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Brussels, 21 November 2002

Commission's response to the emerging humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa

The purpose of this note is to provide a factual overview of the European Commission's response to the emerging crisis in the Horn of Africa and to present an analysis of the main causes of the current situation. The Commission is responding to the emerging humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa with food aid, humanitarian aid as well as support for longer-term efforts to achieve food security. Together with EU Member States, the Commission is looking at the best way to use all the instruments at its disposal to provide timely and effective assistance to address the situation as it develops. As well as addressing short-term needs and the current crisis in co-ordination with governments, UN agencies and other donors, the Commission is continuing to address the wider issue of food security through its development programmes. In this context, the Commission is also focussing on the long-term rehabilitation of the agricultural sector and is reinforcing its policy dialogue in an attempt to eliminate the causes of food insecurity in the region. The Commission's experience with food security problems in the world has shown quite clearly that the best way to achieve food security is to implement a broad-based policy for sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Food aid in itself is not an appropriate instrument to create long term food security. However, in certain situations, food aid remains essential for the most vulnerable groups of the population.

In Ethiopia, directly after the Government's appeal on immediate food needs, the Commission made available, in October, a total of €23 million, equivalent to 97,000 metric tonnes (Mt), to cover food needs until the end of 2002. This includes:

  • €12 million for the direct purchase of food aid (equivalent to 57,000 Mt of cereals at current prices). It is proposed to use part of this (20,000 Mt) for immediate needs, and the remaining quantity (37,000 Mt) for supporting a safety net scheme for the predictably food insecure.

  • €6 million, to be provided through partnerships with NGOs (equivalent to 27,000 Mt)

  • €5 million, to be provided through the World Food Programme (equivalent to 13,000 Mt).

These allocations come in addition to the 100,000 Mt which had already been made available earlier in the year, and bring the total EC food aid allocation to Ethiopia to 197,000 Mt in 2002.

At the same time, the Commission is devoting much attention to the situation that is likely to develop in 2003, and additional funding is being actively examined to respond to this. In addition to the above food aid provision, and ongoing humanitarian aid of €2.5 million which includes drought-related assistance, a further €4 million programme of humanitarian aid for the victims of drought is being prepared by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). This includes providing water and sanitation, supporting health services and providing targeted supplementary and therapeutic feeding for those in need.

In addition to the crisis response, substantial funds are programmed into the EC's current 5-year development strategy for Ethiopia, in the form of an allocation of €54 million for actions to improve food security, to be financed from the European Development Fund. A €25 million Food Security Programme, providing budget support for 4 food insecure regions (Amhara, Oromiya, SNNPR and Tigray), was also approved in October 2002. While responding to the emerging humanitarian crisis, the Commission - like the Government of Ethiopia - firmly believes that only by addressing structural problems of food insecurity can the frequent recurrence of humanitarian crises be ended.

In Eritrea, food aid needs for 2003 have been assessed at 353,000 Mt of cereals. Existing food aid commitments, including a €7.4 million EC allocation covering 13,500 Mt of wheat to be delivered in mid-2002, are considered adequate to cover Eritrea's needs up to March 2003. However, the possibilities of additional EC contributions are being actively examined, so as to ensure an orderly and timely delivery of food aid which may be needed thereafter. Ongoing humanitarian aid in Eritrea (€3.47 million) is mainly linked to post-war Relief and Rehabilitation, and includes support for water provision and nutritional aid. ECHO is monitoring the situation in Eritrea closely, and will respond to needs in 2003 as they arise.

In Sudan and Somalia the shortage of rainfall appears to have been less serious. Ongoing EC-funded food and humanitarian aid programmes operate in both countries. In Somalia, food security programmes have been developed in partnership with NGOs, and the EC-funded Food Security Assessment Unit plays a vital role in monitoring needs. The situation in both countries is being closely followed by the countries' Commission Delegations, and instruments are in place to respond to needs as and when they arise.

Background and Analysis:

Information has been available since July that late and poor short-season rains in parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea were likely to seriously affect harvests and lead to localised food shortages later in the year. As of October, after delayed long-season rains, it became clear that a more serious humanitarian crisis was likely to develop, particularly in the first half of 2003 when the food gap would be at its greatest. Whether for reasons of access or availability, neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea are fully able to meet their populations' food needs, even in years of good rains. Some 4 - 5 million Ethiopians - about 8% of the total population of 67 million - rely on food aid year in, year out. In Eritrea, the proportion of the chronically food insecure is even higher, with only 50% of the cereal needs of the 3.5 million population covered by domestic production in a normal year.

In both countries, many factors have compounded the countries' difficulties in coping with the present situation. Access to food is a structural problem. In addition, the food crisis of 2000 depleted the assets of the poorest households, leaving them less able to cope with the present shortages of food and water. Regional instability has interrupted cross-border trade. In Ethiopia, the current rock bottom coffee prices have reduced by two-thirds the incomes of some 400,000 households, and in Eritrea cropping areas have been significantly reduced due to delays in the demobilisation process and the consequent shortage of farm labour.

The latest estimates of the populations likely to be in need of humanitarian/food aid now range from 6.8 million - 15 million in Ethiopia, and 2.3 million in Eritrea. In both cases these figures include the populations who are chronically food insecure.

Latest assessments as regards the food aid needs for Ethiopia for 2003 are between 1.34 million and 2 million Mt of cereals (mid-and worst-case scenario). However, further assessments are due in December, and for the time being the EC is planning its response on the basis of the mid-case scenario (10 million beneficiaries, 1.34 million Mt of cereals), which seems to be the most realistic case given the latest information on rainfall. For Eritrea, an estimated 353,000 Mt of cereals will be needed.

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