#EthiopiaDrought in numbers: 6.8 million people in 26 zones affected, more than 260,000 livestock deaths registered in four regions

In Gebi’as village, Somali region, Ethiopia, sixth grader Abdurazak Mohammed takes his donkeys back home, past the bodies of animals dead from thirst and starvation. His school is now closed due to the drought.
© UNICEF/UN0583950/

Addis Abeba Ethiopia is experiencing a prolonged drought after three consecutive failed rainy seasons since late 2020 affecting 6.8 million people living in Oromia, SNNP, Southwest and Somali: several areas in southern and southeastern Ethiopia, including in the regions of Somali (10 zones), Oromia (8 zones), Southwest (1 zone) and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples – SNNP (7 zones). People living in these same areas have barely managed to recuperate from the severe drought in 2017 to witness again such harsh conditions, the first signs of which started appearing towards the end of 2020. The conditions continued to worsen with the successive failed seasons in 2021. The next season in March/April 2022 might also be well below normal, making it the fourth consecutive failed rainy season thus leading more people into an alarming situation.

The drought is compromising fragile livelihoods heavily reliant on livestock and causing a worsening food security and nutrition while eroding coping strategies for the most vulnerable: The number of livestock dying from lack of food and water is staggering and increasing by the day. The high number of livestock deaths is an important indicator of this alarming situation. In fact, the numbers reported by January 2022 have by far exceeded the estimates from 2021. While 68,000 livestock deaths had been estimated in November, revised to 172,000 in December, the figures from January stand at more than 260,000 in January across Somali, southern Oromia and SNNP regions. An additional 2 million livestock are at risk across affected areas.

Overall, the drought is currently affecting the livelihood of some 6.8 million people across the drought-affected areas.

The drought is worsening food insecurity and malnutrition, while pastoralists are forced to walk and travel longer distances in search of water and pasture

The surviving animals in the drought-affected areas are very weak and emaciated producing little or no milk, thus jeopardizing the availability of the main source of nutrition for children. A nutritional screening conducted by the Regional Health Bureau across Somali Region in December 2021 revealed a proxy Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 18 per cent, higher than the global threshold of 15 per cent. Some 225,000 malnourished children and over 100,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in Somali and Oromia currently need nutrition support according to UNICEF. Livestock market value has also significantly dropped as animals are not marketable, impacting families’ income source. Pastoralists who can still afford, physically and financially, to migrate in search of water and pasture have to travel hundreds of kilometers into unknown areas leaving behind members of their family who are often weak, vulnerable, or not fully able to provide for the rest of the family. They are often staying in the open without basic shelter and cover to protect them from the elements, wild animals, and other risks.

The affected people are in urgent need of food, water, healthcare, shelter, and livestock assistance.

The ongoing Government-led and humanitarian partners-supported multi-sectoral response needs to be urgently scaled up, including increasing water trucking interventions for potable and technical water, rehabilitation of livestock watering points, provision of food and non-food items such as jerry cans, blankets and cooking utensils, as well as cash along with livelihood support to maintain production capacity and to avail nutrition supplies for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, livestock feed (fodder), destocking (slaughtering livestock for commercial purpose before they are weakened), vaccination, and veterinary support. Mobile health and nutrition clinics need to also be deployed to remote areas.

The drought disproportionally affects women and children, exacerbating existing protection threats and vulnerabilities and creating new ones

Informed gender-integrated responses are needed to strengthen access of the most vulnerable people to humanitarian services, according to the specific needs of age, gender, and disabilities. This will ensure that all parts of society inform an efficient and adapted drought preparedness and response.

Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) must be guaranteed and fully integrated into the drought response by all humanitarian stakeholders and implementing partners. Food insecurity usually heightens the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, especially for women and girls. Collective drought response actions should therefore muster PSEA commitments and actions.

Urgent, flexible and timely funding is needed to deliver assistance to the drought-affected population to avert another major humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. Urgently addressing lifesaving needs and protecting livelihoods is crucial.

Government and community resource mobilization has been ongoing at regional and local levels, including but not limited to ETB200 million (approx. $4.3 million) by the Somali Regional Government in form of water trucking, food distribution, and emergency shelter items; and ETB10 million (approx. $199,991) by the Harari Regional Administration, while the Kabridahar University provided eleven trucks of animal feed as part of an ETB5 million (approx. $ 99,993) pledged donation for the drought response. The Oromia Region is also developing a drought response plan with humanitarian partners.

According to a recent FAO assessment, at least US$53 million is required only for the agriculture sector to safeguard 360,000 core breeding animals belonging to 180,000 households, treat 4.5 million heads of livestock and vaccinate 6 million cattle and 10.5 million small ruminants belonging to 435,000 households in the affected areas. It will also support the local economies through emergency slaughter destocking, rehabilitate at least 70 water points to benefit 600,000 heads of livestock and 30,000 households and their livelihoods, as well as support the production of 30,000 tons of fodder by 4,000 households. Other clusters are also estimating funding requirements which will be shared soon.

Some funding has already been allocated by donors since the end of 2021 for the drought response, including $5 million by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in June 2021 and $2 million by the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF). Earlier, CERF had disbursed $20 million in two phases as part of the drought Anticipatory Action Pilot ($13.2 million in December 2020 and $6.8 million in March 2021). The Pilot project was implemented in Afar, Oromia. SNNP and Somali regions in the Agriculture, Education, Health, Nutrition, Protection and WASH sectors. The project evaluation is currently in progress to identify reach and impact. UNOCHA

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