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Press Release 00/28


Rome, 15 May - Millions of animals have died in Ethiopia because of the current drought, aggravating food insecurity and human suffering, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement released today.

FAO preliminary estimates indicate that up to three million cattle, calves and milking cows have died, in some areas up to 90 percent of the total. "The most negative impact of cattle mortality and poor body condition is the lack of milk for human consumption, particularly for children," FAO said. Even drought resistant animals such as camels have died. The mortality figures for camels vary from 5-10 percent, for sheep between 10-20 percent.

"The human tragedy, with millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition, was preceded by severe losses of livestock, especially cattle, which started dying as early as October last year," said FAO Senior Officer Mark Rweyemamu. "When animals die on a massive scale this will lead to severe food security problems in livestock dependent communities. Livestock production is crucial for the survival and welfare of pastoral communities."

The pastoral communities are the most affected in eastern and southern Ethiopia (*) which have had three consecutive years of little or no rainfall. Pastoralists depend almost entirely on livestock, and more than 90 percent of grain production in Ethiopia depends on draught power, mainly of oxen.

In addition to the lack of rain, deterioration of the rangeland, overpopulation and poor marketing facilities have aggravated the situation, according to the UN agency.

FAO warned that surviving animals are less resistant to disease after being weakened by a lack of feed and water. "The occurrence of any disease would have a disastrous effect on livestock. As most of the affected areas lie along international borders with Kenya, Somalia and southern Sudan, strengthening disease surveillance will be very important." For example, everything should be done to keep Ethiopia free from rinderpest, FAO said.

FAO has proposed an emergency rescue programme to mitigate further deterioration of livestock in drought affected areas. The emergency intervention would cost about $9 million.

To salvage some value from animals (meat and hides) and provide some income to the owner in the form of cash or grain, FAO proposes the emergency slaughter of around 10,000 weak cattle. Meat could be dried and distributed to needy people. Dried meat is well accepted in Ethiopia.

In addition, a small proportion of valuable animals, around 40,000 cattle, preferably one or two from each household, should be collected in camps where feed, water and veterinary services can be delivered. At the end of the crisis animals would be returned to each household.

Veterinary support, especially for sheep and goats and other species, is also important "as these would be the sources of nutrition and income until the crisis is over and cattle numbers stabilize," FAO said.

An FAO livestock assessment mission visited the affected areas in Ethiopia in April. Similar FAO missions are visiting other countries of the Horn of Africa also suffering from the drought crisis.

A UN Task Force, chaired by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, is addressing the underlying structural issues of the current drought in the Horn of Africa to ensure that future droughts do not necessarily lead to famine.

(*) The affected areas are: Somali Regional State, Borana Zone of the Oromia Regional State and South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Regional State


For more information please contact: Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel. 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org



You can listen to or download an interview by Erwin Northoff with Mr. Mark Rweyemamu, FAO Senior Expert.

Mr. Rweyemamu has just returned from an assessment mission to Ethiopia.
Duration: 3min26sec

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