Afar, Somali areas reached "Emergency" – fourth worst stage of food insecurity

A new report disclosed that the food in security in parts of southern Afar and northern Ethio-Somali Region have reached “Emergency” phase – the fourth worst stage of food insecurity.

Ethiopia’s annual food beneficiaries headcount, which hovers around 3 million, jumped to 4.5 million last August following the failed spring-belg (February-May) rains. Following the El Niño induced weak summer-kiremt (June-September) rains, which feeds about 80% of the population, the figure surged to 7.5 million and 8.2 million last month. Projections show the number may further rise to 15 million by the end of December.

So far the affected areas have been classified as “Stressed” (IPC 2) and “Crisis” (IPC 3). [Read IPC phases criteria here].

However, the USAID-funded FEWS-NET released a new report yesterday, disclosing that the food insecurity status of some areas have deteriorated to “Emergency” (IPC-4) phase – the fourth worst stage of food insecurity.

According to the classification criteria, an area is deemed to have reached “Emergency” phase when 1-2 people out of 10,000 people in the area are dying due to nutritional deficit, while the figure for under age-5 children has escalated to 2–4 death/10,000 children /day.

At that stage, more than 15% of the under five children in the area experience acute malnutrition, whereas more than 40% the non-pregnant women of reproductive age in the area have their Body Mass Index (weight-for height ratio) decline by almost one fifth.

Map - Ethiopia, Projected food security outcomes, October to December 2015

The report stated that:

A major food security emergency is projected for the coming year. Already, some northern pastoral areas have moved into Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

The most food insecure areas include southern Afar and northern Somali Region, areas already in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in October. Also, the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones are expected to move into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from January to March 2015.

Other areas at risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) include lowlands in Arsi and West Arsi Zones in central Oromia and some areas in the northeastern highlands, including parts of Wag Himra and North Wollo Zones in Amhara. These areas are currently projected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through March.

According to the report, more than 200,000 livestock deaths have been reported from Sitti Zone, Ethio-Somali region and southern Afar region this year. Since June, nearly 13,000 households have lost all or almost all of their livestock.

On the other hand, in lowlands of East Hararghe, Oromia region, in September and October, more than 900 unusual livestock deaths were reported and an even higher number of unusual livestock deaths occurred in July and August. Whereas in lowlands of eastern Oromia, the livestock-to-cereals terms of trade of goats and sheep fell by 55 percent in September.

In eastern Amhara and Southern and eastern Tigray, and Eastern Tigray, staple food prices have been rising since April and May. In some areas, the retail sorghum price surged by 71 percent compared to last year. At the same time, as livestock body conditions deteriorated and local demand remained low, livestock prices fell. The price of an ox has fallen by 30 to 35 percent in some areas compared to last year.

Map - Ethiopia, Projected food security outcomes, January to March 2016

The assessment corresponds to a recently released government map (see below) displaying “First Priority” areas across the country.

The map – jointly developed by the government and aid agencies – classifies as “First Priority” several Zones of Afar, Ethio-Somali, Oromia, Amhara and some areas of Tigrai and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region as “First Priority”.

[The map was released about a week ago, though its refers to August figures and has no accompanying textual explanation. It’s, dubbed “Wereda priority status” map, but shows Zonal boundaries – the higher level of administration.]

According to Ethiopia’s hotspot classifications guideline, a “First Priority” is generally equivalent to “Emergency” (IPC 4) stage. The guide line described a “First Priority” is described as:

Hazards of high damaging level have occurred and affected the lives and livelihoods of the population with very severe lack of adequate food security and may include excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible livelihood asset depletion.

In “First Priority” status area, the number of people requesting for relief food assistance surges to more than 40% of the population, while the livestock deaths rate has reached 15% the total livestock population and/or the herd size in the area has declined by about 30% compared to last 5 years average holding.

The area would also experience very high production losses ( more than 30% of the last five years average) and very severe water and pasture shortage affecting >40 % of livestock population.

Map - Ethiopia hunger hotspot Woredas 2015


Daniel Berhane

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