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Amid severe food insecurity in Tigray, outcomes are deteriorating rapidly in the south

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • February - September 2022
Amid severe food insecurity in Tigray, outcomes are deteriorating rapidly in the south

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  • Key Messages
  • Despite a decline in conflict, severe food insecurity expected to persist in northern Ethiopia in 2022
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    Key Messages
    • Ethiopia remains one of FEWS NET's countries of highest concern. In 2022, food assistance needs are expected to peak between June and September at record levels [1] with widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes across much of the country. Northern Ethiopia, and in particular Tigray, remains of highest concern, though outcomes are quickly deteriorating in drought-stricken southern and eastern areas, where the risk of extreme outcomes is increasing. To save lives and livelihoods, large-scale humanitarian food assistance, along with unhindered humanitarian access in northern Ethiopia, is needed urgently. Continued scale-up of assistance will be required throughout 2022.


      [1] This statement is in relation to the time frame for which FEWS NET has comparable national needs estimates, which includes 2014-2022. Prior to 2022, the highest recorded needs in this time period were in 2016 following the El-Nino drought.

    • As of February 2022, most of Tigray remains cut off from commercial trade and humanitarian supplies, and consequently, minimal assistance has been delivered. Many poor households across the region have likely already exhausted production from the 2021 meher harvest, and with constraints on market supplies and few opportunities to earn income, have extremely limited access to food. Minimal labor is expected with the upcoming 2022 kiremt season associated with agricultural activities due to limited agricultural inputs. At a minimum, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to be widespread with worst-affected households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). More severe outcomes, indicative of an extreme lack of food, 'Extremely Critical' levels of acute malnutrition, and high levels of hunger-related mortality remain possible, but information is insufficient to confirm or deny.

    • In Afar and Amhara, the impacts of the conflict that occurred in late 2021 continue to negatively affect poor households’ access to food and income. Many households have returned to their place of origin, though continued displacement and disruption of humanitarian activities persists in some areas, notably in Afar. Recent information on Wag Himra warn of deteriorating food security conditions, including visible severe acute malnutrition. In areas where conflict persists, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected, and some households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).  

    • Southern and southeastern pastoral areas are set to experience an historic fourth consecutive poor rainfall season with the forecast below-average March to May 2022 gu/genna season. Household purchasing power is already more than 40 percent lower than average and milk production is minimal. According to regional governments, over 1.5 million livestock have died due to drought as of February. Levels of acute malnutrition are at 'Critical' levels in much of the region, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing. Although not considered the most likely scenario, if the 2022 gu/genna season fails and food assistance does not reach populations in need, food security could deteriorate to extreme levels, reflected in 'Extremely Critical' levels of malnutrition and high mortality.     

    • Poor economic conditions are expected in 2022, driven by low foreign reserves and low export earnings, which will cause continued depreciation in the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) and high inflation. This, coupled with below-average production in 2021 and high transportation costs, will continue to put pressure on markets, driving high food prices. Food prices across many markets are 150 percent or more above average. It possible for food prices to increase even higher than anticipated due to the Ukraine conflict, this analysis is still underway and be incorporated into future reporting. 

    Despite a decline in conflict, severe food insecurity expected to persist in northern Ethiopia in 2022

    Since November 2020, conflict and insecurity in northern Ethiopia have driven large-scale displacement, significantly disrupted poor households’ engagement in livelihood activities, and limited humanitarian access, with the impacts most stark in Tigray. At a minimum, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to persist across much of Tigray; it is possible that outcomes are worse, but evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny. In areas of Amhara that remain occupied by armed combatants, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are most likely. Of particular concern are areas of Wag Himra, where some populations remain cut off from humanitarian food assistance. In Afar, due to the near depletion of herds coupled with displacement and limited market access, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are also expected. Across northern Ethiopia, some worst-affected households are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    Overall, a large proportion of the population remains displaced, concentrated in larger towns. It is difficult to track population movements in Ethiopia which means that accurate, reliable displacement numbers are not available. Some displaced households have returned to their homesteads, but new displacement is also ongoing. Additionally, according to discussions with the Amhara Food Cluster, about 57,000 people fled Tigray to Amhara in late February and early March, mostly in search of food, despite security concerns for Tigrayans in Amhara. Those who arrived in Amhara are reportedly in poor condition and in need of humanitarian assistance, including food and essential non-food items.

    In a typical year, many poor households across Tigray exhaust their meher production by March/April. Given the limited access to inputs for the 2021 meher season and conflict-related disruptions, many farming households have likely already depleted their stocks or have little reserves as of February. In affected areas of Amhara, some households were able to harvest crops as conflict subsided, allowing them to consume their own foods for a short period; however, those food stocks likely have been depleted. 

    When food stocks are depleted, poor households typically rely on a combination of PSNP, livestock sales, and income from labor. However, since November 2020, these sources of food and cash income have been severely constrained. Across Tigray, PSNP has been incorporated into humanitarian assistance, which is not currently being distributed. PSNP distributions are similarly disrupted in Afar and Amhara. The lack of PSNP in early 2022 translates into a significant loss of a critical food and cash income source for nearly 3.5 million people in northern Ethiopia. At the same time, livestock sales and labor migration have also been disrupted, further limiting household income. In the last year, households across the north have seen a significant decline in their herd sizes due to theft, slaughter for consumption, or household displacement away from herds. Additionally, due to the limited economic activity and restricted capacity to migrate, household income from self-employment and labor is extremely restricted. This low income is coupled with exceptionally high food prices, resulting in very low household food access. In some areas of Amhara, though, there have been slight improvements in economic activity, notably in North Wello Zone where traders are increasingly active.

    While conflict and insecurity are not expected to be widespread during the outlook period, and poor households will engage in agricultural activities and income-earning to some degree, especially where the presence of combatants is low, the persistent threat of conflict and political instability will likely drive overall low economic activity.

    Humanitarian assistance distributions are expected to occur; however, they will be limited by access, funding, and fuel. The recent MUAC screening of 60,731 children under the age of five in different accessible woredas in Tigray in February 2022 recorded a proxy Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence of 20.3 percent, indicative of 'Critical' levels [GAM (WHZ) of 15 to 29.9 percent] of malnutrition, though it is possible nutrition outcomes have surpassed the 'Extremely Critical' threshold of 30 percent in worst-affected inaccessible areas. Access to these areas in order collect the information necessary to speak to levels of acute malnutrition and mortality is not permitted.

    At a minimum, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to persist across much of Tigray. It is possible that outcomes are worse, but evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely throughout the outlook period in conflict-affected areas of Afar and Amhara. Some households are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) across northern Ethiopia, with high concern for extreme outcomes – in particular in Tigray – during the 2022 June to September lean season.  


    Current Situation

    In early 2022, severe food insecurity has been ongoing in areas of the country affected by conflict and consecutive poor rainy seasons. In northern Ethiopia, limited humanitarian access and low economic activity resulting from the conflict have resulted in widespread acute food insecurity. As southern and southeastern pastoral areas are in the dry season, following three consecutive poor seasons, pasture is limited driving poor livestock conditions, which limits both food and cash income. Furthermore, in these areas and across the country more broadly, poor macroeconomic conditions are resulting in high food prices, limiting the capacity to purchase sufficient food for millions of households. These shocks have together resulted in record-level humanitarian food assistance needs.

    Conflict: Overall, conflict continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods.  (Figure 2). There has been a general calm in northern Ethiopia in early 2022, though conflict events have occurred in Afar and along Tigray's border with Amhara and Afar (Figure 3). Additionally, airstrikes have been reported in Tigray in January and February. While conflict in Tigray has been relatively low, the movement of people and goods in and out of the region remains very limited.

    Outside of northern Ethiopia, localized conflict is occurring between the Somali and Afar along the border of the two regions; among armed combatants in Metekel Zone of Benishangul Gumuz, Wollega, and Guji zones of Oromia; and in some areas of SNNPR. The number of conflict events registered as of early 2022 is lower than that recorded over the same time in 2021, though conflict is still disrupting market activities and engagement in livelihoods.

    Displacement: According to IOM's latest assessment in August/September 2021, over 4.2 million people were displaced in Ethiopia, around half of whom are in northern Ethiopia. The exact level of displacement is difficult to ascertain, though, both during and since the assessment, given the dynamic nature of population movement. Many people have moved back to more secure areas, while others have been displaced multiple times, notably in northern Ethiopia. According to OCHA and key informants, between mid-December and late January, over a half million people have returned to their areas of origin in Amhara. However, new displacement has been reported in Wag Himra, North Wello, and North Gonder zones of Amhara due to continuing conflict. In Afar the Disaster Risk Management Bureau (DRMB) stated over 300,000 people from Erebti, Abala, Megale, Gulina, and Berhale woredas were newly displaced as of mid-February. In Tigray OCHA reports that over 10,000 people have returned to their area of origin, though anecdotal reports also indicate that the number of people leaving Tigray due to the lack of food has increased since late February. Based on discussions with the Amhara Food Cluster, over 57,000 people have fled Tigray for Amhara since early February and that those arriving are in poor condition and in need of food.

    Outside of northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government reports that conflict in Oromia, Sidama, and SNNP has resulted in the displacement of around 882,500 people as of late December 2021. Displaced populations living in IDP sites outside of northern Ethiopia rely predominantly on humanitarian assistance, petty trade, and labor activities in nearby towns for food and income. Displaced populations living within the hosting communities are likely to engage in petty trading, sales of firewood and charcoal, and agricultural labor work for better-off households. Overall, displaced populations, especially newly displaced and those who have recently returned to their areas of origin, have often lost a significant proportion of their livelihood assets and have difficulty engaging in their typical livelihood activities.

    According to the UNHCR, as of February 28, around 837,500 refugees were present in Ethiopia. Most of the refugee population is from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea and located in Gambella and Somali regions. Most refugees live within displacement sites and rely on assistance, labor in nearby towns, and crops grown on small plots of land provided for production. 

    Rainfall: Rainfall during the October to December 2021 deyr/hageya season was extremely poor, marking the third consecutive below-average season across most southern and southeastern pastoral areas (Figure 4). The ongoing jilaal season has been hot and dry, intensifying drought conditions in the region.

    While most of Ethiopia is dry in January, localized rainfall occurred in SNNPR, known as sapie rainfall. This rainfall is important to supporting soil moisture for root crops such as sweet potato, cassava, and taro. Sapie rains were 55 percent below average, resulting in the wilting of many root crops. In Afar, the January deda rains typically provide some moisture until the main March to May season starts, but this year these rains were also well below average. 

    Belg rainfall, which usually starts in mid- to late-February, has yet to begin. Rainfall deficits of 10 to 25 mm were observed in late February (Figure 5), with rainfall deficits likely to increase in March due to below-average rainfall in the short-term forecasts. This signals low moisture to start the season in most belg-receiving areas (parts of SNNPR, central and eastern Oromia, eastern Amhara, and southern Tigray). Despite low rainfall, land preparation activities have begun.

    Crop production: The 2021 meher harvest was complete in mid-January, and national production was likely below average. In northern conflict-affected areas, multiple assessments - including WFP's Emergency Food Security Assessment and the multi-agency meher assessment – suggest that meher production was well below average. Based on these assessments and key informant information, FEWS NET estimates that meher production for Tigray, excluding Western Tigray, was 40 to 50 percent of average. In some areas of Tigray, notably Irob, no harvest occurred according to the seasonal meher assessment. In Amhara, while official production estimates were not available at the time of this analysis, available information suggests production was likely very low. Most households in Amhara and Tigray have likely exhausted or nearly exhausted own-produced food stocks, as the harvest only lasted two to four months for most households.  

    Meher production was also below average in central, southern, and eastern Oromia and much of the Rift Valley of SNNPR and Sidama regions due to below-average seasonal rainfall. According to the government's seasonal assessment, the harvest was average in western Oromia.

    In the few agropastoral and cropping areas of southern Ethiopia, which receive deyr/hageya rainfall, little to no harvest was observed in late 2021 as rainfall was largely insufficient for crop production.

    Pasture and water availability: Pasture conditions are mixed across the country, with generally good pasture in western and northern parts of Ethiopia, but limited to no pasture available in southern and southeastern areas (Figure 6). In northern pastoral areas, vegetation for livestock consumption and water availability are around average except in the northeastern sector of Afar where water and pasture shortages are chronic. Pasture and water are scarce in the southern and southeastern pastoral areas after never fully regenerating during the 2021 deyr/hageya season. Currently, the primary water sources are perennial rivers, deep wells, and a few functional boreholes; however, water availability is limited. Since November 2021, the Oromia and Somali regional governments started providing livestock feed and water for breeding animals in drought-stricken areas; however, available information suggests it is insufficient to meet the need. Furthermore, the Somali regional government has provided 1.0 million ETB per woreda for water provisioning, and the Oromia regional government 

    has allocated 90 water trucks to Borena Zone. According to the Borena zonal government, in the zone, only about five percent of allocated hay had been distributed between December 2021 and January 2022 due to a shortage of animal feed for support.

    Livestock migration: In southern pastoral areas, livestock started migrating atypically early in December from the worst drought-affected areas. Livestock migration from Kenya and Somalia has also been reported to neighboring areas of Ethiopia. There is a rapid depletion of available pasture and water in areas with a high concentration of livestock. In worst-drought affected areas, or in areas where livestock cannot migrate long distances in search of pasture and water, notably in Guiji zone, where conflict is limiting livestock movement, livestock are in extremely poor condition.

    Livestock condition and productivity: The poor pasture and water are resulting in emaciated livestock and large-scale livestock deaths. According to the regional governments, between October 2021 and late February 2022, nearly a million livestock have died across southern and southeastern pastoral areas. However, it is likely this is an underestimate given the challenges to accurately tracking livestock deaths. Most livestock deaths reported are among less drought-tolerant livestock species, specifically cattle and sheep. Camels and goats are faring somewhat better, although their conditions are still poor. These losses come on top of already below-normal herd sizes as livestock herds never fully recovered from the 2016-2018 drought. According to the government, in mid-March, over 5,400 households in Borena Zone had lost their entire livestock herd. Due to the poor conditions and low herd sizes, milk production and livestock conception are extremely low to nonexistent.

    In most western and northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions and productivity are normal. In Tigray and adjacent areas of Afar and Amhara, livestock are generally in good condition, but livestock holdings are limited due to theft, slaughter, and households leaving their herds behind when fleeing conflict. Most poor rural households no longer own livestock, which – prior to the conflict - provided an important source of income, and have too little income to purchase livestock to restock their herds.

    Macroeconomy: Macroeconomic conditions continue to decline, driven by the continued low export earnings, declines in budgetary support, and low foreign reserves. This, in turn, is resulting in high inflation and continued depreciation of the ETB on the official market (Figure 7). Annual inflation in early 2022 remains high after sharply increasing in mid-2021, primarily due to the high food inflation rate at 41.9 percent in February. According to the Central Statistics Agency (CSA), annual inflation in February is 33.6 percent, 13.1 percentage points higher than the same time last year.

    In 2021 and early 2022, the official exchange rate depreciated on average two percent per month. According to the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), the average official exchange rate was about 50.33 ETB/USD in February, about six percent higher than the six-month average. Parallel market exchange rate data have not been reported since August 2021; however, anecdotal information indicates the ETB on the parallel market is exchanging at least 30 percent higher than on the official market.

    The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) increased domestic fuel prices in December 2021 to 31.74 ETB/liter, nearly 25 percent higher than the price previously set. Fuel availability is generally average, except in conflict-affected areas of Gambella, western Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz, and northern Ethiopia. There is no official fuel supply in Tigray except through the informal market, as supply routes are blocked. 

    Overall, in areas of northern Ethiopia affected by conflict, economic activity remains limited, notably in Tigray. In Amhara, as conflict has subsided, economic activities have started, but overall economic functioning is still below average. In Tigray and neighboring areas of Afar and Amhara, most formal businesses and factories remain closed. In other areas of the country, businesses are operating as usual, but operations are hindered by high inflation and a lack of hard currency.

    Market supply and functioning: The movement of staple foods from typical surplus-producing areas in the west to central and eastern deficit-producing areas is generally ongoing; however, the volume of commodities supplied in deficit-producing areas is atypically low due to low production and high transportation costs. In pastoral areas, grain supply remains low due to below-average production from adjacent crop-producing areas and the low import volumes.

    Market supply and functioning are restricted in northern Ethiopia despite some improvement in the functioning of trade routes in the last few months in northeastern Amhara (Figure 8). Market supply in conflict-affected areas in most of Tigray and adjacent woredas of Amhara and Afar regions is also very low due to the blockade of trade routes, and prices remain high.

    Staple food prices: Despite the start of the meher harvest, which typically drives a decline in food prices, staple food price trends were mixed across the country and prices remained very high (Figure 8). According to Ethiopian Trade and Business Corporation (ETBC), February maize prices in Addis Ababa, Shashemene, Dire Dawa, and Bahir Dar are more than 160 percent higher than the five-year average. In Tigray, according to a regional government assessment conducted in November/December 2021, despite price hikes being moderated by low effective demand, driving down economic activity, staple food prices were still upwards of 75 percent higher than in October 2020.

    In all pastoral areas, staple food prices atypically increased in recent months due to price transmission from high fuel prices and low market supply. February maize prices in Chereti and Gode markets are over 60 percent higher than last year and over 160 percent higher than the five-year average. Similarly, maize prices in January were 85 and 113 percent higher than the same time last year and the two-year average in Yabello market of Borena Zone (Figure 10).

    Livestock supply and prices: The supply of livestock on the market remains normal in western and central areas of the country. In conflict-affected areas of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, livestock availability on the market is minimal as households’ herds are low and many do not have livestock to sell. Livestock markets are inaccessible in adjacent woredas of Afar due to continued conflict coupled with the blockade of trade routes into Tigray.

    Despite the inflationary market pressures, livestock prices have declined or remained stable. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock supply on the market is well above average as households engage in distress sales to try to access more cash to mitigate the income loss from declining livestock prices. Lower livestock prices are also driven by lower effective demand for livestock, as many households (including the better-off) have less income with which to purchase livestock. In Yabello market of Borena Zone, February prices for a goat in average condition is 2,100 ETB/head, 23 percent lower than the two-year average.

    Terms of trade (ToT) - the amount of staple grain a head of livestock can purchase – are much lower than both last year and the five-year average across southern and southeastern pastoral areas. In Chereti market, the February ToT are around 35 percent lower than the same time last year and 50 percent below the five-year average (Figure 11). Furthermore, the ToT in Chereti market are nearly 40 percent lower than the same time in 2017, when drought conditions also drove declining purchasing power. Overall, trade terms have declined across species in southern pastoral areas by 50 percent or more compared to average (Figure 12).

    Income from labor and self-employment: In most central and western parts of the country, opportunities and demand for labor are generally normal except in conflict- and drought-affected areas, where labor demand is low. Agricultural labor demand associated with belg crop production is lower than normal as the season is delayed.

    Migratory laborers from central and eastern Tigray and eastern Amhara are unable to move in search of labor due to insecurity. Additionally, in Tigray, the lack of economic activity and the lack of cash in urban areas is impeding local labor opportunities. The government's effort in reconstructing damaged infrastructure, such as health facilities, schools, universities, and telecommunication services in previously conflict-affected areas of Amhara and Afar has created some labor opportunities; however, it is minimal compared to the high labor supply.

    Based on anecdotal reports, labor opportunities and wage rates remain stable in coffee-producing areas of the southwest; however, both labor and wage rates are below-average. This is driving lower than average income from this source.

    Across the country, due to the high competition and poor macroeconomic conditions, income from self-employment (including petty trading, sale of firewood and charcoal) is likely to be lower than normal due to poor economic conditions.

    Remittances: Remittances from the Ethiopian diaspora have declined from those who had migrated to Arab countries as these populations return as the government of Ethiopia has been facilitating the return of populations detained in Arab countries. However, based on anecdotal reports remittances from Europe and the US remain somewhat normal. Internal remittances from urban areas to rural areas are likely lower than usual due to the atypically high cost of living urban households face. Those in conflict-affected areas face difficulty accessing remittances, notably Tigray, due to the disruption of the financial and banking sectors.

    Relatedly, it is considered likely that gifts and social support have also declined, driven by the decline in income among middle and better-off households as they also face lower economic activity and higher food and non-food prices.   

    PSNP: The release of PSNP distributions for 2022 has started for most PSNP-benefiting woredas (Figure 13), and distribution to beneficiaries has started in some areas after at least a month delay.

    Humanitarian Assistance: The distribution of rounds four and five of humanitarian food assistance are ongoing across much of the country, though distribution is inconsistent.

    In northern Ethiopia, supplies have not reached Tigray since mid-December 2021 and little to no assistance is being distributed currently. Humanitarians are suspending food dispatches and operations due to the lack of supplies, fuel, and an inability to pay employees' salaries. According to OCHA, between January 28 and March 2, only 178,000 people received assistance with planned ration sizes of about 66 percent of a beneficiary's kilocalorie needs. No people received assistance in Tigray between February 17 to 23, signaling the low levels of humanitarian food supplies in Tigray. A WFP survey in late November/early December found only about 11 percent of surveyed households received assistance in the last 30 days, and this survey occurred in accessible areas, so the reach of assistance is likely lower in non-surveyed and inaccessible areas. In Amhara, OCHA reports that over 1.5 million people received assistance in conflict-affected areas between January 31 and February 27.

    In Somali Region, over 1.7 million people are being targeted with round five assistance distributions with a ration size that equates to about 60 percent of kilocalorie needs. Round five distributions started in January and is continuing through February. Fifth-round assistance distributions started in Oromia targeting over 2.2 million people with a ration expected to meet most of beneficiaries’ food needs.

    Nutrition: Levels of acute malnutrition are high across Ethiopia, with most SAM admissions concentrated in Oromia and Somali regions (Figure 14). In northern, southern, and southeastern areas of the country, conflict and drought are driving concerning levels of acute malnutrition. A MUAC screening conducted in February of 60,731 children under five in accessible areas of Tigray recorded a proxy Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 20.3 percent, indicative of at least 'Critical' levels (GAM 15 to 29.9 percent GAM by weight-for-height Z-score (WHZ)). Minimal information is available on hunger-related mortality in Tigray, though available information suggests it is possible that deaths due to hunger-related causes have occurred in early 2022.

    According to UNICEF, of the 579 children under five screened in IDP sites in Chifra and Berhale woredas of Afar in late January, 21.5 percent were identified with GAM, indicative of 'Critical' levels of acute malnutrition. In Amhara, screening data show concerning levels of acute malnutrition, notably in Wag Himra and North Wollo zones.

    In Somali Region, SMART surveys conducted by ENCU found levels of acute malnutrition within the 'Critical' level. In January, screening data diagnosed 28.0 percent of children under five with GAM, indicating a proxy GAM rate within the 'Critical' threshold. This is an eight-percentage point increase from December, when the proxy GAM rate was 20.8 percent. In pastoral areas of SNNPR and Oromia, February screening and rapid assessment data found levels of acute malnutrition predominately between the 'Serious' and 'Critical' thresholds. 

    Current food security outcomes: Millions of households across Ethiopia, notably in southern, southeastern, and northern areas, require urgent humanitarian food assistance as they are experiencing moderate to extreme food consumption gaps as a result of conflict and drought, exacerbated by poor economic conditions. Northern Ethiopia, in particular Tigray, remains of highest concern, though outcomes are quickly deteriorating in drought-stricken southern and eastern areas, where the risk for extreme outcomes is increasing.

    In Tigray, anecdotal reports from key informants and the media indicate the overall condition of the population is declining, as an increasing number flee to Amhara in search of food. Further anecdotal evidence is found in local Tigrayan television that has begun informing people how to cut and prepare wild foods for consumption due to limited food availability. Available livelihoods information relative to the understood scale of shock to crop production and income sources suggests many face large food consumption gaps, and this is supported by high levels of acute malnutrition. In much of Tigray, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to be widespread with worst-affected households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). More severe outcomes, indicative of extreme lack of food, 'Extremely Critical' levels of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality remain possible, but information is insufficient to confirm or deny.

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in Wag Himra Zone and areas of Amhara and Afar bordering Tigray Region, where conflict is ongoing and food access are severely constrained. In the remaining areas of Amhara, where conflict subsided in late 2021, economic activity and household access to income has improved and assistance is being delivered, supporting Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In bordering areas of Afar, where many lost livestock and market functioning is extremely limited, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing. In the rest of Afar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing as poor households have relatively better asset holdings and livestock to sell for the purchase of staple food. In areas facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) these areas have relatively better market access and some income from labor and petty trade for food purchases.

    Many poor households across southern and southeastern pastoral areas are facing increasing difficulty meeting their food needs due to drought-related food and income losses. Areas worst affected by drought in southern Oromia and Somali regions are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Most are accessing food through excessive livestock sales to purchase food and sharing what humanitarian assistance is distributed, though large-scale livestock losses and poor livestock conditions are limiting the capacity to fully cope. In areas less affected by drought, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing. In these areas, livestock are in relatively better condition and poor households have some access to milk for food and income, along with some ability to sell less livestock for food.


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2022 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • February to May 2022 belg rainfall is forecast to be below average in southern, central, and northeastern areas. Most of SNNPR, east and central Oromia, and eastern Amhara will likely receive 75 to 90 percent of average rainfall. The remaining western crop-dependent areas of the country are forecast to receive normal to above-normal rainfall.
    • Below average and slightly delayed March to May 2022 gu/genna rainfall is forecast in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, and below average and delayed March to May 2022 diraac/sugum rains are likely in northern pastoral areas. Most parts of the Somali and Afar regions and southern Oromia are expected to receive 60 to 75 percent of normal rainfall, with some areas experiencing more significant deficits (Figure 15).
    • Based on long-term forecast models, June to September 2022 kiremt rainfall is forecast to be above average. July to September karan/karma rainfall is expected to be above average.
    • Conflict is expected to occur in localized areas of Afar, along bordering areas of Amhara and Tigray, and in Amhara-controlled Western Tigray. Based on trends in 2021, political differences, prolonged de-facto blockade, and no ostensible progress on alleged peace negotiations, an uptick in conflict is considered likely within Tigray during the kiremt rainy season. Conflict is expected to increase from current levels in western Oromia and Guji Zone of Oromia, likely at a similar time when there is an escalation in conflict in northern Ethiopia as a this will create a security vacuum.
    • Continued drought conditions in southern and southeastern pastoral areas are expected to increase resource-based conflict between Somali and Oromo ethnic groups.
    • Conflict is expected to drive further displacement in northern Ethiopia as well as in conflict-affected areas of Oromia throughout the scenario period. An increase in drought-related displacements from and within southern and southeastern areas is also expected.  
    • The movement of refugees into Ethiopia from neighboring countries is most likely to be lower than in previous years.
    • Land preparation and planting of belg crops in SNNPR and central and eastern Oromia will most likely be below-average. In conflict-affected belg producing areas of Amhara and Tigray, the lack of draft oxen and income to purchase seeds, coupled with the late start of the season, is expected to drive very low belg planting and crop cultivation. The national area planted for belg crops and national belg production is overall expected to be significantly below average.
    • The national area planted for long-maturing meher crops cultivated in April and May and short-maturing meher crops cultivated in June and July will be below average due to conflict and poor rainfall, with significantly below-average planting in conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia.
    • Due to the expected favorable kiremt rainfall, household engagement in the season is expected to be generally normal. Although, area planted is expected to be below average in conflict-affected areas, notably Tigray and areas of Amhara.
    • Pasture availability will likely decline in northern pastoral areas and be below average through June. With the start of the karan/karma rains in June, pasture availability is expected to improve through at least September.
    • In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions and productivity are likely to remain below average through June, then improve from July through at least September. Overall, milk availability and livestock production are expected to be significantly below average in conflict-affected areas due to low herd sizes.
    • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, pasture and water availability are expected to be limited to nonexistent through the start of the gu, in March, with a slight improvement in April/May. This improvement is expected to be short-lived, with pasture availability likely to decline rapidly and be limited from June through at least September. Pasture and water availability are expected to be most severely limited in Borena Zone of Oromia and adjacent zones of Somali Region. Livestock are likely to migrate atypically long distances to access pasture, and they will put pressure on pasture and water resources in destination areas.   
    • While 2021/22 conditions in the Somali Region are similar to that of 2016/17 due to small livestock holdings, aggregate livestock deaths in 2022 are expected to be lower than during previous droughts. This, coupled with limited livestock conceptions and births, means that households will lose a significant proportion of their herds. Unlike cattle and sheep, goats and camels are likely to have relatively better body condition and milk production, but still remain below average.
    • In conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia, most households have lost their livestock, and livestock numbers will remain well below average as will milk production and income from livestock sales.
    • While the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will provide some economic relief for the government, the cost of conflict in northern Ethiopia and the shortage of hard currency and low foreign reserves will still drive poor macroeconomic conditions in 2022; a high annual inflation rate, between 20 to 40 percent, is likely. As a result, the ETB is expected to continue to depreciate on the official and parallel markets through at least September, with the government continuing to manage a slow depreciation of the official ETB rate, averaging about two percent a month.
    • The ability of the Ethiopian government to import food and other essential non-food commodities from the international markets is expected to decline. Fuel prices are expected to increase due to increasing costs in the country and the expectation that the government will end fuel subsidies.   
    • Market grain supplies across the country are expected to increase slightly through March, then decline in April until the next harvest, while remaining below average across the projection period. In conflict-affected areas, notably Tigray, market supply is expected to be severely limited.
    • Market functioning is likely to improve in northeastern Amhara and eastern Afar with the expected continued lull in conflict. In Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar, market function is expected to be limited due to the likelihood that blocked trade movement and some conflict incidents persist, limiting trade flows. Markets are expected to function generally normally in the rest of the country.
    • Staple food prices are projected to be generally stable through March, but increase between April and September, while remaining significantly above average. Maize grain prices in Addis Ababa are expected to reach 180 percent higher than the five-year average at their peak in September. Given the recent conflict in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia, there is the potential for disruption to global cereal and fertilizer exports from both Ukraine and Russia. The likely magnitude of these disruptions is still being analyzed as events in Ukraine unfold and will be further detailed in future reporting.
    • Livestock market supply is expected to be limited in conflict-affected Tigray, Amhara, and Afar due to low market functioning and limited livestock herd sizes. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock market supply is expected to be above average as atypically high livestock sales occur amid drought conditions. In northern pastoral areas and the rest of the country, livestock market supply is expected to be normal.
    • Livestock prices in most central and western areas will most likely be above average while following seasonal trends. In conflict-affected areas of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, livestock prices are expected to remain low. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to decline during the entire projection period. The decline in livestock prices and high staple food prices, especially in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, is expected to significantly reduce pastoral household purchasing power. Household terms of trade are expected to be relatively better in northern pastoral areas than in southern and southeastern pastoral areas.
    • Migratory and agricultural labor through May is expected to be below average across the country due to the likely below-average belg season and continued conflict in northern Ethiopia. Wages are expected to remain stable or be slightly higher than in 2021, but overall income from local agricultural labor is anticipated to be below average. In June, with the start of kiremt rainfall, migrant and agricultural labor is expected to be normal with increasing wages due to the increase in the cost of living. In Tigray, income earned from migratory and agricultural labor is expected to remain limited.
    • Household income from self-employment opportunities, including petty trading and construction labor, will likely remain below average in belg-producing areas due to the anticipation of below-average income, but in the western half of the country will remain average because of normal livelihood activities. In conflict-affected areas, revenue from these sources is anticipated to remain below average. Similarly, income from petty trading and herd keeping in pastoral areas is likely to be below average due to a decline in livestock market value and poor livestock conditions.
    • PSNP transfers are expected to start in early March and continue through July/August for public work beneficiaries. In Tigray and neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar, PSNP distributions will be carried out with emergency food aid; however, given the significant constraints likely to be faced by humanitarians, relatively low levels of PSNP are expected.
    • While some level of humanitarian assistance delivery is expected during the projection period, it is not included in the projected food security outcomes because of an expected pipeline break in the coming months, which will lead to delays and inconsistencies in distributions. This assumption is based on historical trends and an understanding of funding levels. Future reporting will incorporate an analysis of confirmed humanitarian assistance distributions. Distributions are expected to be prioritized to accessible areas worst affected by drought or conflict; however, limited funding is not expected to cover the full level of need. In conflict-affected areas of Tigray and Amhara, and Afar, the de facto humanitarian blockade is likely to persist, with humanitarians facing extreme constraints to distributing assistance. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In 2022, Ethiopia is expected to face two severe humanitarian emergencies: (1) conflict in northern Ethiopia driving the possibility of extreme outcomes and (2) four consecutive below-average seasons in southern and southeastern pastoral areas driving millions of households to face large food consumption gaps. Nationally, record-high levels of acute food insecurity are expected as macroeconomic challenges exacerbate the expected conflict and drought shocks.

    Across Tigray, millions of households already face large food consumption gaps, which are likely to remain through the lean season as the local economy is no longer functioning and household sources of food and income are minimal. Levels of acute malnutrition will likely remain elevated at 'Critical' (GAM 15 to 29.9 percent) or worse levels due to extremely low food access, including limited access to humanitarian assistance. Hunger-related deaths are also likely, in particular during the peak of the lean season as food sources are at their lowest. Areas of highest concern include inaccessible areas of Northwest, Central, and East Tigray, which share a border with Amhara and Eritrea, and areas of these zones where displaced populations are high. Inaccessible woredas and displaced populations of Southeast and South Tigray are also of serious concern. Overall Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely at a minimum in most of Tigray, excluding West Tigray where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected. Across the region, some populations are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in Wag Himra Zone and some woredas in North Wollo of Amhara Region through at least May, as poor households have few assets as they return to their area of origin and limited ability to engage in income-earing activities due to market disruptions. In belg-producing areas of North Wello, while the belg harvest is expected to be lower than normal, food security outcomes are expected to improve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the June to September period. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through September 2022 in most belg-producing areas of North and South Wello zones, and a few woredas in North Shewa, North and South Gondar zones, where conflict has subsided, livelihood and market activities are expected to occur at near-normal levels. The harvest starting in May/June will help mitigate food consumption deficits, but poor households are likely to face consumption deficits as the harvest is likely to be below average and household purchasing power is expected to be low.  

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to be widespread among conflict-affected areas of Afar through September 2022. Pastoral and displaced households in these areas are anticipated to have significant difficulty accessing income through the sale of livestock and milk. This, coupled with increasing food prices, will limit these households' ability to access food. Poor households are expected to engage in coping strategies such as selling remaining livestock, migrating to areas where assistance is being distributed, and consuming limited quantities of food. In the rest of Afar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected. While these areas have not been affected by conflict, milk production and income from livestock sales are insufficient for households to meet their food needs. In areas of Zone 3 and 5, food security is expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as market functioning is back to normal and pastoralists will have income from livestock sales amid somewhat better market access.

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is likely to persist through September in Dawa, Liben, Afder, and some woredas in Shebelle and Korahe Zones of Somali; South Omo of SNNP; Borena, East Bale, and lowland woredas in Guji; and West Guji of Oromia Regions. This is mainly due to households' limited ability to access food from milk production and market purchases given low salability of livestock as well as due to high food prices. Households are expected to migrate as possible to access food, limit food consumption, sell a high proportion of livestock, and rely on other severe coping strategies. Conditions are expected to decline in areas of East Bale, lowland woredas of Guji, and West Guji zones in Oromia as livestock holdings are expected to decline with poor gu/genna season and households having limited amounts of credit to purchase food.  Households are expected to increasingly employ severe copying strategies such as excessive livestock sales including female animals, begging, and relying on what credit is available. Some populations, specifically those who face the complete loss of their herds, are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The prevalence of malnutrition is likely to remain within the 'Critical' thresholds across much of Somali Region due to various driving factors, which include anticipated below average 2022 gu/genna and sugum seasonal rainfall, persistent food consumption deficits, poor maternal and child feeding practices, high incidence of infectious diseases, and limited access to quality health and nutrition services. Although not considered the most likely scenario, if the 2022 gu/genna rains fail and food assistance does not reach populations in need, food security could deteriorate to extreme levels, reflected in 'Extremely Critical' levels of malnutrition and high mortality.     

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is likely to persist in the rest of the southern and southeastern pastoral areas where impacts of consecutive poor seasons are not expected to be as severe as in other areas with households experiencing fewer livestock losses. This will allow households to sell livestock to meet their food needs, and while sales will be atypically high, they will still be able to retain a portion of their herds. Additionally, milk yields per animal are likely to be higher, which will help mitigate more severe food consumption deficits.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.




    Impact on food security outcomes

    Northern Ethiopia

    An uptick in conflict across northern Ethiopia 

    Food and income access would be severely disrupted for millions more households in northern Ethiopia. Households’ already limited livelihood sources would even further reduce, with widespread populations facing increasingly large food consumption gaps, deteriorating levels of acute malnutrition with increased mortality. An increasing number of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) would be likely.

    Conflict-affected areas of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions

    Conflict ceases, and the de facto humanitarian blockade is lifted 

    Improvement in the functioning of and access to markets, as well as humanitarian access, would improve food and income access across northern Ethiopia. Households would slowly start rebuilding their livelihoods and accessing income-earning opportunities. This would not immediately lead to widespread improvements as the process of rebuilding will take time and as food prices would likely remain high. Increased humanitarian assistance would improve food security outcomes, though, should large-scale delivery occur alongside improved access. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would still be likely in many areas in the absence of assistance.

    Southern and southeastern pastoral areas

    Average March to May 2022 gu rainfall

    Water and pasture availability would be expected to improve so that livestock body condition and productivity would also improve. However, the previous drought impact – and subsequent deaths and low conception – will still limit the number of births. As a result, total milk production will remain below average. This alongside the still anticipated increase in staple food prices, households' purchasing power will remain weak. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would still be expected, but there would be a lower likelihood of widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    Southern and southeastern pastoral areas

    Failure of March to May 2022 gu/genna rainfall and humanitarian assistance is limited 

    Further deterioration in livestock conditions and large-scale livestock deaths would occur, driving drastic declines in herd sizes with the collapse of typical livelihood activities. Many poor households would employ all available coping strategies. This would also result in large-scale displacement. More widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be likely and there would be a risk that malnutrition could reach ‘Extremely Critical’ levels and high levels of hunger-related mortality could occur. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.    


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, February 2022

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET /USGS

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 8

    Figure 6

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 9

    Figure 7

    Source: CSA; NBE

    Figure 10

    Figure 8

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 11

    Figure 9

    Source: ETBC

    Figure 12

    Figure 10

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 13

    Figure 11

    Source: Somali Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission Office

    Figure 14

    Figure 12

    Source: ETBC

    Figure 15

    Figure 13

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on gov't data

    Figure 16

    Figure 14

    Source: ENCU

    Figure 17

    Figure 15

    Source: NOAA, Climate Hazards Center, and USGS

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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