In the past

Read more about FAO in emergencies and the the drought in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia is responding to a drought emergency in southern and southeastern areas of the country, including Oromia, SNNP and Somali Regions. Humanitarian needs are approaching levels not seen since the height of El Niño-induced drought impacts in 2016. At USD 1.25 billion, Ethiopia’s Midyear Review of the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document is among the largest humanitarian appeals in the world.

Abnormal migrations, high livestock mortality rates, outbreaks of opportunistic diseases and extreme emaciation have been reported throughout the affected areas, where the dominant livelihood is pastoralism. Dependent entirely on livestock for their food and income, pastoralists are impacted by extremely low milk production, plummeting livestock prices and rising staple food costs.

Food insecurity rates have surged, now affecting 8.5 million people – up from 5.6 million in January 2017. Malnutrition rates are staggering, with 3.6 million children and pregnant and lactating women projected to develop moderate acute malnutrition and 376 000 children facing severe acute malnutrition. According to the latest hotspot classification analysis, of the 461 districts requiring urgent humanitarian response, half are considered top priority – most of which in Somali Region. 

For drought-hit pastoral areas, the outlook for the remainder of the year is bleak. Climatic forecasts indicate the upcoming October–December rains are likely to be poor, which would represent the fourth consecutive season of below-normal rainfall in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. Livelihood needs are therefore expected to rise even further, and food insecurity and malnutrition rates to worsen as a result. While FAO, the Government and partners are responding, and despite huge investments in the sector, committed funding is only enough to cover a fraction of current agriculture sector needs. 

Livelihood crisis

More than 80 percent of people in Ethiopia rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods, however the frequency of droughts over the years has left many communities particularly vulnerable.

Consecutive seasons of poor rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas has severely limited feed and water availability. Resulting livestock deaths have driven rising food insecurity and malnutrition rates, which are in large part a consequence of insufficient and underfunded livelihoods response. Displacement has increased in pastoral areas as a result of significant livestock losses, and for many, livelihood abandonment, extreme destitution and protracted reliance on relief aid are real risks. For some this could be temporary, but they require urgent support to regenerate their herds or access alternative livelihood options.

This follows the El Niño-induced drought that resulted in crop losses of up to 50 to 90 percent in some areas in 2016, along with extensive water and feed shortages in pastoral and agropastoral areas that resulted in widespread livestock mortalities.

FAO’s El Niño Response

The FAO Ethiopia El Niño Response Plan aims to assist 1 million vulnerable pastoral, agropastoral and smallholder farming households in 2016. To achieve this, FAO will prioritize livestock production support in order to save pastoral livelihoods, protect productive assets and enhance the resilience of affected communities.

In response, FAO is providing survival feed to help save livestock that are likely to help regenerate a herd. FAO is also distributing multinutrient blocks to not only improve livestock body conditions, but also bolster the resilience of the cooperatives that produce them.

Emergency veterinary treatment and vaccination services are being provided to boost survival rates, and agropastoral households have received fodder seed to boost local feed availability. Water access for livestock is being improved through the rehabilitation of water points.

In addition, FAO has destocked livestock unlikely to survive the drought in most-affected areas, providing much-needed income to pastoralists and distributing the resulting protein-rich meat to nutritionally vulnerable families. The intervention helps reduce stress on available feed, enabling pastoralists to focus their resources on their remaining productive animals, and invest in productive assets.

This year, FAO is supporting the government to control a new migratory pest, the fall armyworm, by carrying out key surveillance and monitoring activities in order to avoid massive crop production losses. In 2016, in response to the El Niño-induced drought FAO contributed to the largest emergency seed distribution in Ethiopia’s history which resulted in a total savings of USD 1 billion in food aid.

In addition, FAO is working closely with the government to conduct seasonal assessments and develop preparedness and response plans, along with guidelines for emergency agriculture support.


More about the country

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