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Flooding in August and below average deyr to contribute to high needs in late 2020

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Ethiopia
  • August 2020
Flooding in August and below average deyr to contribute to high needs in late 2020

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • High food assistance needs are likely to persist in Ethiopia due to the compounding impacts of COVID-19 related restrictions, insecurity, weather shocks including forecast below-average October to December rains, the poor macroeconomic context, and dessert locusts. In much of the eastern and central parts of the country, though economic activity has slowly increased, households still face limited ability to access income. This coupled with the increasing food prices and atypical flooding is leading to many households facing difficulty meeting their food and non-food needs. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated to persist through much of the projection period.

    • While rainfall has been largely favorable in 2020, heavy rainfall has led to flooding, notably during the ongoing kiremt season. The atypically high levels of flooding in Afar, parts of SNNP, Gambela, Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions have resulted in displacement, destruction of crops, and loss of livestock. The average to above-average rainfall likely for the remainder of the kiremt season will still favor normal crop development, though the desert locust infestation will likely lead to localized crops and pasture losses.

    • Forecasts indicate a below average October to December 2020 deyr­ season is likely. While pasture and vegetation continue to be above the median across southern and southeastern pastoral areas, which may mitigate the impacts of the upcoming below-average season, a deterioration in livestock body conditions, productivity, and prices is still expected in late 2020 and into early 2021. Poor rains alongside the continued effects of past weather shocks, conflict along the Oromia/Somali border, and the impacts of COVID-19, will likely drive poor pastoral households to engage in unsustainable livestock sales or face food consumption gaps. Preliminary research suggests there is also a possibility for a below-average March to May 2021 season.

    • Staple food prices increased across much of the country between July and August, and prices continue to be relatively higher than normal. In areas where prices are steadily increasing, notably in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, this is driven by the lower than normal market supply associated with conflict. Livestock prices show similar trends to that of staple foods and given that livestock prices are further above average than food prices, terms of trade favor pastoralists.


    Humanitarian assistance needs in Ethiopia are notably higher than in recent years and months, driven largely by compounding effects of COVID-19 related restrictions, continued drought recovery, atypically high food prices, conflict, weather hazards, and desert locusts. The COVID-19 related restrictions have most notably led to declines in income from local labor and labor migration. Moreover, recent flooding has led to displacement and loss of assets, driving a marked increase in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Ethiopia has over 52,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of August 31. In early August, the government announced a month-long COVID-19 testing and prevention campaign, with the aim to carry out nearly 400,000 COVID-19 tests in August. The testing rate in late August has increased, though data suggest that still less than 1 percent of the total population has been tested. COVID-19 is also increasingly of concern among displaced populations with reports of COVID-19 cases amongst IDPs in Qoloji camp of Somali region and other IDP settlements, prisons, and some refugee camps.

    The state of emergency which was declared in April continues, though public spaces such as religious centers and businesses have started to reopen, people are moving more freely, public transportation is restarting though at half capacity, and  the border with Djibouti is now open. Despite the increase in economic activities the indirect impacts of the pandemic continue to be visible with below normal domestic and international trade and low engagement in the informal sector resulting in continued difficultly for poor households’ access to income. Furthermore, the closure of the border with Sudan continues to limit migratory labor, a key source of income for many poor households in Ethiopia.  

    Kiremt (June to September) rainfall has been largely favorable with CHIRPS rainfall data suggesting average to above-average rainfall through late August (Figure 1). However, there are some small rainfall deficits along the borders with Sudan and South Sudan. Despite these deficits, ground information indicates that rains have still supported normal development of vegetation and crops in these areas. The generally above-average rainfall in SNNPR is also supporting second season agricultural activities, and planted crops are developing well. There has been slight increased engagement in agricultural activities as households increasingly disregard restrictions to movement, though slight reductions in meher production are still likely due as lower income reduced the ability of some poor households to access inputs for cropping activities.  

    Recurrent heavy rainfall has resulted in flooding in many areas of Afar, Somali, Oromia, SNNP, Gambela, and Amhara regions. According Federal Flood Task force and UNOCHA, as of mid-August, flooding displaced more than 139,000 people across the country (Figure 2). While results from recent field assessments and the full extent of crop and livestock losses are yet available, preliminary information indicates crop and livestock losses have occurred in Afar, Somali, SNNPR, and Gambela, most notably in Amibara, Asayita, Afambo, Dupty parts of Mille, Gewane, and Awash Fentale woredas of Afar. Though some households are likely to replant, mitigating crop losses, the risk of flooding is expected to continue through the end of the season: the Ministry of Water and Energy reports some reservoirs were near capacity and some dams are discharging surplus water, including reservoirs of Koka, Gibe, Tana Belse, Melka Wakena, Tedaho, Genale, Dawa, Kesem, and Tekeze. This has increased the flooding risk downstream of these dams.

    According to FAO, as of late August, desert locusts are most concentrated in the northern and northeastern parts of the county. Throughout August, desert locusts were reported to move from Yemen into Ethiopia with locusts moving between Somalia and Ethiopia. Control measures are ongoing, including aerial measures in Afar and eastern areas of Somali and Oromia. As per the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) regional desert locust impact assessment in June/July 2020, more than a third of impacted cropping respondents and roughly half of impacted livestock-rearing respondents reported high or very high losses to their crops and rangeland, respectively.

    Livestock in agropastoral kiremt dominant areas are generally in good condition due to readily available pasture (Figure 3). In some areas where pasture availability was of concern, in particularly the lowlands of Wag Himra, livestock body conditions are improving with increased pasture from favorable rains. In southern, southeastern, and northern pastoral areas, though March to May rainfall stopped atypically early, pasture conditions are seasonally normal. There are little to no reports of atypical deterioration of livestock conditions, abnormal livestock migration, or livestock disease.

    In July 2020, the annual inflation rate was 22.3 percent, higher than that of June 2020. Additionally, the ETB continues to depreciate on the parallel market with the ETB falling to 45 ETB/USD in late August from near 40 ETB/USD at the beginning of 2020. The official exchange rate, which the government started to devalue in late 2019, continues to devalue as the government makes efforts to access loans, support dept repayment, and encourage business to increase exports. This coupled with currency withdrawal limits put in place by the National Bank of Ethiopia to individuals and businesses and COVID-19 related border closures is negatively impacting the export and import of goods, as well as cross border trade.

    Staple food prices in August 2020 remain higher than in 2019 and the five-year average. In Addis Ababa, while prices of sorghum increased in early 2020, prices have been generally stable between June and July (Figure 4). Staple food prices remain elevated due to the depreciation of the ETB, seasonally low supply of grain and border closures among other drivers. In deficit-producing areas and areas affected by conflict, prices are generally higher as insecurity is disrupting domestic trade flows and transport costs are high. In belg­-dominant areas, notably of SNNPR and Amhara, the harvest has improved market supply, stabilizing prices, though prices remain atypically high. Maize prices in Wolayita Sodo and Nekemte markets are 15 and 5 percent above the same time last year and 15 and 51 percent above the five-year average, respectively.

    Improvements in livestock body conditions have stabilized or slightly increased their market value; however, livestock market supply continues to remain low as pastoralists are continuing to restock their herds. Livestock prices are increasing and although not at the rate of staple food prices, given that livestock prices were already above average in preceding years, livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are still favoring pastoralists. In July, the price of locally consumed goat in Cherati of Afder market was 54 percent and 122 percent above last year at the same time and five-year average, respectively.

    The decline in daily laborer movement and engagement in activities is limiting income from this source. Moreover, many poorer households face difficulty accessing agricultural labor opportunities due to high competition. As a result, income from agriculture labor continues to decline. Those who rely on income from the informal sector, who often survive on daily wages are among the most affected by COVID-19 response measures such as stay at home orders, closure of street markets, and shutdowns in many sectors. Though economic activity is increasing, income from this source remains low. 

    According to UN-OCHA recent conflict in Oromia has led to the displacement of 9000-12,0000 people, driving households away from their assets and typical sources of income in west Arsi, East Shewa, Southwest Shewa, and Bale Zones. During the unrest, markets and homes were destroyed with many of the displaced populations currently living in churches, schools, and other public areas. These populations are primarily dependent on humanitarian actors and community members for food. Despite the assistance, these households still have difficult meeting all their food needs. Moreover, the conflict is reportedly impacted ongoing measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

    JEOP has nearly completed distribution of Rounds 1 to 4 of humanitarian food assistance between March and July 2020, reaching over 1.5 million people in Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, Dire Dewa, and some parts of SNNP. Available information suggests some operators have only distributed up to half of planned assistance for Rounds 3 and 4. Some of the delays in assistance delivery are attributed to the recent uptick in insecurity.  

    The start of 2020 belg harvest has improved food access significantly for many households in SNNPR, and some northeastern areas of Amhara. However, the lean season continues across meher producing areas in central and western prates of the country, which are the sources of staple grain to the eastern prates of the country, driving higher food prices and contributing to continued acute food insecurity outcomes in southern and eastern parts of  the country. The majority of the households rely on market purchases for food, though incomes are generally below average. On top of the seasonal decline in staple food supply, civil unrest, sporadic inter-communal conflict, and high transport cost has disrupted households’ normal livelihoods and market supply in some areas. As a result, across many eastern and central parts of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. Of highest concern is north-central Amhara, specifically Wag Himera Zone, where people and livestock movement has been significantly restricted and even with ongoing assistance households still face food consumption gaps, and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in the lowlands of Tekeze river catchment, lowlands of Bale, lowlands of East and West Hararghe, and parts of Borena along the Oromia/Somali border, and parts of the Somali Region. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes have emerged in some southern areas of Afar as flooding has led to displacement of people, damage of crop fields, and the loss of livestock, further reducing access to normal livelihood activities and sources of income.  


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Ethiopia Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021 remain unchanged except for the following:

    • While the state of emergency remains in place and some restrictions continue, including only allowing public transport to function at half capacity and limitations on gatherings, many poor households are gradually re-engaging in economic activity despite continued movement restrictions, and this is anticipated to continue throughout the projection period.


    The meher harvest in most kiremt benefiting areas of the country, along with improvements in livestock conditions, is likely to lead to improvements in food security. Between October 2020 and January 2021, most of these areas will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with some areas Stressed (IPC Phase 2). As households in much of SNNPR access own food from the belg harvest and access to income and food improves much of the region is expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to poor households’ reliance on casual labor and limitations to income from this source. However, as conflict is disrupting market access as well as households’ ability to engage in income-generating activities in Segen and Gedeo, and due to limited food stocks in meher dependent areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist until the harvest in September/October. As the harvest becomes available and household access to own foods improves, food security outcomes will likely generally improve in these areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Although many households in conflict-affected in areas of Gedeo and Segen Zones and southern parts of South Omo, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is likely to continue through January 2021.

    Large areas of Somali Region, except parts of Jijiga, Siti, Fafan, and Degahabur Zones that received average kiremt rains that supported increased livestock productivity that is in turn driving improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), other areas in the region are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2020. The anticipated below-average deyr 2020 rains and desert locust invasion are expected to also result in a reduction in the production and productivity of livestock in other parts of Somali region. Significant declines in household livestock holdings due to distress sales are also expected. In southern areas of Afar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to continue in some southern areas. Many households are likely to engage in recession cultivation; however, households are likely to replant long-cycle crops which will not be available until January/February. As a result, many households are expected to continue to be market reliant with below average purchasing power.

    Parts of southern Tigray and northern Amhara, along with much of eastern SNNPR, far southern Oromia, and eastern Oromia are expected to be in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!), with humanitarian assistance improving outcomes, or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2021. In Afar, parts of Sitti and Fafan zones of Somali region,  Rift Valley areas of SNNPR, and Central Oromia, poor and very poor households will only be able to meet their minimum food needs, but will not be able to meet their livelihoods protection needs without resorting to unsustainable coping. Most of these areas will continued to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January 2021.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: UNOCHA

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET/ETBC

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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