Description of the disaster
The consecutive failure of the Belg rains (March to May 2015) and the Kiremt rains (June to September 2015) coupled to El Niño like weather phenomenon resulted in severe food insecurity affecting communities in the north and north-east of Ethiopia. The total number of people affected by the food insecurity at the launch of the emergency appeal was 10.1 million people.
An analysis of soil moisture by FEWSNET in August 2015 showed the worst soil moisture conditions on record for Afar Region, and worst conditions since 1984 for Somali region, based on data dating back to 1982. The lack of pasture and water in pastoral areas aggravated the situation in Afar, Somali and Oromia regions. Malnutrition levels were particularly high in South and Eastern Oromia, Somali and South Nations Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR). Based on an OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin released in 2015 the level of needs across all sectors exceeded the level of the Horn of Africa drought of 2011. The food security crisis precipitated IFRC to launch the response projected to last between eight to ten months, the drought crisis response however continued for two years and two months until the end of 2018.
The continued effects of the El Niño episodes between 2015 and 2016 coupled with the Indian Ocean Dipole in 2017 continued to negatively impact the food security and livelihoods situation for the population. The impact of the poor rains on pastures and water sources resulted in pastoralists losing their livestock which negatively impacted their ability to recover from the droughts, according to FAO at least 1.5 million livestock perished between November 2016 and April 2018 with an estimated value of USD 350 million. The ACAPS Humanitarian Overview 2018 reported that there were 8.5 million food insecure people and an estimated 375,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five years and 3.6 million cases of moderate acute malnutrition. The highest numbers of malnutrition cases were reported in Somali Region.
According to the SNNPR Health Bureau, Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) (Epidemiological week 27,2018), top 10 woredas registered highest SAM cases in June 2018 were Yirgachefe (190), Bulle (145), Kochore (206), Wenago (171), Konso (109), Alle (99), South Ari (89), Bensa (75), and Aroresa (60). The high number of malnutrition in five woredas of Gedeo zone was mainly due to the high number of IDPs influx as a result of the conflict in neighboring woredas of Gedeo zone and West Guji zone.
The negative impacts related to the three consecutive years of drought; the spread of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), mainly in drought affected areas; the flooding and inter-ethnic conflict, made the humanitarian situation more complex. According to Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) at least 1.02 million people were displaced due the drought situation which worsened conflicts in Oromia and Somali Regions.
In addition to the drought effects Somali Region was affected by storms experienced between April and May 2018 which killed livestock (80 camels, 602 cattle and 2,074 shoats) as well as destroying crops on approximately 190ha of land, 55 irrigation pumps, and 19 shallow wells. The destruction of crops also further worsened the food security situation in the region. In Oromia an assessment of water schemes established that 219 schemes were not functional. An estimated 302,357 people were relying on water trucking for water for household consumption. The scarcity of water was forcing children to drop out of school.
In Afar region the Belg/Sugum rains in 2017 were late and erratic which affected agricultural production. In June 2017 the region received an average 2-5 days rains against the expected 7-10 days rains in normal seasons. The pasture and browse (animal feeding) conditions worsened due to high air surface temperature, dryness and high evapotranspiration that prevailed in the Region. The situation negatively affected livestock conditions which continued to deteriorate. Afar region was the most affected by water shortages.
While some parts of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNP) had good pasture coverage, lowland areas of south Omo especially Dasenech, Hamer and Nyngatom woredas were affected with little pastures available for livestock. Livestock were affected by lumpy skin disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia disease outbreaks.
The condition in Ethiopia was further worsened by insecurity and conflicts. Since September 2017, at least 1.2 million people are internally displaced mainly along the Somali-Oromia borders. A surge in conflicts affected the region since 18 April 2018, due to growing tension in the region following political, social and economic reforms the Federal government implemented. In August 2018, clashes occurred between Somali and non-Somali ethnic groups in the Somali region. The conflict affected 52,000 people in four cities in Somali region, leaving 17 dead and 8 churches burnt. The conflict also affected implementation of humanitarian activities and provision of life saving support to drought affected populations.