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Hunger and acute malnutrition outpace the scale-up of food assistance

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • February - September 2024
Hunger and acute malnutrition outpace the scale-up of food assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Rising levels of food assistance are not yet enough to prevent acute malnutrition and mortality
  • National Overview
  • Current Food Security Outcomes
  • Assumptions
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Area of Concern: Middle Tekeze (MTK) Livelihood Zone of Tigray Region (Figure 18)
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Partner
    WFP
    Key Messages
    • Ethiopia remains one of FEWS NET’s countries of highest concern as it faces a third consecutive year of rising food assistance needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in northern, central, southern, and eastern Ethiopia. The areas of highest concern are in Tigray and northeastern Amhara, followed by western Afar, where populations are increasingly dependent on food assistance and social support mechanisms amid a dearth of other food and income sources. 4.0 million people – primarily those in conflict and drought-affected areas – received food assistance from November to January, but the sheer severity of food consumption deficits and number of people in need have outpaced the impact of the humanitarian response. Proxy acute malnutrition data remained indicative of Critical and Extremely Critical levels over the same time period. In late 2023, limited field reports suggested some occurrences of hunger-related deaths in Tigray. These reports could not be reasonably corroborated; however, concern for such outcomes does exist – not only in Tigray, but also in Amhara and Afar - as an increased risk for elevated mortality is expected when Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are sustained. The scale-up in assistance since late 2023, however, has likely mitigated the risk of increased mortality to an extent.
    • Food security conditions are expected to remain dire in the north, where households in Tigray, northeastern Amhara, and western Afar regions have seen conflict erode their livelihoods. This is compounded by significantly below-average to failed meher crop production in 2023 due to El Niño-related drought, coupled with very high food prices. In Tigray and Amhara, many poor households have already exhausted their food stocks from the 2023 harvest and migratory labor remains restricted by insecurity; in pastoral areas of Afar, livestock holdings are low to negligible. Kilocalorie deficits will widen leading up to the peak of the lean season, which occurs from July to September, and improvement is unlikely prior to the onset of the 2024 meher harvest in September. Until then, food assistance and social support will be key to mitigating hunger. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected in the most likely scenario.
    • High levels of acute food insecurity are also expected in southern and southeastern pastoral areas of Somali and Oromia regions, where the historic 2020-2023 drought decimated livestock production and the late 2023 floods hindered the pace of recovery. Of highest concern are areas of Borena, Afder, Dawa, Liban, and Shabelle zones, where livestock holdings are minimal, agricultural production is limited, and levels of displacement and destitution are high. However, a modest trajectory of improvement to more widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is anticipated from June to September, with a favorable gu/genna rainfall season in early 2024 expected to support livestock births and milk production. Nevertheless, a share of the population – mainly the destitute and displaced – will likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Without an increase in livelihood interventions, a full-scale recovery from the three-year drought will take multiple years.
    • Government and humanitarian partners plan to gradually scale-up of food assistance deliveries to reach 10.8 million people by the lean season’s peak, which will critically mitigate household kilocalorie deficits. Still, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in areas where planned levels of aid are unlikely to overcome the scale of need. In Tigray and northeastern Amhara in particular, a further scale-up is needed to reduce currently high levels of acute malnutrition. If food aid is not maintained at current levels at a minimum, and if levels of social support decline, then high levels of acute malnutrition would lead to rising hunger-related mortality, and outcomes could become more extreme than currently projected.

    Rising levels of food assistance are not yet enough to prevent acute malnutrition and mortality

    Figure 1

    Projected acute food security outcomes in northern Ethiopia, June to September 2024
    AFI map of Ethiopia

    Source: FEWS NET

    The population in need of food assistance is rising in Ethiopia for the third consecutive year, primarily located in northern, southern, central, and eastern areas. On the one hand, consecutive favorable rainfall seasons in Somali and Oromia regions will support the ongoing recovery of livestock production from the historic 2020-2023 drought and likely drive relative improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes; however, these populations will still need food assistance to prevent food consumption deficits. On the other hand, food consumption deficits are expected to intensify among millions of people – especially in meher-dependent areas in northern, southern, and central Ethiopia affected by the 2023 drought – leading up to the peak of the lean season from June to September. 

    Figure 2

    Share of 2,100 kilocalories that poor and middle-income households can meet with key food and income sources in the reference year versus the current year
    Share of 2,100 kilocalories that poor and middle-income households can meet with key food and income sources in the reference year versus the current year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Levels of acute food insecurity are most severe in the conflict- and drought-affected north, where widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected at the woreda level (Figure 1). The areas of highest concern are in Tigray and northeastern Amhara – particularly in the Tekeze River catchment where the 2023 meher harvest failed – as migratory labor options remain minimal, food prices are high, and households are increasingly dependent on food assistance and social support mechanisms to mitigate large to extreme kilocalorie deficits. These emergency sources of food have not been enough to prevent Critical and Extremely Critical levels of acute malnutrition during the post-harvest period, signaling that levels of mortality have likely risen compared to the low mortality levels identified during a Nutrition Cluster-led SMART survey in August 2023. In late 2023, limited field reports suggested some occurrences of hunger-related deaths in Tigray. These reports could not be reasonably corroborated; however, concern for such outcomes does exist – not only in Tigray, but also in Amhara and Afar - as an increased risk for elevated mortality is expected when Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are sustained. The scale-up in assistance since late 2023, however, has likely mitigated the risk of increased mortality to an extent.

    While the scale of food assistance is significant, the depth of household kilocalorie deficits, size of the population in need, and monthly variations in distributions are blunting the impact of aid in the worst-off areas. After USAID-funded food assistance resumed in late 2023, 4.0 million people received aid between December and January, with prioritization of drought and/or conflict-affected households in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Somali, and Oromia regions. Most recipients did receive a full ration of food, but there are monthly variations in recipients between woredas, meaning an individual household’s access to aid is irregular on a monthly basis. To illustrate the level of outstanding need, FEWS NET conducted an outcome analysis of the Middle Tekeze Livelihood Zone (MTK) using the Household Economy Approach that compares the share of annual kilocalorie needs that will most likely be covered by all sources of food and income, including planned aid, in the current year against the reference year. This analysis strongly suggests that not only poor but also middle-income households face a survival deficit indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) (Figure 2). 

    Government and humanitarian partners plan to scale-up the delivery of food assistance to 10.8 million people from July to September, and successful implementation is imperative to ensure levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality do not accelerate. However, if levels of aid and social support mechanisms markedly decline and/or are disrupted for an extended timeframe, more extreme outcomes could occur. Government and humanitarian partners must scale-up food assistance even further to mitigate hunger, prevent high levels of acute malnutrition, and eliminate the risk of rising mortality. 


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflict: Nationally, conflict has slightly declined in late 2023 and early 2024, with mixed trends at the subnational level as conflict declined in some areas and increased in others (Figure 3). Conflict in 2023, and moving into 2024, has been concentrated in Amhara and Oromia (Figure 4). 

    Figure 3

    Trends in conflict in key regions in Ethiopia from Oct. 2022 to mid-Feb. 2024
    Trends in conflict in key regions in Ethiopia from Oct. 2022 to mid-Feb. 2024

    Source: ACLED

    In Amhara, conflict between Fano fighters and government forces re-intensified in November and remained at high levels in December and January. East and West Gojjam zones are reported to have a high rate of conflict, with lower levels reported in North and South Gondar, North Wello, and North Shewa zones. On February 2, with no signs of political resolution or de-escalation of conflict, the federal government extended the state of emergency in Amhara for an additional four months. The conflict and state of emergency limit population movement and people's ability to engage in market and other typical livelihood activities, while also restricting trade flows and interregional movement of both people and goods. 

    In Oromia, the intensity of conflict associated with the Oromia Liberation Army (OLA) has declined. Previously, OLA-related conflict occurred mainly in the four Wollega zones, but more recently the geographic area has shifted, and political violence is reportedly concentrated in North Shewa, West Shewa, and East Shewa zones. In January, the OLA started an “economic siege” on Addis Ababa through market strikes and a transportation blockade. This “siege” only lasted about a week, and had minimal impact on market functionality. In the Wollega zones, the impact of conflict is limited; however, as conflict is concentrated in the Shewa zones, movement of the population is somewhat limited and conflict can temporarily impact market function. 

    Conflict in Tigray has remained minimal since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH) in November 2022; however, some areas of Tigray are under the control of Eritrean forces. The conflict from 2020 to 2022 has had long-term impacts on the Tigray economy and household livelihoods, and the previously strong market network between neighboring areas is minimally-to-nonfunctioning. Household productive assets were decimated during the two years of conflict, and households have had minimal ability to earn cash income for food purchases, much less rebuild livelihoods, due to the limited economic activity in the area. 

    While there are currently no active clashes between clans, conflict events periodically erupt in select kebeles in southeastern Afar bordering the Somali and Oromia regions. These incidents result in the displacement of people, loss of livelihood assets, and disruptions in local markets. The interethnic tensions that could prompt conflict continue in areas of the Central and South Ethiopia regions. The tensions are associated with unresolved issues with territory/land and representation in the government structure. These tensions are not directly impacting acute food insecurity at the moment; however, due to the high tensions it is possible for conflict to occur at any time. 

    Figure 4

    Density of conflict in Ethiopia from Feb. 1 to Feb. 16, 2024
    Density of conflict in Ethiopia from Feb. 1 to Feb. 16, 2024

    Source: ACLED

    Displacement: Official national estimates of internal population displacement have not been updated since the IOM’s last report in August/September 2023, which was covered in FEWS NET’s December Food Security Outlook. The data from IOM collected in August/September 2023 estimated that 3.5 million people are displaced, and 2.5 million people have returned to their place of origin nationwide; returnees are likely to start engaging in their typical livelihood activities and rebuilding their assets. Conflict and drought – the primary drivers of displacement to date – have likely led to an increase in net displacement since August/September, driven by new displacement in Amhara and Afar regions (even as some displaced people are returning home in other regions).

    In Tigray, some households (except those displaced from Western and Southern Tigray) have returned to their place of origin. There is some new displacement to urban centers in the search of food; estimates indicate that nearly 1.0 million people remain displaced in the region. In Amhara, few assessments have been undertaken to estimate displacements, but past trends strongly suggest displacement is likely ongoing in response to continuing conflict and drought conditions. In Afar, according to the January multisectoral joint assessment report, over 15,000 people are newly displaced due to the ongoing drought. In contrast, around 13,000 individuals who were displaced due to the October floods in Dulecha and Awash Fentale woredas of Zone 3 have already returned to their places of origin. 

    In Oromia, there are over 1.27 million conflict- and drought-displaced persons in the region as of December, according to the Oromia Disaster Risk Management Commission (DRMC). The regional government is attempting to return conflict-displaced populations to their place of origin, while those impacted by the 2020-2023 drought have started to return home following the favorable 2023 seasons. In Somali Region, households impacted by the 2020-2023 drought are also returning to their place of origin. Flood-displaced persons in West Guji, Arsi, West Shewa, Southwest Shewa, and East Shewa zones of Oromia and Somali regions returned to their farms and resumed their planting activities after the flood waters subsided.

    Ethiopia continues to receive refugees from war-torn Sudan, and despite a significant decline since August, approximately 1,000 to 2,000 people have been arriving monthly, resulting in a total of over 40,000 people arriving from Sudan into Ethiopia as of late December. According to the UNHCR, Sudanese refugees currently comprise approximately 40 percent of the nearly 1.0 million refugees and asylum seekers hosted by Ethiopia as of late January. Most refugees live in 31 refugee camps dispersed across five regions and receive food assistance; however, the living conditions are poor.

    Rainfall performance: January and February are typically the driest months in much of the country, though some light rainfall occurred in January. In some areas of Afar, a five-day period of rain called deda typically occurs between December and early January, providing some water availability during the dry season. However, there was no deda this seasoncompounding drought conditions that began during the below-average July to September 2023 karma rainy season. However, some rain showers were reported in early February 2024 in some areas of Afar, signaling the early start of the sugum season rains. Similarly, some areas of Oromia received atypical rainfall for this time of year, which will likely help farmers start land preparation activities for the planting of long-cycle meher crops. In Sidama and Southwest regions, three to four days of average to above-average rain in January, known as sapie, occurred in most areas. The sapie improved soil moisture levels, particularly for root crops that farmers planted in October and November. 

    Figure 5

    Rainfall anomalies in millimeters for January 26 to February 25, 2024
    Rainfall anomalies in millimeters for January 26 to February 25, 2024

    Source: UCSB Climate Hazards Center

    Belg rainfall began between early and mid-February in most parts of the country, as is timely, except for in southeastern Somali Region where the season typically begins in mid-March. Areas including Southwestern, Southern, and Central Ethiopia regions, southern Amhara, and East Shewa Zone of Oromia Region received average to above-average rainfall (Figure 5). Most parts of east and west Hararghe and lowland areas of Bale and Guji of Oromia; northern Somali; most of Tigray; and northeastern pastoral areas received below-average rainfall. As it is early in the belg season, the moderate rainfall deficits are not of concern, especially as average to above-average rainfall is expected for the season.

    Cropping conditions: As previously reported, 2023 meher crop production was below average in most areas due to drought, with significant production deficits observed in the north. According to the seasonal assessment report, only 74 percent of the planned production was achieved in assessed areas of the country. This has restricted seasonal gains in household food availability, with notable variations between woredas. While many households in the north do have a few months of food stocks from their own production, households in some areas – mainly in the eastern and southern zones of Tigray and those situated along the Tekeze River catchment in both Amhara and Tigray regions – experienced crop failure and have already exhausted their stocks as of late January. 

    Figure 6

    Vegetation conditions shown as a percent of normal based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, February 11-20, 2024
    Vegetation conditions shown as a percent of normal based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, February 11-20, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    In Somali Region, in riverine and some agropastoral areas that depend on deyr/hageya rainfall and typically do not have a meher harvest, crops planted in October/November are in good condition at the maturing stage, with first harvest expected on-time in March. In Oromia, harvesting is already completed (on-time for the area). Near-average harvest is likely, improving households' food availability in March as the harvest becomes available. 

    The January sapie rainfall in most parts of Sidama, Central, and Southwest regions helped to improve moisture availability for root crop cultivation, particularly sweet potato, cassava, and taro, which are currently at the flowering stage. Crops are currently in good condition with a normal harvest expected to begin in late February/early March.

    At this time of year, land preparation for the belg/genna/gu agricultural seasons are beginning. January rainfall helped many farmers start land preparation for belg crops, which they typically plant between mid-February and March. Compared to recent years, the supply of agricultural inputs (such as crop seeds and soil fertilizers) has been timely. Farmers have already begun purchasing these inputs from their respective cooperatives and unions. Despite the overall improvement in input supplies there is still a shortage of improved seeds for certain crop varieties; like past seasons, this raises concern for yields, notably in northern areas of the country. 

    Pasture and water availability: The availability of pasture and water for livestock is broadly normal across most of the country, with the exception of some anomalies in the north (Figure 6). In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, pasture and water is expected to last until the next rainy season begins in March. The heavy and above-average rainfall received during the October to December deyr/hageya season – which swelled the Shabelle, Web, Genale, and Dawa rivers and led to flash floods in Somali Region and Dasenech woreda of South Omo Zone – has positively impacted pasture and water availability in the medium-term.

    In Afar, pasture and water availability are below average. Critical shortages are reported from drought-prone and arid areas including Zones 1, 2, 4, and 5. Livestock migration began two months early (in November/December) due to poor pasture availability, with the highest levels of migration in zones impacted by drought. Atypically large numbers of animals are migrating, mainly to riverine areas and primarily along the Awash River catchment within Afar, as well as to areas along the Aura and Awash riverbanks in neighboring Amhara Region.

    In areas of eastern Tigray and northeastern Amhara where the drought was most severe, there is no crop residue or pasture available for livestock consumption. In the rest of northern Amhara and Tigray, there is some crop residue available; however, overall livestock feed supply from both crop residues and pasture is atypically low. 

    Livestock conditions and productivity: Livestock body conditions are broadly normal nationally, but anomalies are observed in southern and southeastern pastoral areas that are still recovering from the 2020-2023 drought and in the drought-affected north. In the southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions continue to improve as livestock are able to freely graze on adequate pasture. As a result, milk yield per livestock is generally normal, notably for goats who recently gave birth; however, goat herd sizes remain small overall, resulting in below-average goat milk availability. The prior drought disrupted cattle breeding cycles, resulting in below-average cattle births during the deyr and significantly below-average milk production, and cattle herd sizes have stagnated or declined. Multiple consecutive favorable seasons are required for households to substantially rebuild their livestock holdings. 

    Figure 7

    Livestock in Abergele Yechila woreda in Tigray Region in mid-January
    Livestock in Abergele Yechila woreda in Tigray Region in mid-January

    Source: FEWS NET

    In northern Ethiopia, conflict and drought have decimated livestock herds and body conditions are poor. The worst-affected areas include the Tekeze River catchment in Tigray and Amhara, as well as Afar, where livestock body conditions are quickly deteriorating (Figure 7). According to a multi-partner seasonal meher assessment conducted in mid-November and early December, there were reports of livestock deaths in Gondar and Wag Himra zones in Amhara and Abergele woreda in Central Zone of Tigray. Livestock deaths have likely accelerated during the dry season. In northern pastoral areas of Afar, livestock conceptions and births typically peak during the main karma/karan rainy season. However, the below-average 2023 rains and intensification of drought led to low livestock conceptions and births (particularly for cattle and camels), resulting in below-average milk production.

    Macroeconomic conditions: Macroeconomic conditions remain poor due to the shortage of foreign currency and increased military spending. Additionally, Ethiopia defaulted on its Eurobond payment in December 2023 which has resulted in a downgraded credit rating, limiting borrowing options for the government and putting more pressure on already high national spending. According to the Ethiopian Statistics Service, annual food inflation in December remained high at 30.6 percent, with annual non-food inflation at 26 percent (Figure 8). 

    The Ethiopian Birr (ETB) continues to depreciate on the official and parallel markets. As of February 2024, the average exchange rate reached 56.21 ETB/USD on the official market, which is 5 percent higher than the same month last year. Anecdotal reports indicate that the ETB is exchanging at over 100 ETB/USD on the parallel market, rendering the value of the ETB over 50 percent lower than that of the official market.

    High and rising fuel prices continue to drive increases in already high transportation costs. In January, the government increased the price of fuel by around 4 percent compared to December. The increase in fuel prices is mainly due to the removal of fuel subsidies by the government due to poor reserve and budgetary support availability.

    Figure 8

    Official exchange rate (left axis) and headline and food inflation rates (right axis) from June 2021 to December 2023*
    Official exchange rate (left axis) and headline and food inflation rates (right axis) from June 2021 to December 2023*

    Source: Source: Ethiopia Statistics Service and Central Bank of Ethiopia; *January 2024 inflation data not yet available

    Market functioning and trade flow: While most markets and trade routes are functioning normally, some market activity and trade flows continue to be disrupted, most notably in the north in parts of Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions, because of ongoing conflict and low economic activity (Figure 9). Furthermore, local markets in the border areas of Gedo Zone of South Ethiopia Region and Guji Zone of Oromia Region are intermittently affected by isolated and intermittent conflict. In neighboring Somalia, the actions of insurgents in some areas controlled by al-Shabaab also hamper market and trade activities, such as restricting flow of imported foods from Somalia to Ethiopia and flow of livestock/agricultural production from Ethiopia to Somalia and forcing households and traders to pay illegal taxes.

    Figure 9

    Market and trade functioning map in northern Ethiopia for mid-February 2024
    Market and trade functioning map in northern Ethiopia for mid-February 2024

    Source: FEWS NET

    Market functioning and trade flow: While most markets and trade routes are functioning normally, some market activity and trade flows continue to be disrupted, most notably in the north in parts of Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions, because of ongoing conflict and low economic activity (Figure 9). Furthermore, local markets in the border areas of Gedo Zone of South Ethiopia Region and Guji Zone of Oromia Region are intermittently affected by isolated and intermittent conflict. In neighboring Somalia, the actions of insurgents in some areas controlled by al-Shabaab also hamper market and trade activities, such as restricting flow of imported foods from Somalia to Ethiopia and flow of livestock/agricultural production from Ethiopia to Somalia and forcing households and traders to pay illegal taxes.

    Figure 10

    Maize prices in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to the three-year average
    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Market supply and prices: Market supplies are generally adequate to meet demand across much of the country, supported by domestic harvests from western surplus-producing areas and central source markets, despite below-average 2023 meher production. Supplies from the meher harvest have also driven price decreases seasonally in most local markets. Nevertheless, staple food prices remain elevated compared to the same month last year and the three-year average (Figure 10). The main reasons for high prices compared to previous years are below-average stocks, high production and transportation costs, and macroeconomic impacts on local markets. In Addis Ababa, January maize prices were stable compared to the previous month but 56 and 120 percent higher than the same time last year and the three-year average, respectively (Figure 11).

    In northern Ethiopia, market supplies are low in many areas, driving food price increases. In January, maize prices in Dessie market in Amhara were 6, 97, and 115 percent higher than the previous month, last year, and the three-year average, respectively. In the Mekelle market in Tigray, the maize price in January was 4 percent higher than the previous month. In the Logia market in Afar, the price of maize was stable compared to the previous month but increased by 72 and 130 percent compared to the same month last year and the three–year average, respectively. Key informants reported that staple food supply is still low in some local markets of Zone 2 woredas, and prices have increased significantly due to high transportation costs and low supply. These areas received market supplies from southern Tigray prior to the conflict, but trade has ceased between these areas, driving low market supply and high food prices. 

    In the pastoral south and southeast, staple food prices are also higher than average. In Oromia, maize prices on the Yabello market in January increased by 4, 39, and 97 percent compared to the previous month, the same month last year, and the three-year average, respectively. In Somali Region, the maize price on the Chereti market increased by 9, 35, and 96 percent compared to the previous month, the same month last year, and the three-year average, respectively.

    Figure 11

    Price trends for maize in Addis Ababa
    Price trends for maize in Addis Ababa

    Source: FEWS NET

    Livestock market supply and prices: Livestock market supply and prices are higher across much of the country compared to the previous three years, driven by good body conditions and inflationary market pressures (Figure 12). Some anomalies exist, notably in areas impacted by drought and conflict – including in the pastoral areas of Afar, southern and southeast Oromia, and Somali regions – where many pastoralists still have limited to no livestock, and income from this livelihood activity is significantly below normal.

    Figure 12

    Livestock prices in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to the three-year average
    Livestock prices in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to the three-year average

    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 13

    Goat to maize terms of trade in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to the three-year average
    Goat to maize terms of trade in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to the three-year average

    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Household income from livestock is very low in conflict-affected Tigray, Afar, and northeastern Amhara. While livestock market supply is gradually increasing despite low household herd sizes, this trend is due to households resorting to selling their livestock to earn income to purchase food, even though this endangers the sustainability of their livelihood. Furthermore, the value of livestock has dropped in recent months as livestock body conditions are declining and few traders are engaging in trade in these areas. 

    In northern pastoral areas of Afar Region, livestock market supply is varied. In areas adjacent to Tigray, where households have low herd sizes, market supply is low. In the rest of the region, supply is generally typical or has slightly increased as livestock demand decreases due to poor livestock body conditions and reduced numbers of traders due to security concerns. In January, a goat in Logia market sold at 3,795 ETB; 12 and 10 percent higher than December 2023 and the same time last year, respectively. The sale of one goat in Logia could purchase around 57 kilograms (kgs) of maize in January 2024, which provided the average family of seven with a maximum of 16 days of food, compared with around 105 and 90 kgs in January last year and the three-year average, respectively. Not only is household purchasing power generally low, but in many areas, households have few livestock to sell due to the multiple years of drought and conflict.  

    Figure 14

    Goat-to-cereal terms of trade in three monitored markets of the south and southeast
    Goat-to-cereal terms of trade in three monitored markets of the south and southeast

    Source: FEWS NET

    In the southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions have improved, slowly increasing herd sizes and driving up prices; however, the terms of trade are still below average in most areas (Figure 13). In Chereti, goat prices increased by 11 percent from December to January and are over 125 percent higher than in January 2023. Similarly, in Yabello of Oromia Region, goats were selling at around 3,555 ETB in January, marginally higher than December prices, and nearly 65 percent higher than the same time last year. In January 2024, the income from the sale of one goat in Yabello could purchase about 74 kg of maize, which could provide 18 days of food for a family of seven; however, this is 26 percent lower than the three-year average. In Chereti, the sale of one goat could only purchase around 37 kgs of maize in January, which provides the average family of seven with a maximum of 11 days of food (Figure 14).

    Agricultural and non-agricultural labor: Nationally, agricultural labor opportunities are typically low in February, except in belg-production areas where opportunities seasonally increase as land preparation activities for belg crop cultivation begin. The demand for agricultural labor and wage rates have both increased since the same time last year; however, in areas with conflict, labor opportunities are more limited as population movement is disrupted. Nationally, daily wages have increased compared to 2023 and the three-year average (Figure 15), driven by inflationary market pressures, but wage rates have not kept pace with food prices (Figure 16). In Oromia, where conflict is ongoing in some areas, the average daily wage rate in January ranges from 200 to 250 ETB/day compared to 150 to 200 ETB/day the same time last year. However, the high cost of staple food is still affecting agricultural laborers’ purchasing power, with a decline of about 25 percent observed in the terms of trade compared to last year. 

    In Tigray, the lingering impacts of conflict and the failed 2023 meher harvest have rendered labor activities generally limited. Movement restrictions due to insecurity and related tensions are impeding household access to urban and agricultural migratory labor; for example, labor employment in the surplus-producing areas of western Tigray is negligible for workers who seasonally migrated there from the rest of the region due to the territorial dispute over West Tigray. Given these constraints, the observed increase in wage rates is mainly due to inflationary pressures; for example, in Logia in neighboring Afar, the casual unskilled labor daily wage rate for January 2024 was 682 ETB, which is higher by about 8, 24, and 116 percent compared with the previous month, the same month last year, and the three-year average, respectively. 

    Figure 15

    Wage rates in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to three-year average
    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 16

    Labor to maize terms of trade in key monitored markets in January 2024 compared to three-year average
    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    *In Tigray and some neighboring areas, price data collection was disrupted due to conflict, and the comparison is between Jan. 2023 and Jan. 2020.

    Source: FEWS NET

    In Sidama and Southwest regions, coffee labor opportunities between October to December were at their typical peak; primarily poorer households benefited from this labor income. The wage rate increased compared to the previous months and years due to continuing inflationary pressures. In Sodo, Sikela, and Jinka markets, the wage rates in December 2023 were 25, 60, and 54 percent higher than the same month last year, and 50, 145, and 74 percent higher than the three-year average, respectively. Currently, the number of people migrating to nearby towns in search of casual labor is increasing due to below-average meher and belg production from the previous year; however, casual labor opportunities are limited due to poor economic activity in most towns. As a result, household income derived from labor migration to towns has declined.

    Self-employment: Income from self-employment activities, such as firewood/charcoal sales and petty trade, is reportedly at a record low in the northern conflict-affected areas of Amhara and Tigray regions. Insecurity in Amhara has affected economic activities and opportunities, reducing demand for small goods and services. In Tigray, household engagement in self-employment activities is low, as lingering impacts of drought/conflict and slow recoveries render the sector less significant. Demand for petty trade of goods and services is also low in Afar, particularly in Zones 2 and 4, due to the impact of conflict and drought. While income earned from construction, sales of firewood/charcoal, transportation services, and Afdera salt mining is improving relative to during the 2020-2022 conflict period, incomes remain far below normal, particularly in conflict-affected areas. 

    In the pastoral south and southeast, the relative importance of household engagement in self-employment activities as a source of income for food remains high amid the reduction in income from livestock. Income from these self-employment activities such as selling firewood, building poles, and selling products from the bush is generally normal. 

    Remittances and community support: Nationally, remittances from domestic urban areas to rural areas are atypically low, as household capacity to send remittances declines due to the high cost of living. Within Ethiopia, the lingering impact of the consecutive droughts, coupled with the macroeconomic challenges, has eroded the capacity of the community and their ability to support one another, thus, community support particularly in the south and southeast has declined. The increase in construction material costs has negatively affected labor demand/opportunities, thereby contributing to a decline in cash income from labor, which has in turn reduced the amount of cash transfer to families in rural areas. 

    In Tigray, there has been a slight increase in remittances following the drought. After an initial decline of social support following the signing of the CoH agreement in 2022, drought conditions in 2023 prompted a revival of support, particularly for drought-stricken households in the worst-affected areas of the region. Despite the inconsistency and irregularity, social support is playing a highly significant role in mitigating the size of food consumption deficits among very poor and poor households. For instance, the Tigray Disaster Risk Management Commission reported that households in Abergele woreda received 457 MT of in-kind food and 2.3 million ETB cash in November and December via social support mechanisms.

    In Afar, gifts and social support remain low due to the impact of the conflict and ongoing drought that resulted in a significant decline in herd size when compared to typical periods. For instance, a significant portion of the population used to pay zakat from their shoats (typically 40 animals to meet the zakat threshold), but many households do not currently have this herd size, or even any goats/sheep at all, due to losses incurred since 2020.

    Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP): Historically, PSNP was distributed between January and June for the majority of participants in the program, predominantly in northern, central, eastern, and southern Ethiopia. However, 2024 PSNP distributions will be cut from the typical six months to only four months due to financial shortfalls. Distribution has not yet begun in Afar, Oromia, Sidama, and Southwest regions, where PSNP registration and target identification is ongoing. Distributions are likely to start in March/April. Distribution in Tigray resumed in December 2023 after four years of interruption. In Amhara, the PSNP for Direct Support (DS) has already started, while the Public Work beneficiaries are in preparation phases. Thus far, DS beneficiaries have received four months of cash transfer at a rate of 110 ETB per person per day on average nationally.

    Despite the reduction in months, the cash wage rate on average has shown around a 34 percent increase nationally compared to last year; however, it has remained inadequate to purchase the intended amount of staple food grain. In Sidama and Somali regions there have been no changes made to the PSNP transfer rate from last year.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Humanitarian food assistance distribution resumed across most regions in November/December. The food assistance distribution system in Ethiopia has been completely revamped, with distributions planned on a quarterly basis and delivered on a monthly basis using a vulnerability-based targeting (VBT) system. Food assistance was previously distributed on round basis with rations intended to cover a beneficiary’s needs for six weeks. VBT is a community-based approach in which the most food insecure populations are targeted for food assistance based on regular food security assessments. 

    Figure 17

    Total admissions to therapeutic feedings program in key regions from January 2023 to December 2023
    Total admissions to therapeutic feedings program in key regions from January 2023 to December 2023

    Source: Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU)

    In the first quarter of 2024, humanitarian groups have targeted around 6.6 million people with food assistance. As of early February, humanitarians had successfully distributed food assistance for three consecutive months; however, distribution delays, operational challenges, and funding shortfalls have hindered humanitarian actors from reaching their full monthly target and resulted in the delivery of incomplete food rations in some areas. Based on January distribution reports from the Food Cluster, between 3.0 and 4.0 million people have been reached between November and January, monthly. Assistance distributions are concentrated in northern drought-affected areas of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, along with southern pastoral areas that are still recovering from the 2020-2023 drought.     

    In Tigray and northeastern Amhara, where acute food insecurity is of highest concern, humanitarians reached around 1.3 million people in November, 1.2 million in December, and 1.1 million people in January with food assistance. While total distribution figures have generally remained stable, the number of people reached at the woreda level has varied significantly on a monthly basis. Households are receiving a full ration, but not necessarily every month due to the rotation between woredas, and the irregularity of distributions is limiting the overall impacts of food assistance in some areas. In December, for example, food distributions in Tigray were prioritized in areas worst-affected by the drought, with most distributions occurring in Central and Southern zones; in January, food distributions evolved to cover to the Northwest Zone and Mekele.

    In Somali Region, while WFP is facing funding challenges with resuming food assistance delivery, NGOs, the government, and other government partners have been distributing assistance and reaching some areas of concern. 

    Acute malnutrition: High and persistently increasing levels of acute malnutrition continue to be reported across the country, particularly inthe conflict and drought-stricken north, and the flood and recurrent drought-affected pastoral south and southeast. These data point to very alarming malnutrition outcomes ranging from Serious (GAM MUAC 5-9.9 percent or GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (GAM MUAC ≥15 percent or GAM WHZ ≥30 percent) levels.

    Nationally, in 2023, over 650,000 severely acutely malnourished children were admitted to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP), a figure that is 5.8 percent lower than the same period last year and 41.7 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 17). It is likely that TFP admissions would have been higher in 2023 if all health facilities in the conflict-affected areas of Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray were functioning. Many health facilities in Amhara and Tigray are not currently providing services due to the impacts of conflict and/or are nonfunctional; some health facilities are partially or totally damaged, lack supplies, and/or are inaccessible. Screening data collected in Tigray from October to December show proxy acute malnutrition levels of Extremely Critical (GAM MUAC ≥15 percent). These levels of acute malnutrition are very high and atypical, as levels of acute malnutrition typically decline this time of year due to the availability of the meher harvest. Given very high levels of acute malnutrition, incidence of child mortality is highly likely, and regional officials have provided anecdotal reports of hunger-related deaths in late 2023, particularly in the worst drought-affected areas of Abergele and Atsbe woredas. During a field assessment in January, FEWS NET received similar reports that hunger-related mortality occurred in November and December in Central Tigray via focus group discussions with the community. 

    Meanwhile, assessments in Wag Himra Zone of Amhara Region (where some of the only malnutrition data for Amhara is available) found proxy levels of acute malnutrition at Extremely Critical levels (GAM MUAC ≥15 percent). A Rapid Nutrition Assessment, carried out in two woredas of North Gondar, also found proxy levels of acute malnutrition at Extremely Critical levels.

    In Somali Region, a total of 10,617 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) were admitted to TFP sites in December 2023, which is 8 percent lower than the same period last year, but 22 and 15 percent higher than last month and the five-year average, respectively. When examining the full 12-month reporting period of January to December 2023, more than 65 percent of a total of 118,773 SAM cases originated in flood- and drought-affected woredas, including Liben, Dawa, Afder, and Shabelle zones and other deyr-receiving areas in southern and southeastern parts of Somali region. A significant number of households lost their livelihood assets, were displaced, and became destitute due to drought and flooding impacts, which in turn eroded their income sources and coping strategies. The lingering effects of these driving factors, coupled with rapidly increasing food prices, disease outbreaks, and weak health services provision, are likely to continue causing high acute malnutrition levels.


    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Millions of households across the country continue to access food from the 2023 meher harvest, predominantly in western and central Ethiopia; however, in areas facing conflict or weather shocks, food access and availability are notably lower. In areas of the country, unaffected by shocks, Minimal (IPC Phase 2) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing as households are able to consume food from their own production and sell some crops for income to meet their essential non-food needs. However, there are millions of people suffering from serious to extreme levels of acute food insecurity due to the limited recovery from prolonged shocks and/or the coupling of multiple shocks (e.g., conflict and drought). Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in northern, southern, and southeastern Ethiopia, as households have limited capacity to earn income from productive agricultural assets, and labor demand and income-earning options are limited amid high and increasing food prices. Areas of Tigray, northeastern Amhara, Afar, Somali, and Oromia are facing the most severe outcomes; livelihoods in these areas have been decimated by conflict and/or drought. Humanitarian food distribution only recently restarted, and distributions have not been sustained in many of the most severely food-insecure areas.

    The ongoing major food security emergency in Tigray and northeastern Amhara continues. Ongoing humanitarian food assistance is mitigating the size of household food consumption deficits and preventing livelihood collapse in areas of Tigray and northeastern Amhara, where conflict and drought have severely impacted households' ability to produce and purchase food. Poorer households exhausted food from their own production as early as November/December, up to four months earlier than is typical. Households in these areas are reliant on markets, social support, and humanitarian food assistance to access food. Households have limited ability to purchase food due to small livestock herds, the inability to migrate for labor, and a lack of income from cash crops. There are reports of households begging, migrating to towns, or engaging in illegal or risky behaviors to obtain food. Remittances and social support continue; however, food and income derived from these sources is minimal. Social support from community members is low as middle-income and better-off households are also facing severe difficulty accessing food. Available evidence on food security and nutrition suggests that even with ongoing food assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are ongoing. 

    In Afar, the lingering impacts of conflict and recurrent drought have severely constrained households' ability to access food and income through their primary livelihood activity: livestock. Food access is most severely constrained in northwestern areas of Afar where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing. Households have minimal livestock herds to consume or sell for food purchases, and high food prices are further limiting purchasing power. Additionally, many households in this area are displaced, and therefore have few productive assets and limited income-earning activities beyond charcoal/firewood sales, salt mining, and providing transportation services. However, ongoing food assistance is preventing or mitigating food consumption deficits in some areas where Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are mapped. In the rest of Afar, households are able to earn somewhat higher income through slightly larger livestock holdings and better labor opportunities, particularly in southern areas of the region, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. 

    In southern and southeastern areas of the country, slight improvements in food insecurity conditions have been observed in recent months following the favorable 2023 rainy seasons. However, access to food and income remains a severe hardship for pastoral households whose productive assets (including livestock) were decimated during the drought. Households are able to earn some income from activities such as selling firewood, construction poles, and other bush products for food purchases, but purchasing power remains low due to high staple food prices. Households are facing moderate to large food consumption deficits and continue to employ severe coping strategies such as sending women, children, and the elderly to IDP camps for food assistance and selling livestock despite the detriment to herd sizes. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing in pastoral areas of Borena, Afder, Dawa, Liben, and Shabelle zones. Meanwhile, in agropastoral areas of Somali Region and adjacent areas of Oromia, households are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Households in these areas were able to access food from their own production; however, this is not sufficient to mitigate consumption deficits among all households because the meager production from small plots of land cannot compensate for livestock-related income losses. Households are also relying on markets for food, but high food prices are limiting purchasing power. Food assistance distributions have been ongoing in these areas, reaching those most in need and mitigating the size of household food consumption deficits to varying degrees. In select woredas where food distributions from partners have occurred at sustained, high levels, the mitigating effect on food consumption deficits is more significant, with Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes ongoing in areas of Korahe, Shabelle, and Nogob zones.  


    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from February to September 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • February to May 2024 belg rainfall is forecast to be average with localized above-average levels. Similarly, the March to May 2024 gu/genna rains in southern and southeastern Ethiopia and diraac/sugum rains in the northern pastoral areas are forecast to be average.
    • The June to September kiremt rains are forecast to be above average. Meanwhile, the July to September karan/karma rains in northeastern Ethiopia are forecast to be average.
    • In Tigray, conflict is expected to remain low as parties continue to largely adhere to the November 2022 CoH Agreement stipulations. However, some isolated conflict — such as attacks by the Ethiopia National Defense Force (ENDF) against civilians, small-scale clashes between Tigrayan returnees and farmers that have occupied their land, and communal violence stemming from land disputes between Tigrayan and Amhara communities — is likely to continue, albeit at very low levels. The occupation of areas of Tigray by Eritrean forces is expected to persist. 
    • Conflict in Amhara between Fano militias and the ENDF is highly likely to continue, albeit at decreased intensity compared to levels in mid- to late 2023, marked by periodic escalations. The number of armed clashes, attacks, and kidnappingsin Oromia perpetrated by the OLA is likely to increase slightly.
    • Nationally, the total refugee population is expected to increase moderately, given that continued conflict in Sudan will drive further inflows of refugees to Ethiopia.
    • Despite the expected slight increase in the population displaced by conflict, the total national displaced population is expected to decline throughout the projection period. In the southern and southeastern pastoral areas, the number of people displaced due to weather shocks is expected to decline as households return to their place of origin, and improved conditions will allow households to slowly rebuild their livelihoods. In most conflict-affected areas of Oromia, Afar, and Amhara, the displaced population is expected to continue to increase moderately. In Tigray, the displaced population is expected to remain static at a minimum, as households are unable to return to their place of origin.
    • The average February to May belg rainfall is expected to drive normal area planted for belg crops, particularly in most parts of former SNNP, central and eastern Oromia, eastern Amhara, and southern Tigray; however, conflict-affected areas are anticipated to have below-average area planted and below-average production due to the anticipated below-average input supply and continuous conflict. Nationally, near-average belg production is expected.
    • Area planted in agropastoral areas of the south and southeast will most likely be average for the gu/genna season due to the favorable rainfall forecast. As a result, for the gu rainfed crops, an average harvest is expected in July/August.
    • Planting for long-maturing meher crops, which occurs in April and May, will likely be near average due to the expected favorable rainfall; however, in localized areas of the country, most notably in Tigray and conflict-affected areas of Amhara and Oromia, planting will range from significantly below average to minimal due to low access to seeds and disruptions to households’ ability to engage in the agricultural season. Similarly, planting for short-maturing meher crops in June and July will also likely be near average nationally, with areas of below-average planting. Favorable crop development is expected given the favorable kiremt rainfall forecast, with timely green harvests expected in September.
    • Coffee and fruit crops production in former SNNP, Sidama, and Oromia regions will likely be normal, due to anticipated above-average seasonal rainfall. 
    • In the pastoral south and southeast, pasture and water availability for livestock consumption is expected to be sufficient throughout the projection period given the favorable seasons in 2023 and likely favorable March to May gu/genna season, coupled with the smaller livestock population reducing demand for pasture/water.
    • Pasture and water availability in northern pastoral areas will most likely slightly improve to near average levels with the onset of sugum/dirac rainfall in March and will improve further through May. Moreover, average conditions will most likely be maintained with the onset of the July to September karan/karma rainy season, which is also likely to be favorable. Pasture and water availability in the rest of the country is likely to be average throughout the scenario period.
    • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions, production, and productivity are expected to improve compared to the 2020-2023 drought but will remain well below average due to low herd sizes. Peak milk availability is expected from April through June/July as sheep, goats, cattle, and camels are expected to start giving birth in March, followed by camel births in May. Consequently, livestock holdings are anticipated to improve moderately, which will in turn improve livestock-related income starting in May. In Dawa, Liban, and Afder zones and areas of Borena and East Bale zones, improvements in household herd sizes and access to food and income from livestock will be more minimal, as households in these areas lost nearly all their herds during the drought.
    • In the pastoral south and southeast, pasture and water availability for livestock consumption is expected to be sufficient throughout the projection period given the favorable seasons in 2023 and likely favorable March to May gu/genna season, coupled with the smaller livestock population reducing demand for pasture/water.
    • Pasture and water availability in northern pastoral areas will most likely slightly improve to near average levels with the onset of sugum/dirac rainfall in March and will improve further through May. Moreover, average conditions will most likely be maintained with the onset of the July to September karan/karma rainy season, which is also likely to be favorable. Pasture and water availability in the rest of the country is likely to be average throughout the scenario period.
    • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions, production, and productivity are expected to improve compared to the 2020-2023 drought but will remain well below average due to low herd sizes. Peak milk availability is expected from April through June/July as sheep, goats, cattle, and camels are expected to start giving birth in March, followed by camel births in May. Consequently, livestock holdings are anticipated to improve moderately, which will in turn improve livestock-related income starting in May. In Dawa, Liban, and Afder zones and areas of Borena and East Bale zones, improvements in household herd sizes and access to food and income from livestock will be more minimal, as households in these areas lost nearly all their herds during the drought.
    • In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions and productivity are not expected to improve in drought-affected areas until after the onset of the sugum/diraac rains, which will likely support moderate improvement in body conditions through June. In July, with onset of the karan/karam season, livestock body conditions are likely to further improve. However, the impact of the conflict on the reduction of herd sizes in Zones 2, 4, and parts of Zone 1 of Afar will continue to result in below-average milk availability, despite some anticipated improvements in herd sizes. Milk will become available in April and May, but peak milk availability from all species is projected for July and August.
    • Macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain poor. Ethiopia's GDP growth is expected to increase by 6.2 percent in 2024 because of ongoing political stability, liberalization, and privatization economic reforms. However, localized clashes in Amhara and Oromia may hinder growth. Additionally, Ethiopia’s currency will likely face higher depreciation pressure with a concomitant increase in the inflation rate (likely ranging from 20 to 30 percent) in 2024. 
    • High fuel prices, along with fuel shortages, will continue affecting transportation and supply chains, leading to higher transport costs and food/non-food commodity prices in local markets.
    • Across most of the country, market functionalityand trade flows are expected to be normal; however, disruptions are anticipated in conflict-affected areas of Amhara, Oromia, and bordering areas of the Afar and Tigray regions. In these areas, traders’ movements will be limited due to insecurity, resulting in disruptions or declines in the movement of goods to and from these areas. The conflict in Amhara will also likely disrupt the movement of goods between Addis Ababa and Amhara, which is expected to lead to supply shortages in both the northern and south/southeast regions. 
    • Market supplies of staple foods are expected to be below normal across the country from March onward due to the below-average 2023 meher harvest. Market supply will be most significantly below normal in conflict-affected areas, notably in Tigray, northeastern Amhara, western Afar, and in deficit-producing eastern markets. 
    • Staple food prices are likely to slightly decline or remain stable through March. Prices are expected to increase thereafter through September, remaining higher than last year and above average due to below-average 2023 meher production, limited capacity to import food, and increases in transportation costs, inclusive of increased maritime shipping costs due to the Red Sea Crisis. In belg-producing areas, staple food prices are likely to stabilize in July/August due to the availability of belg production. In the rest of the country, staple food prices are likely to peak in August and September. Prices are expected to be higher in conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia. 
    • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock market supply is expected to remain below average as herd sizes remain smalland households prioritize rebuilding their herds. A temporary increase in livestock on the market is anticipated during the July to September holiday season. Livestock prices are expected to increase and be higher than in 2023 and average due to the improvement of livestock body conditions and inflationary market pressures.  
    • In conflict-affected areas, notably Tigray and northeastern Amhara, the limited market supply of livestock is expected to persist as the conflict will further restrict traders' movement, driving down livestock prices
    • In northern pastoral areas, livestock prices will remain above average driven by inflationary market pressures but will fluctuate seasonally. In drought-affected areas, livestock prices will likely decline through March due to poor body condition. After March, prices are expected to improve alongside livestock body condition. In pastoral areas, the parallel increases in livestock and staple food prices are expected to maintain below-average terms of trade, as livestock price increases will be unable to overcome high food prices.
    • Despite a decrease in conflict in Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar, migratory labor opportunities and household income from these sources are expected to remain limited, most notably to western Tigray. The main sources of daily labor and income, such as mining and construction, are expected to remain disrupted and irregular throughout the projection period due to conflict-related disruptions. Elsewhere, migratory labor opportunities will remain normal.
    • Demand for agricultural labor in belg-dependent areas, which begins with planting in February, is anticipated to be minimal in northern conflict-affected areas and normal elsewhere. Agricultural labor demand will rise in meher-dependent areas during the June to September period, following similar regional trends, but will likely be below normal in conflict-affected areas. 
    • However, total income from agricultural labor will remain below average, driven by the high supply of labor relative to labor demand.
    • Income and labor from self-employment such as petty trade, firewood/charcoal sales, and construction labor will likely trend below normal in drought- and conflict-affected areas in the north and normal elsewhere. In the north, income earned will be minimal due to high competition for available labor opportunities amid low prices. In the southern and southeastern pastoral areas, poor households will likely continue to rely on collecting firewood and producing charcoal due to low food and livestock income; however, income from these activities will be low.
    • Remittances have decreased compared to last year and are likely to remain below average as the urban increase in the cost of living reduces the amount of remittance people living in urban areas can send to their relatives. 
    • PSNP transfers will start in March and continue through June/July. In Amhara, however, it is important to note the ongoing conflict between ENDF and Fano may disrupt PSNP activities and result in irregular implementation. 
    • Humanitarians are expected to scale-up food assistance distributions throughout the projection period, with the greatest number of people expected to be reached during the height of the July to September lean season. The government and humanitarians plan to reach 10.8 million people during the July to September period. Drought and conflict-affected populations nationwide are likely to be prioritized. FEWS NET did not have access to detailed plans to analyze changes in the share of the population reached by woreda as assistance scales up over the coming months; for the purposes of this analysis, FEWS NET assumed that the share of the population receiving food assistance at the woreda level will continue at levels observed in November to January, at a minimum, from March through September. 

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Ethiopia seasonal calendar

    Source:


    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    The severity of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia in 2024 is expected to be among the most severe of FEWS NET-monitored countries. The population in need of food assistance is expected to peak during the July to September lean season, with record-breaking needs for a third consecutive year. Levels of acute food insecurity are expected to be most severe in northern Ethiopia, where the long-term impacts of conflict and the 2023 drought have left households with extreme challenges in accessing food. Households are primarily accessing food through humanitarian food assistance, social support, and what limited livelihood coping options are left. Needs in these areas will peak at the height of the 2024 lean season. In contrast, levels of acute food insecurity are expected to moderately improve into mid-2024 in southern and southeastern pastoral areas as productive assets slowly recover from the 2020-2023 drought and households gain access to some own-produced food. 

    Elsewhere in the country, notably in meher-producing areas, acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to moderately deteriorate as households’ own production is exhausted, contributing to the high population in need during the outlook period. Humanitarian food assistance delivery during the projection period is expected to mitigate or prevent food consumption deficits among beneficiaries; in areas where food assistance is significant and sustained, it is anticipated that food aid will mitigate the severity of need and, in some woredas, prevent worse outcomes in northern Ethiopia and the pastoral south and southeast. 

    In most of Tigray and northeastern Amhara, households are expected to face severe food consumption deficits and high levels of acute malnutrition. The role of humanitarian food assistance coupled with social support will remain critical to preventing livelihood collapse and preventing high levels of acute malnutrition from escalating to high levels of hunger-related mortality. The areas of highest concern are the Tekeze River catchment areas of Tigray and northeastern Amhara, where households had no harvest in 2023 and have very limited options to earn income to purchase food. Households are expected to rely primarily on PSNP, humanitarian food aid, and some remittances and social support from community members and those living outside of the regions. While these food sources will mitigate severity, they will not fully prevent large food consumption deficits and severe livelihood coping strategies in the aftermath of failed meher production and very low incomes. Coping strategies will likely include begging, migrating the household in search of food, and earning income through illegal means to access food. While humanitarian food assistance and social support are expected to mitigate the degree of hunger-related mortality, it is likely that high levels of acute malnutrition will persist. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period in these areas. In the rest of Tigray and northeastern Amhara, where the meher harvest was below-average but did not fail – meaning there is a relatively less severe kilocalorie deficit for planned food assistance to fill – Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected. Households will remain heavily reliant on humanitarian food assistance and social support for food through at least September, when the next meher harvest becomes available. 

    In western areas of Afar neighboring Tigray, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist where livestock herds are small due to losses sustained by conflict and drought; minimal improvements are expected. Despite the anticipated favorable March to May diraac/sugum rains, households are not likely to see significantly improved ability to access food and income due to limited livestock and other productive assets. Displaced and poor households are expected to earn some income through petty trading, firewood/charcoal sales, and salt mining; however, income from these sources is not expected to be sufficient to make up for the lost livestock-related income. As a result, households are expected to engage in severe coping strategies such as selling productive assets for cash to buy food, including the sale of remaining livestock (if any) and food-based coping strategies (e.g., borrowing food or money for food purchases, eating wild foods). In some areas of this region, where humanitarians are expected to deliver food aid that is sufficient to mitigate or prevent food consumption deficits, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected. Meanwhile, in southern Afar, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue. As the seasons progress, food access in the south is expected to improve due to increased social support, labor opportunities (especially in agropastoral areas), and improved availability of wild food. Continued social support, particularly from better-off households benefiting from the anticipated seasonal progress, will indirectly benefit poor and very poor households. As result, the poor and very poor households are expected to have minimally adequate food consumption, but many will be unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures such as healthcare, clothing, education, and veterinary services.

    In the pastoral south and southeast, food insecurity outcomes are expected to gradually improve as households continue a trajectory of recovery from the 2020-2023 drought; however, households will still face difficulty purchasing food as household purchasing power remains low. While milk production is expected during the projection period, it is not expected to be sufficient for households to meet their food needs. Additionally, households are expected to turn to credit for food purchases to some extent; however, credit access is constrained as households have already incurred large debts during the drought. Households in Borena, Afder, Dawa, Liban, and Shabelle zones, where livestock holdings among very poor and poor households are lowest, are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through until at least April. Outside of these areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed! (Phase 2!) outcomes are expected, particularly in agropastoral areas where the harvest is supporting some household access to food and/or where the impacts of the drought were less severe. 

    The onset of the gu/genna season in April/May, when cattle, camels, and some goats give birth, is expected to support more substantial improvements in food security outcomes. Milk availability will provide a source of food and income through consumption and the sale of milk. While those who have livestock will benefit the most from milk availability, the high likelihood of sharing among households is expected to moderate food consumption deficits across wide areas of the region. Births, coupled with a source of food that mitigates the need to sell livestock, are also expected to improve livestock herd sizes. As a result, areas in Borena, Afder, Dawa, Liban, and Shabelle zones are expected to see improvement to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between June and September. Within these areas, however, a subset of households will likely still remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), notably those who remain displaced and are destitute. 

    In the Rift Valley areas of Ethiopia, particularly belg-dependent areas of Sidama and Southern Ethiopia regions, households are expected to exhaust food stocks in early March due to the below-average 2023 production. Households in these areas are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as they are market reliant amid atypically low income and higher food prices. The anticipated increase in staple food prices heading into the main lean season also weakens the purchasing power of most market-dependent households. The main production in these areas is associated with the belg harvest which begins in June. The availability of the harvest and access to agricultural income is expected to improve households’ ability to access food. As a result, most belg-dependent areas of Sidama, South Ethiopia, and Central Ethiopia are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In neighboring meher-dependent areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist as these areas will be facing the height of the lean season with weak purchasing power. 


    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
    Areas of Tigray and northeastern Amhara regions where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is projectedSocial support and gradual scale-up of humanitarian assistanceSocial support – or the communal sharing of food with worse-off households – has been critical to preventing more extreme outcomes marked by high levels of mortality. In the most likely scenario, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected; however, if social support combined with the gradual scale-up of humanitarian food assistance does not continue at current levels, at a minimum, then household coping capacities would likely become exhausted more rapidly than currently projected, and more severe acute food insecurity outcomes than currently mapped would likely occur.
    Areas across the country where Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) are projected Disruption in food assistance delivery due to a pipeline break or other unforeseen constraintsThis scenario is based on a disruption to food assistance distributions for several months, meaning if humanitarian aid does not reach populations where Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are currently considered most likely in areas of Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Somali, and Oromia regions. In the absence of assistance, households would lose a key source of food that was expected to mitigate food consumption gaps. As a result, more widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would be mapped across both projection periods. 
    Amhara RegionPSNP is not implementedIn Amhara, there is potential for conflict to disrupt PSNP distributions, including both to supply chains and the financial sector. If PSNP is not distributed as planned, it is likely that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would become more widespread, as PSNP typically provides up to 50 percent of annual household kilocalorie needs.
    Most parts of Amhara, western and central Oromia, some areas in the Southwest bordering Oromia and Somali Region, and the border areas between Afar and Somali regionsEscalation in conflict (beyond the level already discussed)An escalation in conflict exceeding initial expectations would limit population movement and further disrupt trade, likely causing further declines in typical livelihood activities and market functioning/supply. Additionally, if there is an uptick of conflict during the 2024 belg agricultural season beginning in April/May 2024, agricultural labor opportunities could be further disrupted, decreasing income as well as access to own production among households. This could result in more widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the scenario period. 

    Area of Concern: Middle Tekeze (MTK) Livelihood Zone of Tigray Region (Figure 18)

    There are multiple areas of high concern in Ethiopia, primarily located in Tigray, northeastern Amhara, and western Afar regions, in addition to the pastoral south and southeast in Somali and Oromia regions. FEWS NET has selected one area of concern for this report to illustrate the long-term impacts of the 2020-2022 conflict in Tigray coupled with the immediate impacts of the 2023 drought. 

    Figure 18

    Reference Map for Middle Tekeze (MTK) Livelihood Zone of Tigray Region
    Reference Map for Middle Tekeze (MTK) Livelihood Zone of Tigray Region

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: While conflict is not actively ongoing in the MTK livelihood zone, this area was heavily impacted by the 2020-2022 conflict in Tigray and households are still facing impacts including limited assets and livelihood activities. Some households in this area recently returned to their place of origin, following the general trend of displacement and return in Tigray. According to the multi-agency December 2023 meher seasonal assessment, in woredas situated in MTK livelihood zone, there are nearly 50,000 displaced people hosted within communities. Additionally, there is one IDP site in Abiy Adi where around 53,300 people are located. IDPs residing in both host communities and IDP sites are heavily reliant on food assistance. Access to livelihood activities other than some labor employment (when available) is limited. Begging is widespread in these IDP communities. 

    Crop harvest and food stocks: Rainfall was extremely poor (approximately 10 days or less) for the June to September 2023 kiremt season, and planted crops were impacted by diseases and late unseasonal rainfall in October. The harvest finished early, in November/December 2023, with minimal production across the livelihood zone. The woreda Offices of Agriculture and multi-agency meher assessment estimate that production was as low as 10 percent of average across most woredas. In northern areas of the livelihood zone, production was slightly higher but still only approximately 25 to 30 percent of average; this slight increase is still negligible, however, and households are unable to compensate for the overall minimal levels of production across most of the livelihood zone. As a result, by February households exhausted food stocks from their own production. 

    Pasture and water availability: As the 2023 kiremt season was poor, pasture and watering holes barely regenerated during the season. Currently there is a shortage of pasture and water for livestock. Additionally, there is limited crop residue available to feed livestock due to poor production.

    Livestock conditions and productivity: Livestock body conditions are below normal and continuing to decline as pasture and crop residue availability is limited. Livestock typically do not migrate in these areas; however, due to the lack of food, livestock migration is ongoing to neighboring woredas. Additionally, livestock deaths have been reported, which is extremely atypical in this area. There have been almost no livestock births and milk is only available for feeding the few offspring that have been born. Household livestock holdings were already low before the poor rainy season due to the conflict; households therefore have extremely limited ability to access food and income from livestock. 

    Market supply and prices: The primary staple foods in this livelihood zone are sorghum and maize. Even in a normal year, this area has production deficits and relies on supplies coming from Mekele (Tigray) or Wag Himra Zone (Amhara). Despite the conflict in Amhara, there are no significant disruptions to the flow of goods into MTK; however, market supply is below normal. Food prices decreased slightly after the CoH agreement was enacted but have increased since. Now, food prices are high and continuing to increase; in January, maize and sorghum prices were 200 percent higher than the pre-conflict period. 

    Livestock market supply and prices: Livestock populations significantly decreased during the conflict period; livestock were either sold more than is typical to cover cash income needs or were looted and/or killed during the conflict. Supplies of livestock are normal; however, there is a decline in the trade volume of livestock outside the region as the conflict in Amhara restricted traders' movement. Prices of livestock significantly dropped during the conflict period (Figure 19). Prices gradually increased and reached a record high in April/May, then dropped afterward in association with the conflict in Amhara Region and related declines in demand. Further price decreases occurred from December 2023 to present as drought caused livestock body decline and households reacted by increasing supplies to the market. Current goat prices in Abergele market range from 3,000 to 4,000 ETB; 39 percent lower than April/May, but 75 percent higher than the pre-conflict period (Figure 19).

    Figure 19

    Goat prices in Abergele woreda
    Goat prices in Abergele woreda

    Source: FEWS NET

    Agricultural labor: Agricultural labor is currently not available, which is atypical for the time of year. Impacts related to the conflict are reducing agricultural labor opportunities.

    Non-agricultural labor and income from self-employment: Income-earning opportunities from urban employment, honey sales, gold mining, and migration labor are limited due to the severe erosion of livelihood assets coupled with the drought. Households are facing unprecedented low income, despite the restoration of peace in the region.  

    PSNP: After a suspension that lasted nearly three years in this livelihood zone, PSNP distributions resumed in December among direct support beneficiaries, who received cash payment for four months at an increased rate of 410 ETB per person per month. There are a total of 100,500 PSNP beneficiaries in MTK livelihood zone woredas. PSNP for Public Works is expected to begin in March 2024. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: In December, food assistance distribution resumed, targeting 20 percent of the total caseload. In November and December 2023, nearly 279,000 people in the livelihood zone received food assistance. The assistance basket is a full ration or grain only, dependent on the area and the operator. Additionally, there was support provided from contributions from the public. Abergele woreda received the largest share of food assistance in the livelihood zone. 

    Acute malnutrition: Levels of acute malnutrition have been of high concern since the start of the 2020-2022 conflict in Tigray. However, the limited number of functioning health centers in the aftermath of the conflict means there are extensive data limitations; quantitative data on acute malnutrition levels – including proxy data – is unavailable in this livelihood zone. Nonetheless, the limited information that is available indicates a rising trend in the admissions of children with acute malnutrition for treatment over the last few months. It is also possible to extrapolate an understanding of the severity of acute malnutrition in MTK areas using zonal-level data; this livelihood zone sits in part of Central Zone, and screening data collected at the Central Zone level in November and December suggest proxy levels of acute malnutrition are within the Critical (GAM MUAC 10-14.9 percent or WHZ 15-29.9 percent) range. Hunger-related deaths have also been reported from this livelihood zone in mid- to late 2023. In Abergele woreda, nearly 100 people reportedly died from hunger between July and November 2023. 

    Current food security outcomes: Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing in the MTK livelihood zone. Below-average harvests and poor production have caused most households to already exhaust food from their own production. Additionally, earned income is low, leaving households with minimal ability to purchase market foods. Food is currently being accessed primarily through humanitarian food assistance and social support; however, the increasing cost of living is reducing the amounts of remittances that can be sent to support family and community in need. Despite ongoing food assistance, the conflict and drought have reduced typical household coping capacities, and households are resorting to engaging in more severe coping strategies amid heavy reliance on social support to access food. Begging is widespread in this area, with some households migrating to urban areas in search of food. FEWS NET’s outcome analysis using the Household Economy Approach suggests very poor and poor households face an annual survival deficit indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes in the absence of food assistance and social support. Ongoing food assistance is mitigating destitution, further hunger-related mortality, and widespread starvation. 

    Assumptions

    All national-level assumptions apply to this area of concern. 

    Projected Food Security Outcomes

    Throughout the projection period, humanitarian food assistance and social support will remain critical to preventing more extreme levels of acute food insecurity. Households’ opportunities to earn income for food purchases will remain very low. While PSNP is expected to provide some food and income for households, the short timeframe (four months) of this assistance and the scale of reduction in other food and income sources will not prevent the use of severe coping strategies such as migration to urban areas, begging, and other socially unaccepted practices to earn food and income. Households will still face large food consumption deficits, which will sustain high levels of acute malnutrition. However, food assistance, social support, and the use of these coping strategies will likely mitigate the scale of hunger-related mortality. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected until the next harvest becomes available in September/October 2024. 


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

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Ethiopia Food Security Outlook February - September 2024: Hunger and acute malnutrition outpace the scale-up of food assistance, 2024.

    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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