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Food insecurity emergency in Ethiopia leads to second record-setting year of food assistance needs

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • February - September 2023
Food insecurity emergency in Ethiopia leads to second record-setting year of food assistance needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Humanitarian assistance expected to prevent widespread mortality and total collapse of livelihoods
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • The scale and severity of food insecurity in Ethiopia remains among the worst globally, as the country faces a second year of record-breaking needs1 due to the impacts of a nearly three-year drought and conflict and insecurity. Assistance needs will peak between June and September, which coincides with the lean season in the west and dry season in the pastoral south/southeast. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected despite widespread food assistance in southern, southeastern, eastern, central, and northern Ethiopia. High levels of acute malnutrition and some levels of mortality are likely, especially in southern Ethiopia. At a minimum, food assistance must be sustained at current levels to prevent widespread hunger-related mortality and total livelihoods collapse.

    • Across southern and southeastern pastoral Ethiopia, the historic, nearly three-year drought has severely eroded livelihoods by undermining households’ primary food and income source, livestock. Remaining household livestock holdings are increasingly unsalable due to their emaciated condition. Field reports indicate that many households in some of the worst drought-affected areas, including areas of Borena, Dawa, Liban, Afder, and neighboring areas of Shabelle and Korahe zones, have little choice but to shift away from pastoralism in search of more viable livelihoods. In these areas, food assistance is expected to continue to mitigate extreme food consumption deficits, resulting in Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!). In neighboring areas where the impacts of the drought have been less severe, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist through at least September. Livestock deaths have occurred on a smaller scale, but have still led to significant reductions in households’ ability to access income and food. Field reports indicate households are increasingly relying on credit and going into debt to access food.

    • In much of Tigray and neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar, low levels of conflict since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement have resulted in the resumption of some basic services and a large scale-up in humanitarian assistance distributions. Humanitarians have reached millions of people in most areas of Tigray in January and February, which is mitigating large consumption deficits among a sizeable proportion of the population. However, the resumption of services and improvements in market access are proceeding slowly, driving Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in these areas.

    • In many belg-receiving areas, notably Rift Valley areas and central Ethiopia, households are increasingly relying on markets for food as household food stocks from the poor 2022 crop production season are depleted. While agricultural labor opportunities are becoming available with the start of belg rainfall in mid to late February, the delayed rainfall, coupled with lower purchasing power for the middle and better-off, is driving down wage rates and income. Household purchasing power is expected to be lower than normal due not only to low wages but also to high food prices. An increasing number of households are expected to face food consumption deficits, driving increasingly widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes until the next harvest.

    Humanitarian assistance expected to prevent widespread mortality and total collapse of livelihoods

    In Ethiopia, severe food insecurity will most likely continue well into 2023, with a record-breaking2 number of people in need of food assistance in mid-2023, concentrated in northern, central, eastern, and southern Ethiopia. The availability of food and income in southern and southeastern (S/SE) Ethiopia is of extreme concern due to the severe erosion of livelihoods amid the record-breaking, historic 2020-2023 drought. Borena Zone of Oromia and Dawa, Liban, Afder, and areas of Shabelle and Korahe zones in the Somali Region are the areas of highest concern, as they are among the most severely drought-affected areas in the Horn of Africa. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes, reflecting elevated levels of acute malnutrition and mortality, are expected to persist through at least September. More severe outcomes would be likely in the absence of current and planned humanitarian assistance, which is anticipated to prevent the widespread occurrence of hunger-related mortality and total collapse of livelihoods. However, a scale-up of multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance – including but not limited to food, water, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance – is still needed urgently in these areas to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods.

    The historic, nearly three-year drought in S/SE Ethiopia, like in Somalia, has driven the extreme disintegration of livelihoods due to the extreme loss of households’ primary asset, livestock. In Borena Zone, according to the zonal authorities as of January 2023, over 3.3 million cattle have died, which represents nearly 90 percent of all cattle in the zone. In neighboring areas of the Somali region, key informant interviews during assessments conducted in early February suggest livestock losses in Dawa and Liban zones range between 40 and 60 percent of all livestock in these zones. The livestock that remain alive are in extremely poor condition (Figures 1 and 2), with no milk production reported across species. Household income is minimal, with high competition for firewood and charcoal sales and petty trade. Alongside high food prices, this is driving poor market food access. Households are also increasingly going into debt as they are relying on loans for food purchases.

    Food assistance distributions are mitigating the size of household food consumption deficits and the extent of livelihood destruction; however, large food consumption deficits, erosion of assets, and high levels of acute malnutrition persist given the exceptional severity of this protracted drought. In early 2023, humanitarians provided assistance to around 3.1 million people affected by the drought across Somali Region and Borena Zone of Oromia. Distributed assistance covers about 50 percent of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs between distributions, roughly 60 days. Humanitarians are expected to continue to prioritize S/SE pastoral areas of the country through at least September. While there are some concerns of a pipeline break, due to the severity of food insecurity in these areas, humanitarians are likely to do everything possible to continue assistance delivery.

    In the months ahead, humanitarian assistance will continue to be integral to mitigating some of the largest food consumption deficits among household in S/SE pastoral areas, but households are still expected to resort to coping strategies involving extreme depletion or liquidation of assets. Even with the ongoing food assistance, high levels of acute malnutrition are evident, with high and increasing SAM admissions. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are widespread across much of the S/SE pastoral areas, and FEWS NET anticipates that these outcomes are likely to persist through at least September 2023. If access to assistance is constrained or if there are declines in assistance delivery, food consumption deficits would likely rapidly increase, driving a proliferation in hunger-related death and destitution, especially in Borena Zone of Oromia and Afder, Liben, and Dawa Zones of the Somali Region. Governments and humanitarians need to provide sustained and scaled-up multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to save lives and prevent the loss of pastoral livelihoods in these areas of Ethiopia.


    Figure 1

    Cattle body conditions in Yabello woreda, Borena Zone
    Cattle body conditions in Yabello woreda, Borena Zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Camel body conditions in Guchi woreda, Borena Zone
    Camel body conditions in Guchi woreda, Borena Zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Rainfall: Typically, little precipitation falls across most Ethiopia in January and February. As of late February, dry conditions are notably acute in S/SE pastoral areas, where five consecutive poor seasons have occurred, including the poor deyr rains from October to December 2022 (Figure 3) and the worst gu/genna rains on the historical record in early 2022. Additionally, due to poor rainfall in 2022, dry conditions extend across much of the Rift Valley. In early March, the March to May 2023 gu/genna rains had yet to begin.

    Most of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) and Sidama regions received sporadic rain showers in January, which is typical. This rainfall somewhat improved soil moisture for crop development, especially root crops like sweet potato, casava, and taro. These crops are planted in November and harvested in March, and rainfed crops were wilted due to drier-than-average weather in January 2023.

    In agropastoral areas in the south, Rift Valley, and north, belg rainfall typically starts in mid to late February. As of late February, no belg rainfall has been observed in the country. Current rainfall deficits range from 0 to 50 mm (Figure 4). Based on short-term forecast models, rainfall deficits expanded in early March signaling a late start of season in southern areas of the country, as well as in the Rift Valley, while some belg rainfall is likely in northern belg-receiving areas. Despite the low rainfall and late start to the season, land preparation activities are ongoing.

    Figure 3

    Rainfall as a percent of normal from October to December 2022
    Rainfall as a percent of normal from October to December 2022

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 4

    Rainfall anomaly in mm from February 1 to February 28, 2023
    Rainfall anomaly in mm from February 1 to February 28, 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Conflict: Levels of conflict in Ethiopia were relatively high in February, with the exception of northern Ethiopia, where conditions were generally calm. Localized conflict is primarily occurring in Oromia, SNNPR, Somali, and Afar regions (Figure 5), where it is disrupting livelihood activities – such as the meher harvest, belg land preparation, and various income-earning activities – and impeding food assistance distributions, trade, and market functioning. In Oromia, conflict has slightly declined in recent months and is concentrated in Wellega, Guiji, West Guiji, North Shewa, and West Shewa zones in central and western areas. Tribal/ethnic conflict is also ongoing along the border of Oromia and Somali regions, primarily in areas of East Haraghe Zone. In addition, localized conflict is ongoing in areas bordering Guji Zone of Oromia and Kochere woreda of Gedeo Zone in SNNP. Notably, the main tarmac road between Dilla and Yabello is unsafe, limiting the movement of goods and people in these areas. Meanwhile, in Sitti Zone of the Somali Region, continued violent clashes between the Issa of Somali and Afar have continued. Lastly, in Afder Zone, the persistent presence of Al-Shabaab has rendered some areas difficult to access for humanitarians.

    In Tigray, minimal levels of conflict have permitted improvements in the extent of humanitarian access, along with the resumption and expansion of the delivery of basic public services.  In early February, banking institutions had restored services with limitations in most towns. Furthermore, as of late February, most towns in Tigray have telecommunications restored, apart from those that are located along the northern border with Eritrea. Despite this improvements, unexploded ordnance incidents have occurred, and activities to increase awareness of mine locations and mitigate the occurrence of such events are ongoing.

    Displacement: According to the most recent International Organization for Migration (IOM) assessment in August and September, more than 2.7 million people are displaced across Ethiopia, primarily due to conflict. However, displacement and repatriation in Tigray were not considered in the IOM’s assessment, nor was displacement due to insecurity in Benishangul Gumuz, Afar, Amhara, and Somali regions. As a result, the total population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of September was likely higher than the reported numbers. Additionally, the net total number of displaced people across Ethiopia has likely increased since September, as continued drought- and conflict-induced displacement has likely offset the return of households to their areas of origin.

    Figure 5

    Conflict incidents recorded from November 1, 2022, to February 28, 2023
    Conflict incidents recorded from November 1, 2022, to February 28, 2023

    Source: ACLED

    Information on the return of some IDPs in Tigray and other previously conflict-affected areas is limited and difficult to verify, but some returns have likely occurred given prevailing calm conditions; however, the flow of returnees to their area of origin has been slow. In Tigray, trends in displacement are particularly fluid, with a high number of people remaining displaced even as others return to their area of origin. In northern Amhara, around 8,000 IDPs are located in Jara IDP site in North Wello Zone and additional IDPs remain in Wag Himra Zone. According to information from OCHA in January and February, nearly 385,000 people are displaced in areas along the border with Oromia. Finally, in Afar, an OCHA report dated February 23rd stated that nearly 2,000 IDPs (nearly 40 percent of 5,100 registered IDPs) have returned to Zone 2 of Afar (primarily Abala and Berhale).

    Limited information is available on recent trends in displacement in other conflict-affected areas. In Gedeo of Oromia, around 4,300 people were reportedly displaced as of early January. In Benishangul Gumuz, a significant number of households that were previously displaced due to conflict have been returning home, but over 147,500 people remain displaced. According to OCHA, about 5,000 households have returned home from Sudan, while nearly 318,000 have returned to Metekel Zone.

    Meanwhile, drought remains a significant driver of displacement in S/SE pastoral areas, notably in Borena Zone of Oromia and Afder, Liban, and Dawa zones of the Somali region. Based on the latest information on displacement from IOM as of September, 911,000 IDPs are scattered across the Somali Region, in more than 488 sites and 74 woredas; most of these people have been displaced by drought. Displacement has likely increased since late 2022.

    In addition to IDPs, Ethiopia hosts over 880,000 refugees, according to the UNHCR. The majority of the refugee population is from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan and concentrated in camps in Gambella and Somali regions. Furthermore, according to UNHCR reporting as of early February, an estimated 100,000 people have crossed into Ethiopia from the city of Las Caanood in Somalia. The new arrivals are predominantly women, children, and the elderly, who are settling into towns in Dollo Zone. In areas where refugees are unable to directly access assistance, host communities are sharing available already limited resources with refugees.

    Crop production: The 2022 meher harvest – primarily concentrated in northern, western, central, and areas of southern Ethiopia – was completed in early January. Aggregate meher production is assessed to be below average due to crop losses caused by active conflict in Tigray and neighboring areas of Amhara during the planting/growing season and due to the national impact of below-normal access to agricultural inputs, moisture deficits, and pests and diseases. On the regional level, remote monitoring imagery, FEWS NET field assessments, and partner information corroborate that meher production was below average in Oromia, Afar, SNNPR, and Sidama regions.

    At this time of year, cropping activities are beginning in belg/deyr/hageya benefiting areas of the country. In agropastoral areas of the south and southeast, the deyr/hageya harvest was minimal to non-existent in late 2022, largely due to limited rainfall, inadequate flooding for typical recession agriculture, and households’ lack of access to resources for planting. In belg-receiving areas, households are engaging in land preparation activities despite the poor and delayed start of the rainfall season as of February. Finally, in southern areas of SNNPR and Sidama, a minor agricultural season where the harvest begins in March, the cultivation of staple cereal crops, root crops, vegetables, and pulses is ongoing, and irrigated crops are currently in good condition with some wilting among rainfed crops.

    Figure 6

    Vegetation as a percent of the 2012-2021 average (eVIIRS) as of March 1-10, 2023, and water point conditions as of March 10, 2023
    Vegetation as a percent of the 2012-2021 average (eVIIRS) as of March 1-10, 2023, and water point conditions as of March 10, 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Pasture and water availability: Nationally, green pasture conditions are mixed (Figure 6). In general, pasture availability ranges from slightly below normal to above normal in areas north and west of the Rift Valley in Amhara as well as in western Oromia, Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, and Tigray. Conversely, pasture conditions show signs of deterioration in Afar, according to ground reports, and the availability of both pasture and water range from extremely scarce to completely unavailable in the south and southeast, especially in Borena Zone of Oromia and Liban, Afder, and Dawa zones of the Somali Region.

    The impacts of protracted drought on pasture and water availability are increasingly severe in most S/SE pastoral areas. Pasture and water availability has not fully regenerated since the late 2021 rainy season, and typical water sources, such as ponds, bore holes, and deep wells, have become increasingly shallow and harder to access. In Borena Zone, households have given the thatch from their roofs to livestock in attempts to keep them alive. In pastoral areas of South Omo and Konso in SNNPR, where there are reports of little pasture, households are feeding their livestock available leaves from tree branches. In the Somali region, most cisterns (birkas) dried up before or during the ongoing January to March jilaal dry season, and shallow and hand-dug wells are not producing adequate water. Households are traveling long distances, sometimes up to 25 km, to access water. In some areas where there is relatively better pasture, such as in northern Dollo Zone, the large influx of livestock that have migrated in search of pasture and water is now driving a rapid decline in the availability of these resources. While the government and humanitarians have provided some livestock feed to pastoralists, mainly in Borena Zone, as well as water trucking services, the level of support is far below the level of need.

    In northern pastoral areas of Afar, it is important to note that ground reports indicate declining levels of pasture and browse availability, despite the favorable conditions captured by remote sensing data (Figure 6). The deteriorating trend is attributed to high temperatures and the ongoing dry season, most notably in dry-season grazing areas where livestock typically access browse, such as Amibara, Chifra, Erebti, and Teru zones. There is abnormal livestock migration within Afar to areas where there is a relatively better pasture. Due to the high concentration of livestock in these areas, the pasture is expected to deplete quickly.

    Livestock conditions and productivity: Due to the historic drought, livestock body conditions across most S/SE pastoral areas range from poor to emaciated. According to OCHA, around 6.85 million livestock have died since late 2021 due to the drought. In Borena Zone, over 3.3 million cattle have died as of January 2023, amounting to about 87 percent of all cattle in the zone, according to the Borena zonal government. The same report indicated that over 68,000 households are now destitute due to livestock deaths. In the Somali region, livestock deaths continue to be reported, primarily in Afder, Liban, and Dawa Zones. Due to the very high rate of livestock deaths, herd sizes among most households are low, with limited conceptions and milk availability at this time.

    In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions are average to below average due to pasture availability. Additionally, household herd sizes remain below normal due to the impacts of earlier conflict. As a result of lower herd sizes and, in some areas, below-average livestock body conditions, milk availability has atypically declined in the last few months.

    Figure 7

    Annual headline inflation and food inflation rates from January 2022 to February 2023
    Annual headline inflation and food inflation rates from January 2022 to February 2023

    Source: Central Statistical Agency

    Macroeconomy: Headline and food inflation remain very high, reflecting poor macroeconomic conditions characterized by low foreign reserves, high government spending, and low productivity due to conflict and drought. According to the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), the annual headline inflation rate has surpassed 30 percent every month for the past year and a half, reaching 32 percent in February. Food inflation is a large contributor, reaching 29.6 percent in February. Fuel is another key driver of the high headline inflation rate. Over the past year, the government has continued to gradually decrease fuel subsidies, which has caused an unprecedented increase in fuel prices as well as a national shortage of fuel. Long lines to access gas are now common. In January, fuel prices had increased by 94 percent compared to the previous year.  

    The devaluation of the ETB on the official market has slowed since April 2022 due to government intervention. In February 2023, the USD exchange rate against the ETB had increased by about 7 percent over the previous year. However, the spread between the official and parallel market exchange rate is wide. Anecdotal reports from key informants suggest the parallel exchange rate is trading at 100 ETB/USD, which is 86 percent higher than the official exchange rate.

    Figure 8

    Official exchange rate from January 2017 to February 2023
    Official exchange rate from January 2017 to February 2023

    Source: FEWS NET

    Market supply and functioning:  Market supplies are below average nationally due to lower-than-normal 2022 production. While markets are generally functioning normally, some anomalous disruptions are ongoing in conflict-affected areas as well as in drought-affected areas, the latter of which is mainly due to low effective demand. Furthermore, the movement of goods from western surplus-producing areas to central and eastern deficit-producing markets is seasonally low.

    In Tigray and conflict-affected areas of Amhara and Afar, the movement of goods into the region and, consequently, the availability of market supplies has significantly improved compared to last year. However, recovery from the impacts of the two-year conflict is still ongoing, and levels of trade activity vary from below-normal to limited (Figure 9). The movement of goods into Tigray, in particular, continues to improve but remains somewhat disrupted. As a result, the availability of market supplies remains below normal despite the relative improvements in the flow of goods to these areas. Similarly, supplies remain insufficient in areas of Afar, as normal trade routes for areas of zones 3 and 5 remain unsafe for trader movement.

    In areas of SNNP and Oromia, localized conflict is not only disrupting the movement of goods within these areas, but also to areas to the east in the Somali Region. The impacts of conflict on trade are most significant along the main roadway between Dilla and Yabello towns in southern Ethiopia. Additionally, the low availability of supplies in Shashemene of Oromia have disrupted the functioning of the market.

    The drought is also causing disruptions to trade and market supply. Traders have stopped traveling to Borena Zone and some adjacent areas of Somali Region due to low effective demand, given households’ limited ability to purchase food. As a result, market supplies are low even for those who would have the means to purchase goods. In the Somali Region, where most food supplies are imported, the supply of food on the market is low due to the low value of the ETB and low effective demand.

    Figure 9

    Northern Ethiopia market functioning map
    Northern Ethiopia market functioning map

    Source: FEWS NET

    Staple food prices: Locally produced and imported staple food prices remain elevated across the country despite some moderate declines in the last two months (Figure 10). Prices in conflict-afflicted and drought-affected areas of the country are generally higher than elsewhere. In conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia, for example, prices have significantly declined for sorghum and wheat since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2022; however, teff prices are over 50 percent higher than the rest of the country. Meanwhile, in drought-affected areas of Oromia, supply shortages are driving high staple food prices despite low demand, as households do not have the cash for food purchases. In Yabello market of Borena Zone, maize prices in February were over 35 percent higher than last year.

    In the Somali Region, where most food is imported, prices are very high due to the depreciation of the ETB. In Gode and Chereti markets, the prices of rice and sorghum were nearly 25 percent and over 120 percent higher, respectively, in February compared to the same time last year. Maize prices in these markets were around 50 percent higher in February 2023 than in February 2022.   

    Figure 10

    Trend in the price of maize in select markets of Ethiopia
    Trend in the price of maize in select markets of Ethiopia

    Source: FEWS NET

    Livestock market supply and prices: Livestock prices have remained above average, which is mainly attributed to inflation, given that current market supply dynamics – including poor livestock body conditions and high supply – would normally place downward pressure on prices. Nationally, the supply of livestock on the market in early 2023 has increased because households sought to earn income during the traditional festival and wedding seasons. However, the supply of livestock for sale in S/SE pastoral areas – especially in the far south – is atypically high, with field reports indicating that households are abandoning their livestock at the markets because they no longer have the resources to care for them. These livestock are generally in unsellable condition. In February, prices for salable livestock were 45 to 80 percent higher than at the same time in 2023 across reference markets in the Somali Region. 

    Regardless of salability, livestock price increases are not keeping pace with food price increases. The livestock-to-maize terms of trade (ToT) in most pastoral and agropastoral markets continue to decline across the country, including in drought-affected areas and northern Ethiopia. The most notable declines in ToT are in markets where livestock supply is high and there are market disruptions. In Chereti of Afder Zone, the goat-to-maize ToT in February were similar to that of 2022, but well below the five-year average and 2021 (Figure 11). The money earned from the sale of one goat could purchase about 36 kg of maize, which would only provide about 11 days of food for a family of seven, compared to 68 kg normally. The ToT have also plummeted in Borena Zone of Oromia, which is among the worst drought-affected areas in the country. In Yabello market, if a household has any livestock left to sell, they could only purchase about 65 kg of maize with the sale of one goat, compared to 210 kg normally (Figure 12). 65 kg of maize would last slightly over two weeks for a household of seven.

    Figure 11

    Goat-to-maize terms of trade in Chereti, Afder Zone, Somali Region
    Goat-to-maize terms of trade in Chereti, Afder Zone, Somali Region

    Source: Somali Region Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau (SDPPCO)

    Figure 12

    Goat-to-maize terms of trade in Yabello, Borena Zone, Oromia Region
    Goat-to-maize terms of trade in Yabello, Borena Zone, Oromia Region

    Source: FEWS NET

    Income from agricultural and non-agricultural labor: In general, household income from labor activities is below normal in areas affected by poor belg rainfall, conflict, and/or the five-season drought. In February, agricultural labor demand tends to be seasonably low across most of the country, as cropping activities are only ongoing in belg-producing areas. However, agricultural labor demand in belg-producing areas of the country is atypically below normal for this time of year due to the slow start of the rainfall season, leading to lower-than-normal wage rates and a decline in household income from this source. Meanwhile, in Tigray, labor demand has only somewhat recovered due to the ongoing constraints on economic activity, resulting in persistently below-normal household income from this source. Finally, labor demand is also low in drought-affected S/SE pastoral areas due to severely below-average livestock and crop production, resulting in minimal household income from casual labor. However, despite the decline in labor demand, the wage rate across most of the S/SE has stayed relatively stable or only moderately decreased since the same time last year. The labor wage rate for a day of work in East and West Haraghe, Bale, Arsi, and West Guji zones of Oromia remained stable from February 2022 to 2023 at 200-250 ETB/day.

    In SNNP, the wage rate in February, was relatively higher than in recent months but started to decline because opportunities have decreased while labor supply has remained high. The casual labor wage rate in February for Sikela market of Gofa Zone was 233 ETB per person per day, eight percent higher than in January 2023 but more than 103 percent higher than at the same time last year. While wage labor has increased year-on-year, its value compared to food is low.

    Income from self-employment: Income from self-employment, such as petty trade and firewood and charcoal sales, is below normal across much of the country, but especially in conflict- and drought-affected areas. The trend is primarily linked to the atypically high number of households engaged in these activities as a coping mechanism, which is driving oversupply. In the worst drought-affected S/SE pastoral areas, the relative importance of household income from firewood and charcoal sales has increased, as households are relying on what livelihood strategies remain available to them. However, the income earned from this activity is low; while prices of firewood and charcoal remained stable in 2022 and early 2023, demand for these products is low compared to the supply, resulting in a low number of sales for households. 

    Remittances: Social support and remittances sent to the rural households from their relatives living in towns remain average, with no abnormalities reported. However, for conflict- and drought-affected areas, remittances from relatives in the country have declined due to below-average harvests, low income from different sources, and poor macroeconomic conditions.

    Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP):  PSNP is typically distributed between January and June for public works clients and year-round for direct support clients, predominantly in areas of northern, central, eastern, and southern Ethiopia. There are some delays to PSNP distributions in northern Ethiopia. It is likely to take a bit of time for the program to fully restart.  The release of PSNP resources for 2023 distributions 2023 has started across most PSNP-benefiting woredas, and distribution to beneficiaries is likely to start in late February/early March.

    Humanitarian food assistance: WFP, JEOP, and the government continue to provide food assistance to millions of households across Ethiopia, with most of food assistance distributed to those in the worst drought- and conflict-affected areas. In early 2023, humanitarians have delivered assistance to over 10.0 million people nationally through the fourth and fifth distribution rounds (Figure 13). Distributions under Round 5 are currently still ongoing. Each round of assistance is meant to be distributed every six weeks to beneficiaries and aims to cover around 75 percent of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs over a six-week period; however, the timing of distributions is often irregular, with distributions occurring only every two months or more. As a result, current distributions managed by WFP and JEOP are estimated to cover around 50 percent of a beneficiary’s needs over a roughly 60-day period, on average, though the amount varies between regions. Aid distributions by the government tend to be even more irregular and cover lower quantities of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs.

    Figure 13

    Percent of the population receiving humanitarian assistance in early 2023 across Ethiopia
    FEWS NET’s analysis of distribution data from the Food Cluster/WFP

    Source: FEWS NET’s analysis of distribution data from the Food Cluster/WFP

    In Tigray, humanitarians reached nearly 3.5 million people in early 2023 with rations equivalent to around 50 percent of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs; this reflects an increase of 1.25 million beneficiaries compared to the period between mid-November and late December 2022, when only 2.27 million people were reached. The fuel supply in Tigray has significantly improved, allowing the free movement of humanitarian supplies within the region. However, some localized areas near the Eritrean border remain inaccessible to humanitarians, specifically in areas of eastern Tigray. Assistance distributions are also ongoing in Amhara and Afar, with humanitarians targeting those displaced and affected by drought.

    In drought-affected S/SE pastoral Ethiopia, assistance delivery is ongoing at a large scale, targeting those who are among the worst-affected. In the Somali Region, 2.5 million people, about 40 percent of the regional population, were reached with assistance in early 2023. Assistance is reaching 25 percent or more of the population in most woredas of the Somali region. Rations cover around 50 percent of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs for about 60 days. In Borena Zone of Oromia, JEOP took over distributions in late 2022, with humanitarians scaling up assistance. In early 2023, over 600,000 people were reached in the zone, which accounts for nearly 50 percent of the population. Distributions are equivalent to around 50 percent of a household’s kilocalorie needs for 60 days.

    Acute malnutrition: Levels of acute malnutrition are high in Ethiopia due to the negative impacts of conflict and drought on the consumption of food and milk among the population, alongside concurrent disease outbreaks such as cholera. Available data on actual and proxy levels of acute malnutrition point to Critical (Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) 15–29.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (GAM ≥ 30 percent) levels of acute malnutrition in some of the areas of highest concern; furthermore, these malnutrition levels are inclusive of very high and increasing admissions of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) (Figure 15).

    In northern Ethiopia, based on OCHA data, the proxy GAM rates in late December 2022 in North Wello, Wag Himra, North Gonder, and South Wello zones of Amhara were within the Alert (GAM 5–9.9 percent) and Critical (GAM 15–29.9 percent) ranges. According to a Rapid Nutrition Assessment by the Amhara Regional Health Bureau and Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU) carried out in December in Raya Kobo, North Wollo, and Sekota Zuria woredas of Waghimra Zones of Amhara and a November 2022 Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening in all zones of Afar region, proxy GAM rates are within Critical (GAM 15–29.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (≥ 30 percent) ranges.

    In S/SE pastoral areas, particularly in the far south, acute malnutrition levels are severe even with ongoing humanitarian assistance. Dawa and Shabelle zones of the Somali region recorded the highest level of SAM admissions of the Somali Region's 11 zones, carrying nearly 35 percent of the regional burden of admissions. In Somali Region, the four zones with the highest SAM admission rates are Dawa, Shabelle, Liban, and Korahe. Recent SMART surveys conducted in Dollo Zone of the Somali Region and Borena Zone of Oromia indicate Alert (GAM 5–9.9 percent) and Critical (GAM 15–29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition.

    Cholera cases, which is contributing to high disease incidence and likely interacting with hunger to exacerbate current levels of acute malnutrition, continue to be reported in drought-affected Oromia and Somali regions. As of February 28, according to OCHA, over 1,500 cases have been reported across 13 woredas. Cholera vaccinations are ongoing.

    Figure 14

    Admissions of children with SAM by region from October 2021 to December 2022. Admissions data from Tigray has not been consistently available.
    Admissions of children with SAM by region from October 2021 to December 2022. Admissions data from Tigray has not been consistently available.

    Source: Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit

    Current food security outcomes

    Even with ongoing large-scale humanitarian food assistance, millions of households continue to face food consumption deficits in the country, especially in drought- and conflict-affected areas. Drought-affected areas, and particularly Borena Zone of Oromia and Dawa, Liban, Afder, and areas of Shabelle and Korahe zones in the Somali Region, are of highest concern. While conflict-affected areas in northern Ethiopia remain a concern, humanitarian access has notably improved due to low levels of conflict.

    In S/SE Ethiopia, continued food assistance distributions are mitigating some of the most extreme food consumption deficits; however, the food security emergency persists. Millions of livestock have died resulting in severe erosion of livelihoods and significant decreases in households’ ability to access food and income. Households’ ability to earn income livestock and non-livestock sources is low amid high and increasing food prices. Survey data collected in Borena Zone of Oromia suggest that households are predominantly only consuming available food assistance while also engaging in high levels of livelihood coping, such as selling off their last breeding livestock. This evidence suggests that Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are ongoing in this area as well as neighboring areas of Dawa, Liban, and Afder and some adjacent areas of Shabelle and Korahe zones in Somali region. In these areas, food security outcomes would be more severe in the absence of ongoing assistance. Meanwhile, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely ongoing in much of the rest of S/SE pastoral areas, where livestock losses are not as severe and households have access to income and food from own production. However, given the protracted severity of drought impacts, it is likely that households are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) across all of these areas, even with large-scale assistance.

    In northern Ethiopia, specifically Tigray, the improved humanitarian access and distribution of food assistance has resulted in widespread improvement in household access to food. While the reach of humanitarian aid has improved within Tigray and is likely reducing the size of food consumption deficits among recipients, current levels of aid are inadequate to compensate for the considerable loss of food and income from the poor harvest and prevailing low purchasing power. As a result, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are ongoing in most of Tigray. In neighboring areas of Afar and Amhara, humanitarians are also delivering assistance, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes.

    In Rift Valley areas, household food stocks from own production are declining due to the below-average 2022 harvest, and households are increasingly reliant on markets for food. Currently, households have income to purchase sufficient food to meet their food needs but may be foregoing essential non-food needs. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely ongoing across most of these areas. However, in some areas such as East and West Harage, where conflict-related disruptions to livelihood activities have occurred and household purchasing power is even lower, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely exist.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Ethiopia seasonal calendar

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on forecasts as of late February, February to May belg seasonal rainfall will likely be below average in southern, central, and northeastern areas. Rainfall is forecast to be 75-90 percent of average across much of SNNP, Sidama, eastern and central Oromia, and eastern Amhara and Tigray. Other belg-receiving areas are likely to experience average rainfall.
    • Based on forecasts as of late February, the March to May gu/genna seasonal rainfall is expected to be below average, with a late start of the season and deficits of up to 60 percent of average. Similarly, northern pastoral areas are likely to see below-average rainfall and a delayed start to the diraac/sugum rainfall.
    • The June to September kiremt seasonal rainfall is expected to be average. The July to September karan/karma rainfall season in northeastern Ethiopia is also likely to be average.
    • Conflict in most northern parts of the country, specifically in Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar, is expected to remain low. However, since the issue of the complete withdrawal of Eritrean forces and ongoing territorial disputes over the administration of Wolkayit and Raya have not been resolved, conflict will likely continue to present some challenges to the full implementation of the Peace Agreement. Furthermore, conflict could resume in the Raya and Wolkayit areas and some bordering parts of Eritrea.
    • The frequency and intensity of conflict between the government and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shene) forces are likely to scale up in intensity and frequency of attacks except in North and West Shewa Zones. Since different armed groups from Oromia and Amhara regions are involved, the conflict is likely to continue. The government is expected to continue to take military action rather than pursuing a peaceful solution to end the conflict, which will likely result in increased civilian casualties and displacement over the scenario period.
    • Given recent reports of sporadic conflict between Somalis and Afar clans along the borders of the Shinlile and Jarar zones, combined with the lack of consensus between conflicting parties, it is likely that conflict events will continue, resulting in casualties and population displacement. In SNNP, objection to the government’s plan of a cluster-based formation of new regions has fueled tensions, resulting in violence and arrests in Gurage and Wolayita zones. Sporadic violence will likely continue, and the government will take measures to try to control the situation.
    • In Tigray and the adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar, active displacement is likely to remain low with households likely continuing to return to their areas of origin. However, instability in bordering countries is expected to continue, as will displacement from localized conflict in areas of the country, likely resulting in an increase in the number of refugees compared to previous years.
    • Extreme drought conditions are expected to persist through at least mid-2023 in S/SE pastoral areas, likely driving displacement in some areas as households migrate in search of food and income.
    • Land preparation and area planted for belg crops is expected to be lower than normal, particularly in most parts of SNNP, central and eastern Oromia, eastern Amhara, and southern Tigray due to low access to seeds, conflict in localized areas, and forecasted poor seasonal rainfall. In pastoral areas of S/SE Ethiopia, planting and harvests are expected to be minimal due to limited access to seed, dry soil conditions, and poor rainfall. Nationally, planted area and crop production are expected to be below average during the belg season.
    • Planting for long-maturing meher crops, which occurs in April and May, will likely be below normal due to below-average rainfall, lower-than-normal access to seeds, and localized conflict. Planting for short-maturing meher crops in June and July will likely be near average as households try to make up for production losses of long-maturing crops. However, lower-than-normal access to seeds and conflict-related disruptions, particularly in bordering areas of Burji Zone of Oromia, Gedeo Zone, and southern special woredas of SNNP Region, could affect the area planted. Despite this, area planted is expected to be near average for meher crops, and timely green harvests are likely to start in September.
    • Coffee and fruit crops in SNNP, Sidama, and eastern Oromia regions will likely be negatively impacted by reduced levels of moisture during the February to May period, due to anticipated below-average seasonal rainfall affecting early crop development. Kiremt rainfall will likely provide sufficient moisture for later-stage crop development in June and July; however, early season deficits will render coffee and fruit production below normal.  
    • Pasture and water availability in S/SE pastoral areas is likely to be limited to nonexistent through the start of gu/genna rainfall in March. Slight improvements are expected in April/May, but the forecast for below-normal gu/genna season rainfall suggests that any improvements will be short-lived, with pasture and water availability rapidly declining through at least September. Livestock will likely atypically migrate longer distances and congregate in areas where they can still access pasture, placing pressure on the pasture and water resources they access.
    • In northern pastoral areas of northern Somali Region and most of the Afar Region, inadequate pasture and water availability will also likely be a major concern during the March to June period. However, 2023 kiremt rainfall will improve pasture and water availability from July through September. Pasture and water availability in the rest of the country is likely to be average throughout the scenario period.
    • Livestock body conditions in S/SE pastoral areas are expected to remain extremely poor, with livestock deaths remaining high during the scenario period. Livestock deaths may be mitigated in April/May as pasture and water become slightly more available with the onset of gu/genna season rainfall. Poor livestock conditions will significantly impede reproduction and milk production; factoring in continued livestock deaths, herd sizes are expected to further decline, with an atypically high number of households losing their entire herd.
    • In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions, production, and productivity will likely remain below normal between February and May but are expected to improve after July following the anticipated average karma/karan rainfall. As a result, conception, birth, herd size, and milk production in most of the Afar and northern Somali regions will likely be lower than average throughout the scenario period.
    • Macroeconomic conditions are likely to remain poor, although generally stable, through the projection period due to continued hard currency shortages and low foreign reserves. A contributing factor will be continued high levels of government spending on service restoration and reconstruction in Tigray following the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA), which has resulted in relative peace in Tigray. An inflation rate of 30 to 40 percent is expected during the projection period, causing the value of the ETB to continue to depreciate on the official and parallel markets.
    • High prices and fuel shortages will continue affecting transportation and supply chains, leading to higher food and non-food commodity prices in local markets.
    • In northern Ethiopia, as conflict is expected to remain low, trade flows and market functioning are expected to slowly improve but remain below pre-conflict levels due to persisting high tensions and little to no movement to Tigray. In western and southern Oromia, localized areas of SNNP, and bordering areas of Oromia and Somali Region, localized conflict is likely to limit movement of traders and disrupt market functioning. In the rest of the country, market function and trade flows are expected to be generally normal.
    • The previous season’s average meher production in the western half of the country is likely to improve the supply of grain for consumption in local and central markets through the end of February across most of Ethiopia. However, from March onwards, supply will decline, reaching its annual minimum in line with seasonal trends in August and September. Supplies will be significantly lower in areas where conflict remains active, likely in areas bordering Somali and Oromia regions and in the eastern area of the country.
    • Staple food prices will likely decline slightly through late February and early March but increase through September. Prices will remain well above average from below normal meher production, limited capacity to import foods from the anticipated shortage of hard currency, and increased transportation costs from high and increasing fuel prices.
    • Livestock prices will remain high and follow seasonal trends in most parts of the country due to inflationary market pressures, except in drought-affected areas, where livestock prices will likely decline due to their poor body condition. In S/SE pastoral areas, deteriorating livestock body conditions throughout the scenario period will parallel falling market values for livestock. Most households will engage in atypical, excessive livestock sales in an effort to earn some income.
    • The livestock-to-cereals terms of trade are expected to remain low and decline further in S/SE areas as food prices increase and livestock lose their value. In northern pastoral areas, the terms of trade are expected to be below average.
    • Despite declines in conflict in Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar, migratory labor opportunities are expected to remain limited. Moreover, the main sources of daily wage labor opportunities, including mining, construction, and labor migration to western Tigray, have been disrupted. This is mainly linked to unresolved territorial disputes between Tigray and Amhara regions on Wolkayit and Raya. This factor will likely further reduce household access to labor income.
    • Local labor opportunities in S/SE pastoral and belg-dependent areas will be limited due to anticipated below-normal livestock conditions and crop cultivation. In contrast, labor opportunities in the western half of the country will likely remain normal throughout the scenario period. However, with the expectation of near-average meher crop cultivation, agricultural labor demand is likely to improve from June to September, although income from labor will remain below average due to high competition for employment.
    • In most parts of the country, opportunities and income from self-employment activities, such as petty trading, firewood and charcoal sales, and construction labor, are likely to remain average. However, income from these sources will remain below average in the north due to the slow resumption of economic activities in conflict-affected areas. In S/SE pastoral areas, the forecasted poor March to May gu/genna seasonal rainfall will also limit labor opportunities and result in below-average income sources.
    • The impact of high global commodity prices on household budgets will most likely limit the value of remittance inflows and cause overall remittances to remain below average. Remittances from urban to rural areas within Ethiopia will likely be similarly affected and will remain lower than normal.
    • Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) transfers are anticipated to have a one to two month delayed start, beginning in February/ March and continuing through July/August for public work beneficiaries and will continue throughout the outlook period for those receiving direct support. Following the peace agreement in Tigray, PSNP distributions will likely be slow to resume but will face some operational challenges involving restructuring the target beneficiary list and the availability of financial facilities such as banks.
    • Humanitarians are expected to continue to distribute food assistance throughout the projection period; at a minimum, distribution levels are expected to remain similar to current levels. Moreover, humanitarian supplies to Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar are expected to increase due to improvements in humanitarian access following the peace agreement. In S/SE areas of Ethiopia, based on past distribution trends of aid, FEWS NET anticipates these areas will continue to be prioritized by humanitarians and assistance is expected to continue, even in the event of funding shortfalls.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The severity of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia is expected to remain among the highest globally, with record-breaking food assistance needs occurring during the July to September lean season, concentrated in the most populous areas of the country. The worsening trend in food assistance needs will be driven by the protracted erosion of typical food and income sources in areas affected by the historic 2020-2023 drought and recent and ongoing conflict, as well as the impacts of poor macroeconomic conditions on the cost of living and household purchasing power nationally. Household food consumption deficits and engagement in negative livelihood coping strategies are expected to be the most severe in parts of S/SE pastoral Ethiopia.

    In S/SE pastoral areas, Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to be widespread throughout the projection period. Household access to food and income from livestock production, which is their primary livelihood, is expected to remain exceptionally low given the significant number of livestock deaths and forecasted sixth below-average rainfall season during the March-May 2023  gu/genna rains. The gu/genna rains may only somewhat mitigate further livestock deaths in the worst drought-affected areas and facilitate marginally improved access to milk, meat, and income from livestock sales in areas where the drought is less severe; however, many households have already lost too many livestock and will be unable to cope with the prolonged drought shock. Income from other sources will most likely remain insufficient to significantly compensate for these losses, particularly as the population competing for these opportunities increases and staple food prices remain high. Large-scale humanitarian food assistance is expected to prevent the worst outcomes, but the response is being outpaced by the severity of need. As a result, it is still likely that many households will face widening food consumption gaps, and some households will face destitution and resort to increasingly severe coping strategies such as begging. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is anticipated among households that do not receive regular food assistance. The areas of highest concern include Borena, Liban, Afder, Dawa, and parts of Korahe and Shabelle zones, where atypically high levels of malnutrition and mortality are expected to continue due to the share of the population experiencing prolonged, severe food consumption gaps. In the absence of planned food assistance, acute food insecurity outcomes would most likely be worse than mapped.

    In northern Ethiopia, improved humanitarian access will likely support the continuation of widespread food aid distributions. Some households will likely have some meher production left for consumption through at least March; however, as they exhaust their remaining stocks, households are expected to increasingly rely on food assistance, particularly since the local economy is in the early stages of recovery from the 2020-2022 conflict and income-earning opportunities remain limited. While households will start slowly re-engaging in livelihood activities, income levels and purchasing power are expected to remain low. In the areas that were worst affected by conflict, food assistance is expected to prevent worse outcomes, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) across most of Tigray and some neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar. In areas where conflict-related impacts were not as severe and humanitarians are distributing food aid, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are considered most likely.

    In most of SNNP, Sidama, and central and eastern Oromia, where crop production is the main livelihood activity, households are expected to exhaust their stocks from the below-average 2022 meher harvest earlier than usual, becoming market-dependent starting in February/March. At the same time, households will have lower than normal purchasing power due to high staple food prices and reductions in income linked to reduced income from agricultural labor and crop sales. The main mitigating factor during the outlook period will be income from agricultural labor during the belg and meher cultivation seasons, which will help offset rising food prices. Some areas are also expected to receive food assistance. Food security outcomes are expected to vary by livelihood zone, but the areas of highest concern – such as parts of Bale and East Bale zones – are expected to be in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    S/SE pastoral areasAverage gu/genna rainfall from March to May 2023Improvement in pasture and water availability would occur, particularly during the March to May 2023 period; however, pasture would still likely be below average due to the severity of the protracted, 2.5-year drought on soil and vegetation. Improvement in livestock body conditions would be likely, but the number of births would remain below average, particularly for camels and cattle, as they need at least a year to give birth. Due to continued lower milk production and lower livestock sales, poor households would still face food consumption deficits, and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would remain possible.
    Southern, central, and northeastern areasAverage   belg rainfall from February to May 2023Improvement in belg crop cultivation would occur, contributing to both an increase in income from agricultural labor and better belg production outcomes. As result, access to food and income would improve for most households. This would likely drive improvement to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.
    S/SE pastoral areasFood assistance does not continue at levels assumedThis scenario would occur if there were an absence of food assistance distributions for multiple months. If humanitarians are unable to distribute assistance, outcomes more severe than Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would likely occur during both projection periods. This is of particular concern in Borena, Liban, Afder, Dawa, and areas of Shabelle and Korahe zones.

    Areas of Concern

    Many areas of S/SE Ethiopia are of concern due to the 2020-2023 drought; FEWS NET has selected two areas to illustrate that the impacts of drought on acute food insecurity varies by livelihood zone. Additionally, FEWS NET has selected a third area of concern in northern Ethiopia to illustrate the evolution of acute food insecurity in the aftermath of the 2020-2022 conflict.

    Bale Pastoral (BPA) Livelihood Zone in Oromia Region (Figure 15)

    Figure 15

    Reference map for Bale Pastoral (BPA) Livelihood Zone in Oromia Region
    Reference map for Bale Pastoral (BPA) Livelihood Zone in Oromia Region

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Rainfall: Dry conditions are typical in February in this area of Ethiopia; however, the current dryness is exceptional after 2.5 years of drought, characterized by severely dry conditions and higher-than-normal temperatures.

    Pasture and water availability: Pasture and water availability is at critically low levels across the livelihood zone, with limited to no pasture and bushes available to livestock. Key informants indicate that pasture availability is the worst in their memory. Some pasture is available along riverbeds, with livestock reportedly walking long distances to access feed and water. According to the zonal government, water is minimally available, with households walking up to 25 kilometers to fetch water for human and livestock consumption. The government and humanitarians are providing water through water trucks; however, the amounts distributed are insufficient to meet the population’s need.

    Livestock body conditions and productivity: Livestock body conditions are poor across species; however, cattle are in extremely poor conditions. Cattle generally have difficulty walking and need support to walk distances. Due to poor livestock body conditions, the livestock mortality rate continues to be high. According to the zonal government, over 787,000 livestock have died in East Bale and Bale zones, with cattle accounting for the majority of deaths. Combined with excessive livestock sales, this is driving declines in herd sizes. According to the zonal Disaster Risk Management Office, herd sizes are estimated to have decreased by 33 percent during the drought in the four BPA livelihood zone woredas found in East Bale Zone. Additionally, the zonal government indicated that over 70,000 households have lost at least one livestock animal to death, while about 10 to 15 percent of households in the area have no livestock at all.

    Milk supplies from livestock are extremely low. Cattle have not given birth in over a year. Camel and shoat conception, birthing, and milk production rates are slightly higher than that reported for cattle; however, reproduction and milk productivity among these species remain below normal at the household level due to poor body conditions and atypically low herd sizes. However, some households are able to access milk from some of the neighboring agropastoral areas in the highlands, where drought conditions are less severe.

    Staple food prices: The price of staple food is significantly above average, driven mainly by production shortfalls in surplus-producing areas, insecurity in western areas where source markets for this area are located, and macroeconomic challenges, including an increase in transportation costs. In Ginir market, maize prices in January were over 160 percent higher than the five-year average and nearly 60 percent higher than at the same time last year.

    Livestock markets: Despite poor livestock conditions, livestock prices have increased due to the end-of-the-year festive season and continued high inflation. In addition, decreased supply of other livestock species due to weakened body conditions and excessive deaths has led to an increase in demand for shoats. Goat prices in January in Ginir market of East Bale Zone are about 70 percent higher than the same time last year and the five-year average.

    For an average household size of six, which is typical in this area for very poor households, the sale of one goat would only be sufficient to purchase 20 days’ worth of maize. Additionally, it is likely at this point that households have few livestock holdings left, that any remaining animals are increasingly unsellable, and that households are only selling livestock as a last resort. Furthermore, income from milk sales is low due to extremely limited milk availability.

    Labor income: Due to the poor performance of crop production in the nearby agropastoral areas, both demand for labor and income from agricultural labor are below average. Other income-generating opportunities include firewood sales and charcoal making. However, these activities are not practiced widely, and the demand for them is below average due to an increase in supply. Generally, the cash generated from self-employment is significantly below average.

    Acute malnutrition: According to available therapeutic feeding program (TFP) admission data, the number of severely malnourished children admitted to TFP sites has been increasing in East Bale Zone, particularly in Sewena and Lega Hihda woredas, where the impacts of drought on food and milk intake have been severe. TFP admissions increased significantly in the second half of 2022 in the zone, with December 2022 admission rates 144 percent higher compared to the same month in 2020 and 96 percent higher than in 2021. Save the Children International has been undertaking monthly MUAC screening activities in all woredas of the East Bale zone. The MUAC screening results undertaken from July to December 2022 indicate a deteriorating nutrition situation, with monthly overall proxy GAM rates ranging from 15 to 23 percent, which is within Critical (GAM 15–29.9 percent) levels.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Around 525,000 people in BPA have been targeted for humanitarian assistance. The assistance is provided through Joint Emergency Operation Program (JEOP) through World Vision Ethiopia (WVE). The fourth round of emergency food distribution was completed in December/January, and the fifth round started in February and is ongoing. As of early March, over 355,000 people had received assistance in February and early March. Households are receiving full rations which equates to around 50 percent of a households kilocalorie needs for around 60 days.

    Current food security outcomes: Access to food from livestock production has declined significantly, with household cash income from livestock sales well below average. Cash income from labor has also decreased, as has access to in-kind milk, meat, and meals that are usually provided in exchange for working on farms during periods of migratory labor. The decline in income is further aggravated by an increase in staple food prices, resulting in low purchasing power. Furthermore, the depletion of livelihood assets due to a massive number of livestock deaths, reduced livestock birth rates, and additional livestock off-take from sales, culling, or slaughter continues to erode household coping capacity. While ongoing humanitarian assistance is mitigating the size of household food consumption deficits, households are still engaging in consumption-based coping strategies, such as reducing meal sizes and frequency, decreasing food variety, and sometimes going to bed on an empty stomach. Reports indicate some households have become destitute and have started begging in the nearby towns, including highland woredas. Available nutrition data also indicate Critical (GAM 15-29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition, likely primarily driven by reduced access to food and milk. As a result, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes with some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are assessed in this area.


    The assumptions for this area of concern are covered in the national overview.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Levels of acute food insecurity are not expected to notably improve during the February to September period. Based on the below-average rainfall forecast for the 2023 gu/genna season, coupled with low livestock conceptions during the drought, livestock body conditions, salability, and productivity are expected to remain atypically low. As a result, household access to food and income from livestock production is anticipated to remain low to negligible. The drought and poor macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue to suppress labor demand at a time when an atypically high number of people are seeking labor opportunities, resulting in below average cash income among poor households. Coupled with anticipated staple food price increases, these trends will significantly limit households’ access to and consumption of food. Consequently, households are expected to rely heavily on humanitarian assistance to mitigate the size of food consumption gaps and prevent more substantial erosion of their livelihood assets. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected amid planned assistance throughout the scenario period, with some households likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) .

    Lowland Hawd Pastoral (LHP) in Somali Region (Figure 16)

    Figure 16

    Reference map for Lowland Hawd Pastoral (LHP) Livelihood Zone in Somali Region
    Reference map for Lowland Hawd Pastoral (LHP) Livelihood Zone in Somali Region

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Rainfall: While it is typical for there to be no rainfall at this time of the year, the current severity of dryness is extreme due to consecutive years of drought. Dry conditions are especially acute in southern parts of the livelihood zone, predominantly along the Somalia-Ethiopia border.

    Pasture and water availability: Throughout the livelihood zone, pasture availability ranges from somewhat below normal in areas of Dollo Zone to significantly below normal in areas such as Shabelle, Korahe, and Jarar zones; the variability corresponds to the varying depth of rainfall deficits in preceding seasons. Since the middle of the October to December 2022 deyr season, large-scale livestock migration has occurred from Shabelle, Korahe, Jarar, and other rainfall-deficit areas to areas of Dollo zone that received relatively better rainfall, resulting in an increasing concentration of livestock in the eastern and northeastern parts of the zone. In areas where there is some available pasture, the increased concentration of livestock has resulted in excess grazing pressure, leading to rapid depletion. Additionally, livestock in-migration from drought-affected Somalia is still ongoing.

    Water availability is also well below normal, requiring households to travel long distances to obtain free water and/or pay atypically high amounts for nearby sources. For instance, while water from boreholes in Warder Town is free, households may travel up to 20 km from their homesteads to the town to receive this water, taking time away from their ability to engage in income-earning activities. On the other hand, water costs 4 to 5 USD (220 ETB) per barrel in the eastern kebeles of Warder.

    Livestock body conditions and productivity: Current livestock body conditions in the eastern and northern part of the LHP livelihood zone – mainly in Dollo Zone – are near average, due to relatively better rainfall during the past seasons than neighboring areas. In southern areas of the livelihood zone (i.e., southern parts of Dollo Zone and some areas of Korahe Zone)  livestock body conditions are poor, linked to drier conditions over the past few seasons. Consequently, livestock conceptions and births are minimal in the southern areas and low in the eastern and northern areas. Low to minimal levels of reproduction, coupled with excessive sales of livestock, have led to significant reductions in household herd sizes, especially in parts of Korahe.

    Given minimal livestock conceptions since early 2022, milk availability is below average in the southern parts of the livelihood zone, namely in Korahe. In eastern and northern areas of LHP livelihood zone, the current influx of livestock from other zones of Somali region and from Somalia has increased the number of milking animals, resulting in increased milk availability and decreased milk prices compared to the southern areas of LHP livelihood zone. 

    Displacement: There are no official reports of displacement due to the current drought in Dollo Zone. However, an estimated 53,160 people remain displaced by the 2016/17 drought in multiple sites across Dollo Zone. The displaced are primarily people who lost their herds during the 2016/17 drought and have since remained destitute. These IDPs are earning some income, mainly from labor activities in Warder. They also rely on humanitarian food assistance. In Korahe zone, as of early 2023 according to the regional government, displacement records indicate that around 1770 households are displaced across the nine woredas.

    Staple food prices: Despite normal volumes of imported goods, imported staple food prices are very high due to the continued inflationary pressures resulting from poor economic conditions on the national level. The price of rice, which is the main staple consumed in this area, has exhibited an increasing trend over the last two years. In January, rice prices were around 30 percent higher than at the same time in January 2022. Additionally, there is very low availability of locally produced cereals (maize, sorghum, and wheat) in Warder market.

    Livestock prices: The price of livestock remains atypically elevated, reflecting both the high costs of production (feed and water) and the impact of inflation on sale values. This trend is observed across the zone, including in the south, where livestock are in poor body condition that often renders them unsalable. Households that still own livestock in salable condition are selling more livestock than usual to cover the high costs of feeding and watering their animals as well as the high cost of staple foods. In January 2023, goat prices were about 172 percent higher than the five-year average and 62 percent higher than at the same time last year.

    Terms of trade (ToT):  The livestock-to-rice terms of trade are below normal, reflecting that increasing livestock prices have not kept pace with rising rice prices. In January 2023, an average household would need to sell one goat in Warder market to purchase 50 kgs of rice, roughly equivalent to one meal per day for 45 days. The terms of trade in January 2023 are around 20 percent lower than in January 2020 but nearly 80 percent higher than during the 2017 drought. While the terms of trade are relatively favorable compared to other areas, the main constraint is whether a household has livestock in salable condition and/or a household can sell their remaining livestock without risking destitution.

    Humanitarian food assistance: As of February, round five of humanitarian assistance distribution was ongoing. Nearly 400,000 people received assistance between in February in each round in Dollo and Korahe zones. Each round of assistance is covering nearly 50 percent of a households kilocalorie needs for about 60 days.  

    Acute malnutrition: TFP admission rates are high in Dollo Zone, but less severe than the peak of the previous drought in 2016/17. TFP admissions in Korahe Zone are also among the highest in the Somali Region. For instance, there were 7,318 total admissions in Dollo Zone from January to December 2022, while the admission rate from January to December 2017 was 18,931. This means TFP admissions in 2022 in Dollo zone were 72 percent lower than during the 2017 drought. In Korahe Zone, TFP admissions are also high with over 1,524 admissions in January and February.

    Current food security outcomes: Livestock are the most important source of food and income across LHP livelihood zone, and the impact of the five-season drought on livestock production continues to result in food consumption gaps and the use of negative livelihoods coping strategies. In general, households in LHP areas of Korahe Zone are experiencing worse outcomes than LHP areas of Dollo Zone, reflecting the deeper severity of rainfall deficits on livestock health and salability. However, even though conditions are relatively better in Dollo Zone, poor households do not have enough animals to cover their kilocalorie requirements – either from milk or by selling livestock for cash to purchase food – due to the cumulative loss of livestock since the 2016/17 drought. Amid low income from milk and livestock sales, poor households across LHP are depending on a mix of limited credit, loans, gifts, and remittances, as well as self-employment activities, such as collecting bush products (firewood, wild fruit, etc.) and herding livestock for urban and better-off households. However, these sources of food and income are insufficient given both above-average staple food prices and the heightened financial burden of sustaining their livestock. As a result, many households are relying on humanitarian food assistance to mitigate the size of their food consumption gaps, though the frequency and size of deliveries are insufficient to prevent deficits. Many households are engaging in food-consumption coping strategies such as purchasing less milk, purchasing cheaper, less nutritious imported goods, including oil, and reducing the number of meals per day. In severe cases, adults are reducing their food consumption to one meal a day every one or two days a week. As a result, most areas of LHP are facing Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). In areas where the impacts of drought have led to more severe erosion of household livelihoods, particularly in Korahe zone, Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are ongoing.


    The assumptions for this area of concern are covered in the national overview.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Below-average rainfall during the upcoming March to May 2023 gu season, coupled with low conceptions in the preceding poor rainfall seasons, is expected to continue to suppress household food and income from livestock production, their main livelihood. Households have few prospects for improvement in their access to food, as they are expected to experience a sixth consecutive season of low kidding and calving and low milk productivity. Even if the rains stabilize livestock health, household livestock holdings are expected to further decline due to low birth rates along with increased distress sales of salable livestock. The high and rising costs of water and food for both human and livestock consumption will leave poor pastoralists with diminishing options to cope, especially since they have already experienced a significant decline in salable animals and will have little choice but to sell more in order to purchase food and water. Only a few alternative sources of income are available, such as gifts and remittances, collecting wild foods for consumption, and limited self-employment activities such as sales of bush productions and herding for urban and better-off households.

    These income sources are expected to remain insufficient to mitigate the size of their food consumption gaps, and many households will rely on humanitarian food assistance to prevent more severe outcomes. However, the frequency and ration size of food assistance deliveries will most likely only meet half of their kilocalorie needs. Due to the prolonged experience of food consumption deficits, as well as widespread morbidity linked to high disease incidence (including cholera), malnutrition rates are anticipated to remain high within Critical (GAM 15-29.9 percent) levels throughout the outlook period, especially in the southern part of the livelihood zone. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are expected to persist in southern areas of LHP livelihood zone, including areas of Korahe Zone, while Crisis! IPC (Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist in the rest of the livelihood zone, mainly across Dollo Zone.

    North Wello Eastern Plain (NWE) Livelihood Zone in Raya Kobo woreda of Amhara Region (Figure 17)

    Figure 17

    Reference map for North Wollo East Plain (NWE) Livelihood Zone in Raya Kobo, Amhara Region
    Reference map for North Wollo East Plain (NWE) Livelihood Zone in Raya Kobo, Amhara Region

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Conflict: Tigray forces withdrew from North Wello Zone in early October 2022 after occupying Raya Kobo woreda and other areas of North Wello for over a month. Currently, there is no active conflict in this area. While the severity and intensity of active conflict in Raya Kobo in 2020-2022 was lower than that observed in Tigray, there have still been lasting, significant impacts on acute food insecurity in the area. Basic services provided by the government and other entities, such as health centers and education, are not operating. Household livelihoods in Raya Kobo were significantly eroded over the course of the conflict, and many households currently have minimal productive assets for producing or purchasing food. In the absence of livelihoods support, it will take time for households to recover sufficient financial capacity and assets to engage in typical levels of crop and livestock production. Among the populations of concern in this area is Jara IDP site, located in Habru woreda adjacent to Raya Kobo, which houses over 8,000 IDPs from West Oromia region displaced by conflict.

    Crop production and land preparation: The 2022 meher harvest finished in December and was below normal due to the impacts of conflict on households’ ability to cultivate and/or harvest as well as the impacts of the poor performance of the March to May 2022 belg rains, which drove low long-cycle crop production. Poor households are estimated to have harvested sufficient crops to cover about three to four months of food consumption. It is likely that households have now depleted these stocks or have only a month or less left of crops from their own production. Additionally, while seasonally dry conditions are currently ongoing, land preparation such as plowing and planting activities have started for the 2023 March to May belg season.

    Livestock conditions: Normal rainfall during the kiremt 2022 rainfall season was conducive for livestock feed and water availability, and this favored average livestock body conditions and productivity. There are no reports of significant problems affecting livestock body conditions and productivity. However, while livestock conditions are generally favorable, livestock holdings for households are very small due to looting, theft, and slaughter during the conflict. This is impacting households’ income-earning ability and purchasing capacity, not only among poor households but also among middle and better-off households.

    Market supply and staple food prices: Despite improvements in trade flows following the end of active conflict, trade volumes have yet to fully recover to normal levels. Market supplies of sorghum and most other staple foods are lower than normal due to both below-normal trade volumes and atypically low crop production. Low supplies are contributing to high staple food prices, which are well above pre-conflict levels. The latest comprehensive price data update for this area is from November 2022, when sorghum prices in Raya Kobo were nearly 125 percent higher than that prior to the outbreak of conflict in Tigray in November 2020. While staple food prices have reportedly declined since then, available information indicates they remain higher than last year and the five-year average due to supply shortages, and high fuel and transportation costs.

    Livestock prices: Livestock prices are also high. In November 2022, goat prices were 4,600 ETB, nearly 140 percent higher than in November 2020. High livestock prices are attributable to increased demand from military personnel in the area. Additionally, supply on the market has declined as the livestock population was affected by looting and killing during the conflict. The goat-to-sorghum terms of trade are relatively better than when conflict was active. However, most poor households have limited to no livestock for sale to earn this income.

    Source of income: Household access to most income-earning opportunities is low, related to both low demand and excess supply. Middle and better-off households affected by the conflict have lower capacity to hire labor or purchase goods, and poor households are competing for opportunities to earn income. Agricultural and casual labor opportunities are somewhat available, but at lower-than-normal levels, which is driving lower wages from this activity. Furthermore, income-earning opportunities from firewood and charcoal sales are limited by increased competition from the growing number of households who would like to engage in this activity. Finally, households are receiving remittances from those who have left the area; however, remittances from urban areas are lower than normal, as the cost of living in urban areas is high.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Prior to October 2022, humanitarians had suspended humanitarian operations in Raya Kobo due to ongoing conflict. The latest distributions are ongoing in February for round five. Since October, humanitarians have been scaling up the level of assistance. On average, they are reaching around 80,000 people monthly, representing nearly 35 percent of the population. Food distributions provide, on average, over 60 percent of a beneficiary’s kilocalorie needs about every 60 days.

    Acute malnutrition: In November 2022, the Amhara region Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU) carried out a rapid nutrition and health assessment in Raya Kobo woreda. The result showed a proxy GAM rate of 40.6 percent among children under five years of age. The study also identified 79 percent of pregnant and lactating women as malnourished. It is likely that since November, levels of acute malnutrition have declined due to some resumption of health services, scale-up of humanitarian assistance related to the decline in conflict and households started to access food from own production.  

    Current food security outcomes: Households are currently consuming what is left of the crops they harvested, if they have any food stocks remaining at all. It is likely most households will have little to no food stocks left by the end of February or, at the latest, by the end of March. At the same time, most poor households have few to no livestock left to sell for income due to the losses incurred during the conflict. However, income from agricultural and labor income are seasonally available and poor households are being targeted with ongoing humanitarian food assistance to prevent food consumption deficits. Food assistance, coupled with other food and income sources, are allowing households to meet their kilocalorie needs, but they lack resources to cover their essential non-food needs. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are currently assessed in Raya Kobo. It is likely that some households continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.


    The assumptions for this area of concern are covered in the national overview.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    During the entire scenario period, poor households in Raya Kobo are expected to rely on humanitarian food assistance to mitigate widening food consumption deficits. Poor households in Raya Kobo woreda are likely to have exhausted food from their own stocks and will mainly rely on food from purchases to meet their food requirements. However, access to cash income is likely to be well below normal, as livelihoods and assets are not expected to returned to pre-conflict levels during the scenario period. Although, households will be able to access some labor activities for income with upcoming belg and meher harvests. In addition, expected increases in staple food prices will likely drive low household purchasing power. Households are expected to have increased difficulty accessing food due to the low purchasing power and limited food stocks. Humanitarian assistance is expected to prevent large food consumption deficits and households severely eroding their livelihoods, driving Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes.

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    This statement is in relation to the 2014-2023 for which FEWS NET has comparable national needs estimates. Prior to 2023, the highest recorded needs in this time period were in 2022 due to conflict and extreme drought.


    This statement is in relation to the 2014-2023 for which FEWS NET has comparable national needs estimates. Prior to 2023, the highest recorded needs in this time period were in 2022 due to conflict and extreme drought.

    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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