The peace accord brokered for Ethiopia and Eritrea by the Organisation of African Unity has still not been signed by both sides. It is estimated that some 50,000 people have died in the conflict. There is increasing concern that fighting will resume now that the dry season has begun.
Nutritional situation of IDPs in Tigray
Prior to the conflict the Ethiopians in Tigray region, which borders Eritrea, had relied on the Eritreans for labour exchange and trade. Currently some 300,000 Ethiopians have been displaced because of shelling, mines, and enemy occupation or the armys use of their home area. Resettlement is not currently possible because the contested areas are heavily mined (RI - 26/11/99).
The regional government of Tigray and the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) have encouraged local hosting of IDPs in order to avoid displaced camps becoming a target for the Eritreans, and also to decrease the risk of increased transmission of communicable disease. This policy has been largely successful; 28% of the IDPs are hosted by relatives, and 16% by non-relatives. The remainder of the IDPs are living in informal accommodation (cave, tent or grass/stick house protected with plastic sheeting) or are renting accommodation (16%), A very high number of IDP households are headed by females (52.3%), mainly because their husbands are absent in the army (SCF-UK -8/99).
IDPs in the east and central zones of Tigray are almost wholly dependent on the general ration, having no other significant reliable source of food. Sales of relief food are the most important source of income for the people in these areas and provide cash for coffee, salt, sugar, chili, grinding and, in some cases, soap, firewood or charcoal, although the ration has occasionally included soap and kerosene. The IDPs in western Tigray have more opportunities for employment in agriculture, construction or domestic service, however these opportunities are seasonal and sporadic. IDPs who brought livestock with them, or who have opportunities to work, or receive a high degree of support from their relatives, are not being provided with assistance (SCF-UK - 8/99).
The agreed ration provides 2,100 kcal/person/day, but in practice is widely reported to consist of only wheat (10-15 kg/person/month). Oil-blended supplementary food and occasionally pulses have been distributed in the general ration at various times, although more often in some locations than others. Blended supplementary food is also distributed to children under one year and those with a weight-for-height less than 60% through mobile outreach programmes. Larger households and those with a higher proportion of infants and young children are able to benefit from the standardisation of the ration through economies of scale, and also the redistribution of excess food for younger children (SCF-UK - 8/99).
Despite these difficult circumstances, a nutritional survey in August did not find an elevated prevalence of malnutrition among the displaced population in Tigray (see annex). The prevalence of wasting was estimated at 7.7%, including 1% severe wasting and/or oedema. Two oedematous children were seen (0.2%). The prevalence of stunting was estimated at 36.9%, including 12.4% severe stunting. These results indicate that although most children were not acutely malnourished during the survey period, their previous nutritional history is poor. No major outbreaks of illness were reported, although the prevalence of diarrhoea was considered high (SCF-UK - 8/99).
The IDPs reported being assisted by the host population, although this form of assistance was informal and unreliable (SCF-UK-8/99).
The most vulnerable households were those who were: labour-poor and unable to take advantage of any work opportunities, possibly because the sole adult was charged with childcare; those who lived far from distribution centres; those without relatives to support them in case of relief disruption; those in areas with no possibility of labour opportunities; those with a high ratio of adults and children compared to infants. There are also some concerns for the drought-affected host population, particularly those who were previously dependent on labour migration to western Tigray and Eritrea and are now unable to access this income source, and also those living near the front line who are unable to cultivate (SCF-UK - 8/99).
Donor reluctance to fund humanitarian operations for the IDP population has resulted in the curtailment of relief programmes since the survey above was undertaken. In October, WFP was forced to temporarily suspend cereal distribution to the IDPs. The donors inadequate response has been partially driven by their increasing impatience with the perceived reluctance of the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments to commit to the peace process (RI -26/11/99).
Drought and harvest failure in Ethiopia
While the official 1999 main season (meher) harvest assessment has not yet been completed, it is already clear that crops have been negatively affected by a number of factors that vary from one part of the country to another. Some areas have been caught in the prolonged aftereffects of the poor belg season, which disrupted the normal cycle and resulted in delayed and reduced planting of the main season crops. In addition, some parts of the country have suffered crop losses due to pest infestations and localised flooding (UNDP - 15/11/99). WFP mission teams have reported a general deterioration in food security over the reporting period and increasing levels of malnutrition and child mortality. As a result, the agency has extended its operations (WFP - 29/10/99, 26/11/99). An estimated 7 million people were targeted for food assistance in October and November (FEWS - 26/11/99).
Konso Special Woreda is one of the areas that has been most severely affected by this years drought. The government is distributing a general dry ration to the most affected households in selected areas through the Farmers Associations. An MSF-H survey in August estimated the prevalence of wasting at 20.2% including 1.2% severe wasting (see annex). According to the authors of the survey, this is one of the highest recorded prevalences of wasting in Ethiopia (the national survey in 1992 recorded a prevalence of wasting at 8%). Further indicators of poor food security include shifting patterns of food consumption (from locally produced staples to purchased imported staples and wild foods), sales of assets and rising price of food commodities in the markets. High levels of morbidity were reported. If the situation deteriorates further there is a real risk that full-scale famine, involving population displacement and high mortality rates, will occur in Konso Special Woreda (MSF-H 09/99).
SCF-UK conducted emergency nutritional assessments in the worst affected woredas of east Hararghe zone and also in north-east Amhara region in September and October. These areas have also been badly affected by the drought, and high prevalences of wasting persist in both areas. The population in east Hararghe rely on purchasing grain imported from other areas as the meher maize crop failed completely. With limited cash, and no grain reserves, they are forced to sell sheep and goats to buy grain. Livestock condition has improved with the recent meher rains, although terms of trade between livestock and food crops remain unfavourable. Relief food distribution has been irregular and insufficient per household; almost half the households surveyed had not received a distribution in the 3 months prior to the assessment in October (SCF-UK -10/99, 11/99a).
The population in north-east Amhara continues to rely heavily on relief food as their main source of food. The number of meals per day has been reduced from 3 to 2, and all areas surveyed reported a reduction in meal size. In addition the targeting mechanism is unsystematic as each woreda has its own guidelines. Out of 50 Farmers Associations that were included in the survey, 14 had a prevalence of acute malnutrition between 10% and 20%. The population will not benefit from a major harvest until June 2000 (SCF-UK -11/99b).
There are some 68,000 Sudanese refugees in camps in west Ethiopia, 193,000 Somalis in east Ethiopia and approximately 13,000 Kenyans and Somalis in the South of the country (OCHA -15/11/99). There is no new information on their nutritional situation.
The Government of Kenya has asked UNHCR to suspend the return of the 4,700 Kenyan refugees from Ethiopia because of security concerns and clan fighting in the refugees area of return (OCHA -15/11/99).
Recommendations and priorities:
· Funds are urgently required for the humanitarian assistance programmes for the IDPs displaced by the war.From the SCF survey in Tigray:
· Close monitoring of the drought-affected population should be maintained.
· Continue and improve the general ration. Include blended food in the ration to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.From the survey in Konso Special Woreda:
· Provide seeds and tools where appropriate. Restock livestock.
· Build houses for the IDPs. Repair infrastructure including clinics, schools, water-points, grinding mills.
· Provide clothes and cooking pots etc.
· Continue to monitor the IDPs and begin monitoring the host population.
· Prior to resettlement de-mine local environment. Conduct a mine awareness campaign.
· Increase the dry ration for the food-for-work programmes.From the assessments in east Hararghe and north-east Amhara Zones:
· Make contingency plans for a large number of admissions to the supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres.
· Continue to develop activities in the health, water and agricultural sectors.
· Increase the general food distribution.Overall, the IDPs in Tigray are considered to be at moderate risk of malnutrition, which in part is a result of poor funding of programmes to assist them. Although their nutritional status was not critical at the time of the survey this could alter rapidly (category III), The nutritional situation of the refugees is also not critical (category III). A very large number of Ethiopians, however, are suffering from the drought and consequent harvest failures and effects on livestock, and livelihoods in general.
· Targeted distribution of blended food to areas with mean %weight-for-length <90%.
· Review and improve the targeting systems in these areas.