Famine watchdog warns of hunger crisis in parts of southeast Ethiopia

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network says some families in southeastern Ethiopia face a potential ‘catastrophe’ after large-scale livestock die-offs in the past year.

The USAID-funded watchdog writes in its latest November update that some populations of Ethiopia are forecasted to reach levels 4 to 5 on the five-point scale used to measure food security and famine.

“A major food security emergency is expected to continue in southeastern Ethiopia into mid-2018. Worst-affected areas include Dollo, Korahe, and Jarar zones, along with parts of Afder and Liben, which will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through May 2018, while some households will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5),” the watchdog group says.

FEWS NET works with agricultural, market, and weather data to forecast gaps that could lead to widespread hunger or famine.

Recently, southeast Ethiopia’s ongoing Deyr/Hagaya season (which runs from October to December) has performed better than other recent seasons. However, the report questions whether this improvement is enough to keep pastoral and agropastoral families in the region from falling into hunger.

“Substantial time and favorable performance in upcoming seasons is needed for households to reconstitute livestock herds and recover their key livelihood activities, following very high excess livestock deaths and sales due to drought in 2016/17,” reads the repor.

Food security is also expected to be ‘stressed’ in parts of the Southern Nations Region from February to June next year, due to poor harvests this year, but humanitarian needs there will not be as bad as the Somali region.

FEWS NET recommends “large-scale, sustained assistance… in order to mitigate food consumption gaps and limited increases in acute malnutrition and the risk of excess mortality.”

The severe food insecurity in southeastern Ethiopia is similar to that experienced in neighboring Somalia, which has been suffering from a bad drought as well as an ongoing civil war.