Malnutrition in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, in a "normal" year, has 45% of the total population food dependent/relying on food assistance. In 1996 and 1998, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in children aged between three and 59 months, was 8.0% and 9.2%, respectively.

After three years of low rainfall - generally attributable to the La Nina, El Nino/Southern Oscillation global climatic phenomenon - crop failure, food shortages and pockets of acute malnutrition are occurring.

In the immediate crisis, clarification was needed regarding the prevalence of acute malnutrition with particular attention to the most severe drought and famine-affected regions of the southeast Somali region. This is data which, in the recent months, has been difficult to obtain due to security reasons.


Gode, Denan, and Imay in the Somali Region are considered the current epicentres of the food and medical crisis. The areas of greatest need at the present time include the entire Somali Region, Harerge, East and West, Bale and Borena zones in the Orimiya Region as well as and Zone 4 of the Afar Region.

For this short summary report, national regions have been divided into four sectors; Southeast, Northern, Southeast and Northeast and are listed in order of corresponding need.

Nationally, there are seventy-five woredas (geographic areas) considered "crisis woredas". A "crisis woreda" is defined by the following set of criteria;

  • Wasting of more than 10%.
  • Average weight for length of less than 90%.
  • Increases in prices of cereals of more than 20% in combination with
  • decrease in price of livestock of more than 20%.
  • Unseasonal influx of migrants of more than 1000 or 5% of host rural population.

This report includes all woredas that were allocated food assistance in January, February and March 2000 that did not receive a distribution. Of theseseventy-five woredas, 12 are now in danger of becoming inaccessible due to rainfall and rising river waters. Already access into and out of Denan has become problematic due to rising waters.

The 12 woredas affected by current rains include Bale, West Harerge, Borena (Oromiya), Gode (Somali), South/North Omo (SNNPR).

MSF has operations feeding the malnourished in the three identified problem zones of Afar, Omo, Oromyia/Somali AFAR, OMO, OROMYIA/SOMALI.