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2012 Global: IASC Real-Time Evaluation of the Humanitarian Response to the Horn of Africa Drought Crisis - Ethiopia

Author: Lewis Sida, Bill Gray and Eleni Asmare

Executive summary

“With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding, Best Practice”, “Highly Satisfactory”, “Mostly Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as ‘Part 3’ of the report.”


The severe drought in the Horn of Africa in 2011 affected large areas of southern Ethiopia, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in need of assistance. The Government of Ethiopia and its international partners responded at scale to these threats, providing assistance to millions and offering sanctuary to tens of thousands of Somali refugees.


This real time evaluation (RTE) is one of four commissioned by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), looking at the response to the Horn of Africa drought and food security crisis. In total some US $2.8bn was raised for the response, with US $820m going to Ethiopia. In such large scale operations it is now standard practice to commission inter-agency evaluations.


The evaluation was undertaken during February 2012 and as such fell somewhat short of being ‘real time’ as most of the major interventions had taken place. This offered advantages in terms of data availability however, allowing for a more in-depth analysis of the response. As a result the evaluation was able to carry out some primary data collection, interviewing over 250 households and conducting 40 separate community focus group interviews. In addition a wide number of stakeholder interviews (99) formed part of the analysis, as did document review and a two day validation workshop, opened by the state minister for disaster management. Recommendations were developed during the validation workshop with key stakeholders.

Findings and Conclusions:

The findings are set out against the terms of reference, which were generic to all four Horn of Africa evaluations. The four key areas of enquiry were:

1. Needs assessment and early warning.
2. Strategy, operational planning and resource mobilisation.
3. Coordination.
4. Response against the needs and set standards.

Broadly the evaluation concluded that the response to the 2011 drought in Ethiopia saved lives. The results are an improvement on earlier years and are largely due to a number of predictable systems that have been put in place as well as the additional support provided by international partners. Whilst the response saved lives, it is less clear that it protected livelihoods. In the predominantly agricultural areas of the southern highlands people sold assets and borrowed money to make it through the most difficult periods. In the livestock dependent dry-lands, people lost animals – impacting their livelihoods. However, for many this may not have been as bad as previous droughts owing to the existence of innovative marketing linkages forged during earlier programmes. Nevertheless those with the smallest herds, and mostly marginal living, may have been hit hardest.Allowing refugees sanctuary in Ethiopia also saved lives, although the refugee assistance operation was not initially as successful. Mortality and malnutrition remained high for some months and whilst these are now under control the situation remains fragile.


R1: Ensure the early warning and needs assessments are released early with figures accurately matching the technical findings.

R2: Work towards making more of the acute response system predictable, including further developing systems such as Risk Finance Mechanism (RFM), livestock measures and better developing water responses.

R3: Finalise the new disaster risk management policy, and work with the regions to enhance their capacity.

R4: Scale up livestock response measures and asset (livelihoods) protection measures.

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