New drought risks in Ethiopia put recovery at risk – Humanitarian News

FAO targets pastoralists in southern regions facing failed rains on heels of a calamitous El Niño

Full report can be found at UN OCHA

New drought risks in Ethiopia put recovery at risk - Humanitarian News
A village in Ethiopia weathers the drought. © FAO/Tamiru Legesse

(ReliefWeb) — 17 January 2016, Rome-New drought across swathes of southern Ethiopia may jeopardize the East African nation’s restoration of food security after the worst agricultural seasons in decades unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas, FAO warned today.

While an impressive government-led humanitarian effort has sharply reduced the number of hungry during the worst drought in 50 years, the legacy of last year’s El Niño along with low rainfall during a critical season pose renewed risks now, especially for pastoral communities facing forage shortfalls and water scarcity in southern regions.

Safeguarding recent gains requires responding to the livelihood-sustaining needs of fragile households that lost or sold livestock and other assets, often adding to family debt burdens to cope with the worst El Niño in modern history.

Effective and timely action has reduced the number of people who will need food aid in 2017 to 5.6 million, down from almost twice as much last August, according to the newly released Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD). However, food security in 120 woredas (districts) has worsened since July, while 86 woredas are entering their third year (since December 2015) of top-priority emergency status.

The just-approved HRD, jointly developed by the Government of Ethiopia along with UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other development partners, covers a range of subjects including education, access to water and nutrition. It advises that the bulk of the agriculture sector needs are related to assistance to pastoralists and agropastoralists livestock assistance – a total of $42 million is required by the sector to reach 1.9 million households, mainly in drought-affected southern and southeastern pastoral regions, this year.

Drought strikes again

While northern and western Ethiopia bore the brunt of El Niño, a new drought is emerging in southern and southeastern pastoral areas including Oromia, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNP) after poor, delayed and erratic rains curbed pasture and water availability. Some 80 percent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods and an even higher share of the country’s arable land relies on seasonal rainfall.

Below-average precipitation has also affected neighboring Somalia and Kenya. The impact is expected to be most dire in early 2017 among livestock, with unusually early migrations, excess mortality rates and extreme emaciation.

FAO calls for an immediate response to support the food security and nutrition of households reliant on animals. Along with the provision of supplementary animal feed, especially along migratory routes, targeted destocking interventions will be implemented to make protein-rich meat available for vulnerable pastoral communities and support livestock prices in local markets.

Poorly-fed animals reproduce less frequently, lengthening the prospective time required to rebuild herds. For Ethiopian households, restocking after the loss of half of one’s cattle typically takes four years without adverse conditions.

Addressing fragility

Even though FAO’s support will focus on communities depending on livestock, some areas along the Rift Valley, however, especially in the northern and eastern highlands, are facing below-average crop production and therefore receive prioritized agricultural support as recovery will take longer than anticipated.

South Sudan refugees and their hosting communities in Gambella Region, are facing significant food availability and access challenges, and enabling households to produce more of their own food is essential.

After having reached 1.3 million farmers and herders affected by the El Niño-induced drought in 2016, FAO is appealing for $20 million to reach one million farming, agro-pastoral and pastoral households in 2017, with the aim of protecting gains made last year and preventing vulnerable households from slipping further into food insecurity.

FAO’s programme seeks in particular to support crop production, implement emergency response and resilience activities in the livestock sector, support livelihoods in refugee-hosting areas and strengthen coordination, information and analysis.

Ethiopia Humanitarian Requirements Document, 17 January 2017
Ethiopia: Government and partners launch the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2017

US$948 million urgently needed to address food and non-food needs for 5.6 million people

Addis Ababa, 17 January 2017 (ReliefWeb): The Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners today officially launched the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2017. The HRD seeks US$948 million to help 5.6 million people with emergency food and non-food assistance, mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

“Last year the Government of Ethiopia, with the support of international donors and humanitarian partners, was able to mount the biggest drought response operation in global history. Today we need that partnership once again as we face a new drought, with 5.6 million in need of urgent assistance”, says Commissioner Mitiku Kassa, Head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC). “The Government of Ethiopia has committed US$47.35 million as a first installment for the 2017 HRD,” added the commissioner.

Failed rains in southern and eastern parts of the country caused by the negative Indian Ocean Dipole have left 5.6 million people in urgent need of assistance. The 2017 HRD presents prioritized plans in water and sanitation (WaSH), agriculture, relief food, nutrition, health, education, protection, and shelter and non-food items in the affected areas. Out of the $948 million sought for the 2017 response, $598 million is targeted for relief food, $105 million for nutrition, and $86 million for WaSH needs.

“The needs presented in the HRD for 2017 have been established through a robust, Government- led multiagency meher needs assessment, which took place over three weeks in November and December 2016.” says the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa- Onochie. Nearly 230 representatives from the Government, UN, NGOs and donors visited affected communities across Ethiopia’s nine regions. The assessment concluded that some 5.6 million people will be in need of assistance in the course of 2017.

“Humanitarian partners stand ready to support the Government in addressing the needs of those Ethiopians affected by this new drought. To do this we count on urgent support from the international community to help us to again save lives and protect Ethiopia’s impressive development gains.” Says Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie. “If well resourced, the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document will ensure a well-coordinated, timely and prioritized humanitarian response”

Read full document 2017-HRD-40-Final

Refugees and Asylum-seekers

UNICEF Ethiopia Humanitarian Situation Report #11 – Reporting Period December 2016

More in UNICEF Ethiopia HumanitarianSitRep #11 – December 2016


  • In December 2016, UNICEF has deployed 60 water trucks in Oromia Region to benefit an estimated 120,000 people with access to safe water.
    UNICEF has also dispatched US$650,000 worth of household and community-level water treatment chemicals to different regions; and supported the rehabilitation and maintenance of sustainable water supply systems, which together benefitted around 700,000 people.
  • Between January and October 2016, 271,927 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) were admitted to the national Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Programme. Out of these, 21,667 children (8 per cent) had complications and were admitted to in-patient care.
  • In response to the new influx of South Sudanese refugees, UNICEF supported the Regional Health Bureau of Gambella to vaccinate 23,543 children between 0 to 15 years and 21,863 children between 6 months and 14 years against polio and measles, respectively.
  • UNICEF reached more than 695,000 people with basic hygiene messages on acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) prevention and control in Oromia, SNNP and Somali regions.


9.7 million people require relief food assistance in 2016. (HRD, August 2016).

420,000 children are expected to require treatment for SAM in 2016. (HRD, August 2016)

3.9 million people require access to safe drinking water. (HRD, August 2016)

There are 783,401 refugees in Ethiopia. (UNHCR, November 2016).

UNICEF requires US$124 million for its humanitarian work in 2016, including US$115.5 million for the drought response and US$8.5 million for refugee programming.

Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs

The Meher harvest from November 2016 has improved the food security situation in many parts of the country. The National Disaster Risk Management Commission reports that, as a result of good seasonal rains from June to September 2016, the number of people requiring food aid in 2017 has decreased to 5.6 million people as compared to 10.2 million people at the beginning of 2016. However, in many other areas where rains (June to September 2016) were poor and where the effects of the El Niño drought were severe, effects will continue to negatively impact millions of poor households. On the other hand, the effects of the negative Indian Ocean Dipole led to serious water shortfalls in Somali and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNP). In the coming months, these areas will require an extensive humanitarian response as the regions progress into the dry season. The next seasonal rains in these pastoral areas are expected in April 2017. The Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) which indicates humanitarian needs for 2017 is expected to be released in January 2017.

In Afar, early cessation of the Karma rains (June to September) plus poor and erratic distribution in some areas of the region led to water shortages in Chifra (zone 1), Awra and Gulina (zone 4) and Telalak (zone 5). There are reports of abnormal livestock migration within and out of the region to neighbouring Amhara and Tigray regions. Milk production has also reduced and could not cover household consumptions needs.

The acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) situation in the country is improving in most affected regions as a result of coordinated response, extensive hygiene and sanitation promotion interventions and strengthened surveillance.

Addis Ababa, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Dire Dawa and Gambella reported zero cases for more than four weeks.

In Oromia, the AWD outbreak is contained in most areas except in East and West Hararghe zones. However, the situation in Somali (still badly affected), SNNP, Afar and Tigray is of concern with regard to further outbreaks. The Government and humanitarian partners are further strengthening their AWD interventions in these regions.

Scabies outbreak is currently spreading to SNNP and Oromia while Amhara and Tigray continue to report cases. In SNNP, 82 out of 148 woredas (55 per cent) are affected while the East and West Hararghe zones reported new scabies cases in 10 woredas. Partners’ interventions are ongoing.

Preliminary reports indicate that some 23,764 families in Afar, Oromia, SNNP and Somali regions urgently require non-food items (NFIs) as they are displaced due to drought and conflict. Humanitarian partners are working on prioritization to distribute the required items including shelter materials, kitchen sets, blankets and sleeping mats.

UNICEF, in partnership with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) is preparing to send 11,780 NFI kits for immediate distribution. In Ethiopia, it is estimated that there are more than 718,000 internally displaced people (130,000 households) due to flood, drought and conflict.
Ethiopia is hosting the largest refugee population in Africa with a total of 783,401 refugees as of November 2016.

South Sudanese refugees constitute the largest group (41.9 per cent), with 328,145 residing in Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz regions. They are followed by Somali (31.4 per cent), Eritrean (20.7 per cent) and Sudanese (5.1 per cent) refugees. Since September 2016, following renewed conflicts, 54,033 South Sudanese have arrived in Ethiopia. Of these new refugees, 51,984 were registered and relocated to Jewi, Kule, Ngyenyyiel and Tierkidi camps in Gambella.

Country Summary: Ethiopia, January 2017 [EN/AM/OM]

Full document ethiopia_1

Large-scale and unprecedented protests swept through Ethiopia’s largest region of Oromia beginning in November 2015, and in the Amhara region from July 2016. Ethiopian security forces cracked-down on these largely peaceful demonstrations, killing more than 500 people.

Scores of people fleeing security force gunfire and teargas during the annual Irreecha festival died in a stampede on October 2 in Bishoftu, Oromia region. On October 9, following the destruction of some government buildings and private property by youths, the government announced a draconian and far-reaching six-month countrywide state of emergency, which prescribes sweeping and vaguely worded restrictions on a broad range of actions and undermines free expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The directive also effectively codified many of the security forces’ abusive tactics, such as arbitrary detention.

The protests occurred against a background of nearly non-existent political space: in parliament, the ruling coalition has 100 percent of seats, there are restrictions on civil society and independent media, and those who do not actively support the government often face harassment and arbitrary detention.

Ethiopia deploys troops inside Somalia as part of the African Union mission (AMISOM). In 2016, there were reports that abusive “Liyu police,” a paramilitary force, were also deployed alongside the Ethiopian Defense Forces in Somalia. In July, Ethiopian forces operating outside the AMISOM mandate indiscriminately killed 14 civilians during an operation against Al-Shabab in Somalia’s Bay region. (See Somalia chapter.)

Freedom of Assembly

Concerns about the government’s proposed expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, triggered widespread protests across Oromia and a heavy-handed response by security forces in 2016. Protesters feared that the Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan would displace Oromo farmers, as has increasingly occurred over the past decade. There were broad doubts about the sincerity of the government’s announced cancellation of the Master Plan in January 2016, due largely to past broken promises. Protesters expressed concerns over decades of historical grievances and the wrongful use of lethal force by the security forces. There were some reports of violence by protesters, but protests were largely peaceful. Similar protests and a resultant crack-down occurred in Oromia in April and May 2014.

During the protests, security forces arrested tens of thousands of students, teachers, opposition politicians, health workers, and those who sheltered or assisted fleeing protesters. While many detainees have been released, an unknown number remain in detention without charge or access to legal counsel or family. Most of the leadership of the legally registered opposition party, Oromo Federalist Congress, have been charged under the anti-terrorism law, including Deputy-Chairman Bekele Gerba, a staunch advocate of non-violence.

In July, protests spread to the Amhara region, triggered by the arrest of Welkait Identity Committee members, a group seeking to resolve long-standing concerns over administrative boundaries. Protesters in Amhara region are primarily concerned with the unequal distribution of power and economic benefits in favor of those aligned to the government. On August 6 and 7, security forces killed over 100 people in Amhara and Oromia, including over 30 people killed in Bahir Dar alone. The town witnessed one of the largest protests. There were reports of large-scale arrests throughout Amhara.

In September, dozens of ethnic Konso were killed by security forces in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) following protests over administrative boundaries in the Konso area.

The government has not shown a willingness to address the expressed grievances of the protesters in Amhara, Oromia, or Konso, blaming much of the unrest on lack of good governance and youth unemployment, exacerbated by “outside forces.”

The Ethiopian government failed to meaningfully investigate the killings of protesters in Oromia, Amhara, or Konso. In a report to parliament in June, the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission, a government body, concluded that the level of force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from protesters, contrary to available evidence.

The October state of emergency directive banned all protests without government permission and permits arrest without court order in “a place assigned by the command post until the end of the state of emergency.”

The Liyu police, a Somali Regional State (SRS) paramilitary police force, continued to commit serious human rights abuses in their ongoing conflict with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). There have been reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and violence against civilians accused of supporting or being sympathetic to the ONLF. Following a June 12 protest in Melbourne, Australia, against the visit of SRS President Abdi Iley, dozens of family members of protesters were arrested in Ethiopia.

Freedom of Expression and Association

Media continues to be under government stranglehold, exacerbated by the state of emergency at the end of 2016, with many journalists forced to choose between self-censorship, harassment and arrest, or exile. At least 75 journalists have fled into exile since 2010. In addition to threats against journalists, tactics used to restrict independent media include targeting publishers, printing presses, and distributors.

Scores of journalists—including Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye—protesters, and political opponents remain jailed under the anti- terrorism law. Journalist Getachew Shiferaw was convicted in November of criminal defamation and sentenced to one year in prison. On May 10, blogger Zelalem Workagegneu was sentenced to five years and two months under the anti-terrorism law after being detained for over 700 days. Journalist Yusuf Getachew, who was convicted in August 2015 also under the anti-terrorism law, was pardoned and released on September 10, after over four years in detention.

The government regularly restricts access to social media apps and some websites with content that challenges the government’s narrative on key issues. During particularly sensitive times, including after the Irreecha festival stampede, the government blocked access to the internet.

The government also jammed the signals of international radio stations like Deutsche Welle and Voice of America in August and September. Social media and diaspora television stations played key roles in the dissemination of information and mobilization during protests. Under the state of emergency, people are banned from watching diaspora television, sharing information on social media, and closing businesses as a gesture of protest, as well as curtailing opposition parties’ ability to communicate with media.

The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continues to severely curtail the ability of independent nongovernmental organizations. The law bars work on human rights, governance, conflict resolution, and advocacy on the rights of women, children and people with disabilities if organizations receive more than 10 percent of their funds from foreign sources.

Questioning the government’s development policies is deemed particularly sensitive and activists face charges for doing so. For example, the trial of Pastor Omot Agwa, who had worked as the facilitator and interpreter for the World Bank’s Inspection Panel as it investigated abuses linked to a bank investment, continued in 2016. Two other individuals charged with Omot were acquitted in November. They were arrested in March 2015 at Addis Ababa airport on their way to a food security workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, and charged on September 7, 2015.

Torture and Arbitrary Detention

Ethiopian security personnel, including plainclothes security and intelligence officials, federal police, special police, and military, frequently tortured and otherwise ill-treated political detainees held in official and secret detention centers, to give confessions or provide information. Many of those arrested during recent protests said they were tortured in detention, including in military camps. Several women alleged that they were raped or sexually assaulted. There is little indication that security personnel are being investigated or punished for these abuses.

Allegations of forced displacement have arisen from commercial and industrial projects associated with Addis Ababa’s expansion and the continued development of state-owned sugar plantations in the Lower Omo Valley, home to about 200,000 indigenous people. Communities in Omo have seen grazing land cleared and access to the Omo River restricted. The reservoir behind the Omo River’s Gibe III dam began filling in January 2015, and there was no artificial flood in 2015 and a limited flood in 2016 contrary to government assurances. The flood is important in replenishing water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana and the agricultural lands along the banks of the Omo River.

Key International Actors

Ethiopia continues to enjoy strong support from foreign donors and most of its regional neighbors, due to its role as host of the African Union (AU) and as a strategic regional player, contribution to UN peacekeeping, regional counterterrorism, aid, and migration partnerships with Western countries, and its stated progress on development indicators. Ethiopia is also a country of origin, transit, and host for large numbers of migrants and refugees.

The brutal crackdown against protesters and the state of emergency announcement resulted in stronger than usual public statements from many of Ethiopia’s traditional allies. The AU and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights both issued statements expressing concern, while the European parliament released a strong resolution, and resolutions were introduced in the US Senate and House of Representatives. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly stressed the need for an international investigation into the killings in July. Other donors, including the World Bank, have continued business as usual without publicly raising concerns.

In June, Ethiopia was elected to the UN Security Council. It is also vice president of the UN Human Rights Council despite a history of non-cooperation with UN special mechanisms. Despite these roles, Ethiopia has refused entry to all UN special rapporteurs, other than the UN special rapporteur on Eritrea, since 2006.

Human Rights Watch:

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