The Socio-Economic Situation
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is ranked 174 of 187 countries in UNDP’s 2010 Human Development Index. Despite the Government’s commitment to accelerating economic growth and progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Ethiopia remains one of the world’s most underdeveloped countries. Home to an estimated 85 million people, and with a population growth rate of 2.6 per cent per annum, Ethiopia’s population has doubled since 1984 and is projected to more than double again by 2050 (UN Population Division, DESA). Its economy remains dependent on agriculture, which comprises 43 per cent of GDP and employs 85 per cent of the population (Economy Watch).
Sustained economic growth is projected in Ethiopia in the coming years, although perhaps at a lower rate than projected by the Government in the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan for 2010-2015. But that growth will be affected by domestic and external factors, including continued high inflation and devaluation of the currency, and high global food and fuel prices. Average annual inflation in Ethiopia is 21 per cent, with food inflation increasing by more than 52 per cent in August, according to the 12-month moving average (Central Statistics Agency). The Ethiopian Birr has been officially devalued by nearly 40 per cent in the past two years. Ethiopia’s growth rate is relatively high, but per capita income remains one of the world’s lowest.
Despite the death in August 2012 of the then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, the political landscape is expected to remain stable and under the helm of the current leadership in the coming years. No significant change in the Government’s approach to civil and political rights is expected. The opposition remains weak and fragmented. However, while the post-election violence of 2010 and a continuing, forceful security presence throughout the country continue to loom over the country, there is a widespread feeling that the Government should adopt a more inclusive posture, including through free and fair elections. The appointment of Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is not from the Tigrayan ruling elite, is viewed as an effort to reach out to the opposition. Reinforcing inclusiveness is likely to be carefully managed through the existing federalist model in future. Nevertheless, the Government's declaration of the main political opposition as terrorists and its efforts to curtail their activities through arrests and prosecution present significant obstacles to as-yet nascent efforts to forge an inclusive political dialogue.
Regionally, political stability will need to be watched carefully over the next two years. Ethiopia has reaffirmed its intention to remain in Somalia until the transition in Government is finalized and security re-established, and to maintain its balanced stance towards Sudan and South Sudan in negotiations between the two countries. Its position vis-à-vis Eritrea will likely remain the same (i.e. “no peace, no war”), with intermittent rhetorical flare-ups. Internal insurgency groups, most of which have been officially classified as terrorist organizations, will remain a thorn in the Government’s side, although new negotiations with the Ogaden National Liberation Front revealed in August 2012 seem to be more promising than previous dialogues.
The Humanitarian Situation
Nearly 10 per cent of the population remains chronically vulnerable to food insecurity and dependent on national safety-net programmes. Several million people annually require emergency assistance to meet their basic needs for survival and maintenance of livelihoods. This chronic vulnerability is frequently exacerbated by crises related to natural and man-made hazards, including drought, flooding, disease outbreaks, inter-communal conflict and refugee influxes from neighbouring states. Complex insurgency issues also affect parts of the country. Climate change and global economic crises may exacerbate these crisis drivers.
Looking ahead, Ethiopia will continue to struggle to address the impact of the 2011 La Niña-induced drought and the poor belg rains in 2012, which severely affected the southn and south-eastern pastoralist lowlands, and smallholder farmers in the southern and central highlands. Good pastoralist rains in 2012 helped to alleviate drought conditions in most areas and kick start recovery, but full recovery will require consecutive years of good rains, as livelihoods were hard hit. In this regard, the development of an El Niño effect in 2012-2013 could prove beneficial in bringing above-average rains to many areas. In smallholder farming areas hit by two consecutive belg failures, cropping is unlikely to return to normal until mid-2013 at the earliest, and it will take three to four years to rebuild livelihoods. Additional shocks will only exacerbate the situation.
Having started 2012 with a significant reduction in the number of people receiving food assistance from the previous year, Ethiopia then saw beneficiary figures rise again due to the impact of the poor belg rains. In August 2012, the number of people targeted by relief food assistance rose by 16 per cent, from 3.2 million in January to 3.76 million. However, an even more significant increase was recorded by the initial assessment results, which indicated that 4.7 million people needed food relief (the Government indicated that it would cover the 1 million difference through the Productive Safety Net Programme’s contingency budget). Without significant investment in food assistance, nutrition and livelihoods support in the affected areas, the number of people in need is unlikely to remain elevated into 2013. Thereafter, beneficiary figures will largely depend on the effectiveness of recovery and rehabilitation interventions, future rainfall and seasonal agricultural production and progress towards the Government’s stated intention to eliminate external food assistance by 2015.
Ethiopia will also remain vulnerable to disease outbreaks, particularly measles, malaria and meningitis, as well as acute watery diarrhoea (AWD). Drought and flooding increase the risk of waterborne-disease outbreaks, particularly AWD and malaria. In 2012, some 2.2 million people were at risk of AWD, measles and malaria. Limited access to clean water, low levels of improved sanitation and poor hygiene practices increase the risk of disease outbreaks, particularly in areas that see seasonal labour movements and public or religious events. At least 2 million people continue to require WASH assistance. Access to basic health care also remains low. Health partners are working to enhance disease surveillance, improve case management and build the health system’s capacity to effectively respond to public health emergencies, including access to life-saving maternal and neonatal services.
Limited improvement in access was seen during the drought response (i.e. temporary access to insecure areas for water trucks and health teams, relaxation of limits on work permits and facilitation of MoUs) and continued in 2012. However, access to large areas of the country affected by the current crisis remains difficult due to logistical and administrative challenges, including poor transportation infrastructure and insecurity. The main consequence of continued access constraints is the inability to consistently reach people in need. In Somali Region, the full impact of the drought and continued insurgency on people in inaccessible areas is not well understood, even by the Government. In other parts of the country, it is hard to estimate the full impact of constraints related to non-recognition of humanitarian need and administrative obstacles on people in need. All of these constraints are expected to persist in the coming years, with temporary changes in access driven by events on the ground.
Furthermore, the continued food and physical insecurity in neighbouring Somalia continued to provoke large numbers of new arrivals into Ethiopia. New asylum seekers also continue to arrive from Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan. By the end of August 2012, Ethiopia hosted nearly 373,000 refugees. Longer-term care of the refugees and camp maintenance will be required until there is peace and stability in neighbouring countries.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
The Government and humanitarian partners work jointly to provide emergency assistance to disaster-affected people, with needs identified according to the twice-yearly national needs-assessment process. Annual humanitarian requirements for food assistance, health and nutrition, water, sanitation and health, agriculture (and livestock) and emergency education are presented in the Humanitarian Requirements Document and its revisions. In addition to those covered by emergency assistance each year, some 7.8 million chronically food-insecure Ethiopians are enrolled in the Productive Safety Net Programme, which provides a minimum of six months’ worth of cash or food transfers to participating households.
Humanitarian preparedness and response are coordinated by the Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector, which is a directorate within the Ministry of Agriculture. Sector-specific response is coordinated by the respective line ministries through Sectoral Task Forces. To promote a coordinated response, the humanitarian community has implemented a number of mechanisms, including a Humanitarian Country Team, a locally adapted cluster approach and a Humanitarian Response Fund. The community maintains close cooperation with various Government-led coordination forums, including the Multi-Agency Coordination forum and the Disaster Risk Management Technical Working Group and its subsidiary bodies. Importantly, the principal role of the cluster approach in Ethiopia is to enhance coordination through the existing Government-led STFs. More than 100 UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Red Cross Movement participate in the coordinated humanitarian response in Ethiopia.
Overall, the strategic objective of the humanitarian response in Ethiopia, as encapsulated in the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2012-2015, is to provide life- and livelihood-saving emergency and recovery assistance to disaster-affected communities, and support the shift to a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) approach by building national capacity for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation. In light of the Government’s stated objective of ending external food assistance by 2015, the humanitarian agencies took the strategic decision to embed their activities within the new UNDAF as a reflection of the essential role of humanitarian response in ensuring national development, and to safeguard operational humanitarian space during the transition to DRM.
In particular, the need to sustain a scaled up response to address the impacts of consecutive years of climatic shocks should be taken into consideration vis-à-vis the Government’s objective to reduce dependency on external assistance. As above, even after good rains, the livelihoods of people affected by the 2011 drought are not expected to recover in less than two years. The recovery period has been extended by new shocks in the belg-receiving central and southern highlands and some parts of the Somali and Oromia lowlands, where the gu rains were poor. The developing El Niño could prove beneficial for much of the pastoralist lowlands, but it will also bring an increased risk of flooding in drought-prone areas. Exhaustion of donor generosity will jeopardize recovery–in late 2012, there is concern that donors have shifted their focus elsewhere, with breaks in the food pipeline likely to reduce assistance delivered into 2013. As a result, there could be an increase in morbidity and mortality associated with elevated levels of malnutrition and increased incidence of disease.
Even in a best-case scenario, significant increases in recovery and rehabilitation support are required to help affected people to recover from the impact of this crisis. Limits on international agencies’ capacity to sustain or further scale up their response would have serious impacts on the community’s continued capacity to meet basic life- and livelihood-saving needs. Donors have been very generous towards Ethiopia during the current crisis and in the preceding years, but the continued reluctance to publicly recognize the full scale of emergency needs in the country and grant humanitarian actors sustained access to people in need are likely to affect the humanitarian community’s capacity to mobilize an appropriate response.
 Hailemarian Desalegn is an ethnic Wolayita from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) and a former President of that region. He is, however, wholly an Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front man. He is not from one of the numerically superior ethnicities (Oromia or Amhara) and thus does not pose a real threat to Tigrayan dominance in Ethiopian internal politics.