC and States' Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureaux lack sufficient and adequate baseline information on vulnerability to famine and other disasters at different levels and even in the drought prone areas of the country.
One of the important tools to implement the strategy is to prepare a vulnerability profile that provides the baseline information needed for early warning, planning, monitoring, and explaining how different preparedness and prevention measures can be undertaken.
Most of the disaster prone states lack trained workforce to prepare vulnerability profiles of their own hence, have weak response abilities to disasters.
Therefore, there is a need for basic information on what exactly causes the vulnerability and what is the response capacity of the people in certain areas.
In order to meet this need, DPPC has laid the groundwork to coordinate vulnerability research at federal level. This research will be up-to-date and in-depth, and is intended to reveal the root causes of chronic vulnerability at community, agro-ecological and woreda levels. This systematic research, with direct implication for developing more appropriate response packages, has not yet been carried out on systematic basis by the DPPC.
To review these efforts a workshop on "Vulnerability in Ethiopia: From Disaster to Development," was held at the Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa, June 23-25, 1997. The workshop participants represented 14 federal ministries and authorities, 35 Non-Governmental Organisations, nine UN agencies, 15 embassies and 10 research institutions. The recommendations from the workshop form the basis of this programme.
Understanding the complexity of developing vulnerability profile and shortage of trained manpower at local levels, the Ghion workshop participants, DPPC and VAG (Vulnerability Assessment Group) members have stressed the need for a national guideline for vulnerability profile development. Thus, a guideline has been designed to assist states, zonal and woredas to develop their own vulnerability profile by collecting and analysing the necessary data for their own response packages and development plan.
Since then, the project grant agreement for "Strengthening Emergency Response Abilities" (SERA) has been signed between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia through DPPC and the United States of America through USAID in September 1997. The project assistance completion date is panned for September 30,2001. The total amount of budget earmarked for the project period is US$3,700,000.
Subsequently, in early 1998, a draft of the SERA project document was prepared and distributed to the targeted states (Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureaux - DPPBs). It was thoroughly discussed by participants of a one-day discussion forum on March 19, 1998. The forum's feed-back plus subsequent regional site visit discussion was taken into account, and in accordance with DPPC's mandate in the current project document.
The major objectives are; developing reliable vulnerability profiles of selected disaster prone areas of the county, conducting relevant vulnerability research and special studies on root causes of vulnerability: strengthening response mechanisms and development interventions through incorporation of the results of vulnerability profiles and research results.
The project area covers the most highly vulnerable zones of the said four states. The target zones have been selected based on existing DPPC vulnerability data and Central Statistics Authority population data, and in consultation with states. All woredas in the eighteen zones (special woredas) are targeted for the development of vulnerability profiles. Substitutions of other more highly vulnerable zones that are suggested by the states will be considered, and their final election will be based on direct discussions and review of the objective criteria with each state although there is lack of resources to add more woredas.
Of the five broad programmes prioritised at the said workshop, the SERA research will mainly focus on "Analysis of root causes of vulnerability".
Three of the five proposed SERA research topics come from this area, and along with two other topics, these are being planned as part of SERA: root causes of ecological degradation; indicators of vulnerability, epidemics and coping strategies; population pressure, carrying capacity of the land and off-farm employment; analysis of drought forecasting capability; and targeting indicators of the most chronically vulnerable groups. Of these five topics, up to three will begin in 1999.
In the initial stages of the project, some woredas and zones will be selected from different agro-ecological areas to try out bottom-up planning of response packages corresponding to the result of the vulnerability analysis. The personnel will be involved initially in the profile design, data collection and analysis and aggregation at woreda and zonal levels.
The DPPC, as an executing agency, will be responsible for the management and follow-up, of the implementation of the project. The DPPC will also administer all project funds, and work out contractual arrangements with each state.
By 2001, when the project will be completed, national, state, zonal and woreda vulnerability profiles useful for disaster prevention and preparedness measures will be ready; major vulnerability will be identified; human capacity will be developed at state, zonal and woreda levels for vulnerability profile implementation; relevant, up-to-date research results on root causes of vulnerability, maps of national vulnerability and hazard factors will be prepared, and will be ready for publication their dissemination taken care of; and therefore, response packages will be designed.
(Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission)