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Conflict likely to drive extreme food insecurity in Tigray through at least January 2022

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • June 2021 - January 2022
Conflict likely to drive extreme food insecurity in Tigray through at least January 2022

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  • Key Messages
  • Barriers to the movement of basic commodities into Tigray raises further concern for extreme outcomes
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • The Tigray region of Ethiopia continues to experience one of the worst food security emergencies globally. Urgent humanitarian assistance is needed to save lives. Extreme outcomes are likely through at least January 2022 across the region, with Central, Northwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern Tigray of highest concern. Ultimately, an end to hostilities and unhindered humanitarian access are needed.

    • Since late June, the status of conflict across Tigray has significantly shifted, with the Tigrayan regional forces reportedly claiming to have retaken several major towns, including the regional capital of Mekele, while the government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral ceasefire that has since likely unofficially ended. The decline in active conflict in much of Tigray has opened up  the potential for improved humanitarian access and the movement of people within the region; however, the movement of people, goods, and cash into Tigray, including humanitarians and humanitarian assistance, has been significantly restricted, and fuel shortages and weather-related transportation constraints continue to limit access to remote areas of the region. Additionally, as of mid-July there are no available routes overland for the movement of assistance into Tigray. This is contributed to the severe shortages of already limited basic services and supplies, including food, water, fuel, and electricity. It is expected that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread across Tigray, with associated high levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality likely. There are likely populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). It is possible that outcomes are worse in some areas, but available evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny.

    • Many southern and southeastern pastoral areas experienced consecutive poor seasons in late 2020 and early 2021, resulting in lower than normal pasture and water availability. These conditions are expected to drive atypical livestock migration and further declines in livestock body conditions and milk production through at least October. Forecast models indicate a third consecutive below-average season is likely during the October to December deyr/hageya period, driving prolonged drought conditions through early-2022. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in southern and southeastern pastoral areas throughout the projection period, with some households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The exception to this is the Hawd, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing in June and July due to increased access to milk as gu rainfall was favorable, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are still anticipated after July.

    • The 2021 belg harvest is expected to be delayed and below average due to a poor distribution of rainfall that led to delayed planting. The harvest is now expected to start in July and August, driving many households in belg-dependent areas to rely on markets longer than normal. This is resulting in an extension of the lean season, and given that the harvest will be below average, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue until the start of the harvest. Food security is expected to improve with the harvest as households start consuming their own crops.

    • In northern pastoral areas, drought conditions through late June resulted in lower than typical pasture availability. However, the karan/karma seasonal rainfall is forecast to be above average, leading to improvements in pasture and water availability in July/August. However, due to previous poor seasons and declines in herd sizes associated with 2020 flooding, poor households' access to food and income is limited, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across much of the region throughout the projection period.

    Barriers to the movement of basic commodities into Tigray raises further concern for extreme outcomes

    Since late June, the status of conflict across Tigray has significantly shifted, with the Tigrayan regional forces reportedly reclaiming several major towns, including the regional capital of Mekele, while the government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral ceasefire that has since unofficially ended. While these new developments led to a short-term decline in active conflict and the potential for improved humanitarian access within Tigray, significant barriers to the movement of goods and humanitarian assistance both within and into Tigray remain. There are also severe shortages of already limited basic services and supplies, including food, cash, water, fuel, and electricity. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely widespread, and it is possible outcomes could be worse in some areas, but available evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny.

    On June 28, the government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral ceasefire in Tigray through September 2021; however, after the Tigrayan regional forces gained territory across Tigray, including reclaiming areas held by the Amhara regional government in southern Tigray, the ceasefire has likely informally ended. There also has been a scale-up of troops along the Amhara border with Southern Tigray and the Tekeze River in Western Tigray, and conflict increased in mid-July along the Afar border with reports of the Tigrayan regional forces entering the region. In mid-July, conflict spilled over into bordering areas of Amhara and Afar.

    This has hampered the transportation of humanitarian supplies, such as food, NFI, and fuel, into Tigray, with OCHA reporting that some operators have run out of fuel and cash. Additionally, the poor state of roads during the ongoing rainy season is constraining assistance delivery to more rural areas. While humanitarian operators are now distributing supplies to previously inaccessible areas, ensuring sufficient supplies arrive into the region has been a challenge, and the volumes distributed have reportedly been low in order to ration available supplies. Key informants report that the recent arrival of humanitarians and cash into Mekele, alongside an estimated 900 MT of assistance brought into Tigray by WFP, has improved the response in the short-term. However, relative to the immense need in Tigray, the amount of assistance delivered is insufficient,  and it is likely renewed conflict will further disrupt operations, as evidenced by recent reports that a UN convoy traveling near the capital of Afar on July 19 was attacked, moving WFP to suspend convoy movements through this area. With this suspension, destroyed bridges, blockage of roads, and conflict, there are currently no available options to move supplies into Tigray overland. 

    Given low economic functioning and broader insecurity, the demand for casual labor, an important source of cash for many poorer households in Tigray, remains extremely low. In addition, population mobility, which is critical for migratory and construction labor, continues to be constrained. Due to the closure of banks outside of Mekele, access to remittances and funding for petty trade also remains limited. At the same time, available information suggests food prices further increased in July, driving a decline in already low purchasing capacity. Key informants report supply shortages of bread in some markets. 

    The kiremt season is ongoing, and households are engaging in agricultural activities where possible. However, available information suggests that planting is significantly below average due to limited access to agricultural inputs, lack of draft animals (oxen), and low labor availability, due both to limits on labor migration and a reduction available labor. While kiremt seasonal rainfall is favorable, the planting window has passed for long-cycle crops and most short-cycle crops, and available evidence suggests that an increase in conflict across Tigray could occur in the coming months, which would bring further disruptions to the agricultural season.   

    Millions of people across Tigray are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Available evidence suggests that while conflict-related humanitarian access impediments within Tigray have been reduced, the capacity to transport assistance into the region and ensure safe delivery across the region has also declined. As such, it is now anticipated that assistance delivery, even to major towns and along main roads, will become less regular, and amounts distributed will be reduced to account for supply disruptions. Since late June, there has been a sharp decline in market supplies and increases in food prices as many traders are unwilling to travel to Tigray. Furthermore, a likely end to the government-declared unilateral ceasefire signals that an increase in conflict is likely to commence in the coming months. Amid this, economic activity is expected to remain extremely low, and the harvest is likely to only marginally improve food access. Water shortages are forcing an increasing number of people to rely on untreated water sources and associated waterborne illnesses, which will contribute to higher levels of acute malnutrition. Large food consumption gaps amongst a significant proportion of the population, high levels of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality associated with at least Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely; outcomes could be worse, but available evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny.


    Current Situation

    In June, as the lean season begins in meher-producing areas of the country, millions of people are market-dependent with below-average purchasing power. Assistance needs are well above average, with Tigray experiencing the highest requirements. Many poor households across the country typically rely on local and migratory agricultural labor for cash income; however, due to conflict and low demand (because of limited cash income) from better-off households, household income from these labor sources is generally below average. Furthermore, most pastoral areas have experienced consecutive poor seasons, driving diminished livestock body conditions and lower income for pastoral households.

    March to May gu/genna rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas was erratic, with most rainfall only occurring in late April and early May (Figure 2). Rainfall performance for the March to May diraac/sugum season in northern pastoral areas was extremely poor. Drought conditions were present across much of Afar, northern and western areas of the Somali Region, and parts of eastern Oromia at the end of the season despite the exceptionally heavy rainfall in late April and early May. Conversely, rainfall over the Hawd (eastern Somali Region) for the gu was generally favorable.

    February to May belg rainfall was erratic, marked by a long delay to the start of the season, with little to no rainfall until mid-April. In late April, the rains finally began, but periodic long dry spells marked the season in northeastern Amhara, southern Tigray, and parts of Afar bordering Amhara and eastern Oromia. In areas of Gamo Gofa, Segen, Sidama, and Wolayita zones of SNNPR, despite the favorable April/May rainfall, cumulative belg rainfall was below average. In western areas, rainfall continued until the start of the June to September kiremt season, with no dry season occurring from late May to mid-June as it typically does.

    There was a timely onset of the kiremt rainfall in western and some central areas, though rainfall in central areas of the country has yet to start as of late June. The start of kiremt rainfall is being closely monitored, and as of late June, abnormal dryness was present across some areas where rainfall was also poor during the belg season.

    The poor performance of the belg season and conflict in affected areas, even outside of Tigray, resulted in delays in planting and overall lower than normal planting across most regions. Data on area planted is not available for Tigray as the ongoing conflict is disrupting many of the government structures that typically collect data; however, even if crops were planted, crop development was likely poor due to poor belg rainfall. In the Somali Region, planting associated with March to May rainfall was generally favorable. The late-season belg rainfall facilitated land preparation for short-cycle meher crops such as barley, wheat, teff, and pulses, and area planted in SNNPR as of June was near normal, according to the regional disaster risk management agency. Across most belg-receiving areas, short-cycle crops are in the flowering and reproductive stages and in favorable condition. The harvest typically starts in June in belg areas; however, as pointed out above, late planting will mean harvests will not likely start until July or August.      

    Agricultural activities, including planting of short-cycle crops for the kiremt season, continue with planting of most long-cycle crops complete. The long-cycle crops are in the vegetative stage in generally favorable condition. Access to inputs across the country is somewhat lower than normal due to the high cost of inputs and lower household income. This, coupled with conflict, 

    is driving lower than typical area planted as of late June for meher crops. In Tigray, information on area planted is limited, with only some households likely engaging in agricultural activities as possible due to limited access to agricultural inputs and oxen and lower capacity for labor migration. While kiremt seasonal rainfall is performing favorably, the planting window has passed for long-cycle crops and most short-cycle crops, but access to seeds for these crops is likely low. Sesame production is important for Tigray and Amhara for labor income and the macroeconomy; due to conflict and the likely associated displacement and limited people movement, the ongoing sesame season is not occurring normally due to low labor supply. Conflict in areas outside of Tigray, including in Benishangul Gumuz, North Shewa, and Oromia zone of Amhara, Southern Special woreda of SNNPR, and some localized areas of Western Oromia, is also driving lower than normal engagement in kiremt agricultural activities.

    According to FAO, desert locusts were present in June, with hopper bands forming in Bale Zone of Oromia Region and parts of Nogob, Sitti, Jarar, and Fafan zones in Somali Region, with desert locust sightings in parts of southern Afar and Bati Zone of Amhara.  Desert locust swarms are less prevalent now than they have been over the last two years due to the poor consecutive seasons across many eastern and central areas of the country. The impact of desert locusts on crops and pasture is currently not significant.  

    According to the government, fall armyworm has also been reported in all woredas of the Sidama Region, affecting over 3,300 hectares of maize and sorghum crops. However, ongoing control measures are covering nearly 90 percent of planted crops, likely reducing impacts. Similarly, there are reports of African armyworm across SNNPR and four woredas of Sidama, but the impacts have been mild to date.

    The hagaa dry season is ongoing in southern and southeastern pastoral areas. Pasture availability in southern and southeastern pastoral areas is broadly favorable across the country (Figure 3) due to the favorable late-April/early May rainfall. However, these improvements are expected to be short-lived due to the below-average 2020 deyr/hageya rainy season, followed by the extended dry season. Pasture availability is somewhat lower than normal in the lowlands of Oromia due to the poor gu/genna seasonal rainfall. Water availability for livestock marginally improved with gu/genna rainfall; however, ponds and other water sources in the lowlands of eastern Oromia and along much of the Somali/Oromia border were not fully replenished.

    Following the start of the 2021 gu season, pastoralists across much of the Somali Region returned to their homesteads as pasture improved. Despite this, livestock body conditions are still below normal with minimal milk production since livestock births are below average across much of the Somali Region. In the Hawd, favorable pasture is facilitating generally good livestock conditions, though these conditions are only expected to be temporary.

    In northern pastoral areas, pasture availability until late April, when rainfall started, was very poor. While some improvement in pasture was observed after April, the rainfall was short-lived and drought conditions persisted. A subsequent decline in pasture availability was observed in late June and early July. In northern pastoral areas, livestock herd sizes, body condition, production, and productivity continue to be below average.

    Macroeconomic conditions remain poor, driven mainly by declines in exports, low foreign reserves due to high government spending, large debt burden, and spending on the conflict in Tigray and other parts of the country. Additionally, the conflict in Tigray has disrupted industrial output, including clothing factories, medicine, wood, and cement, among others, on top of below-average harvests. The poor macroeconomic conditions are driving a high annual inflation rate and depreciation in the ETB. According to the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSAE), the national inflation rate increased to 24.5 percent in June 

    from 19.7 percent in May (Figure 4). The June inflation rate is the highest year-on-year inflation rate reported in at least five years. In June, the exchange rate of the ETB on the official market was 43.30 ETB/USD, and on the parallel market, it was 56.50 ETB/USD, 30 percent higher than the official rate. Between May and June, the exchange rates generally remained stable. In Tigray, telecommunication and banking services have been closed since late June, allowing for minimal access to credit and cash.  

    Across Ethiopia, the movement of goods is generally normal, although in some areas, conflict is seriously disrupting transportation systems. . High fuel prices and transportation costs are somewhat limiting the movement of goods and are further limiting market supply and putting pressure on market prices as the lean season progresses. In Tigray, due to the volatile nature of the conflict, the movement of goods into the region is significantly constrained, and market supply is extremely limited (Figure 5). Many private traders and trucking companies are not traveling to Tigray, and the movement of goods to and within the region is minimal to nonexistent. Conflict in areas of Benishangul Gumuz, Oromia, Afar, SNNPR, and Sidama is also volatile, and when it occurs, it also limits market and trade in the affected areas.   

    Staple food prices in June across the country are significantly above average, with a gradual increase in prices since January. In Addis Ababa, June maize prices are over 25 percent higher than last year and over 80 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 6). In May, maize prices in Wolayita Sodo market, a representative market of Southern Ethiopia, were  over 50 percent higher than the five-year average. Maize prices in eastern areas of the country, as indicated by the Dire Dawa market, are around 15 percent above last year and 60 percent above the five-year average (Figure 8). In Tigray, prices were generally stable between May and June, although over 50 percent higher than the five-year average. This is largely the result of low effective demand since households have very little cash income available to buy food.  The provision of humanitarian assistance may also be affecting prices. However, in July, due to supply shortages, prices have reportedly significantly increased.

    Livestock prices have been generally stable or slightly increased across the country in the last few months. In Addis Ababa, western, northwestern, and central areas of the country livestock prices have remained significantly above average. Conversely, in northern and southern pastoral areas and southeastern lowlands, livestock prices declined from late 2020 until the start of the gu/genna season and the Easter holiday, after which there has been some stability and even improvements in prices. In Tigray, the limited livestock supply due to looting and slaughter on top of limited economic activity and available cash is severely limiting livestock sales, though no significant change in prices has been observed.

    While livestock prices have fluctuated, showing mixed trends, they have not kept pace with staple food prices, even in areas where livestock prices have increased. As a result, the terms of trade (ToT) do not favor pastoralists, driving low purchasing power for many poor pastoral households.

    Income from both migrant and local agricultural labor is lower than typical nationwide as many households are not migrating due to conflict and poor rainfall performance in areas of the country. Additionally, the poor belg has impacted chat and coffee production in East and West Hararghe in Oromia and Sidama, which resulted in declines in available labor and income from this source for migrants. Moreover, the state and private farms in Afar along the Awash River were the primary location for labor among most poor households reliant on migrant labor from south-central and northeastern areas. However, due to the destruction of these farms and irrigation systems in 2020 due to flooding, local labor and labor migration opportunities are atypically low. In Tigray, income from these sources is nearly nonexistent across many areas due to conflict for many poor households. 

    Unlike most areas of Somali Region, the favorable gu rainfall along the Shebelle River improved water access and enabled farmers of middle and better-off households to engage more in crop cultivation. This increased labor demand in riverine areas so that income from local labor slightly improved during the gu 2021 season in Somali Region. Income from nonagricultural sources, including gum production, improved but remains limited due to poor macroeconomic conditions, which has reduced demand.

    Since November 2020, conflict across Ethiopia has been significantly higher than during the same period in 2019/20 and is historically high for conflict-related casualties across Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, and particularly Tigray. According to The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), conflict has been primarily concentrated in about seven areas across the country (Figure 8). While conflict in Tigray has been widespread in 2021, and as of mid-July reportedly spreading to Afar, in most of these areas, conflict is concentrated in just a few zones (Figure 9).  In areas affected by conflict outside of Tigray, while some populations are participating in the ongoing agricultural season, a significant portion of the population often has difficulty accessing farmlands and agricultural inputs due to ongoing conflict. Furthermore, some of these populations also have difficulty engaging in other typical livelihood activities such as petty trade and labor, limiting income among affected households.  

    According to IOM, in Ethiopia, as of late April, nearly 4 million people are displaced, with nearly 2 million of these displaced within Tigray alone as of late May. Displaced households often face difficulties engaging in typical livelihood activities as they are in new areas without their social networks or have the ability to engage in income-generating activities.

    According to UNCHR, as of May 31, the total registered number of refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia was over 806,000 people. Most of the refugees in Ethiopia are from South Sudan and Somalia. In general, the number of refugees entering Ethiopia monthly has fallen, likely due to the decline in security across the country. Most refugee populations reside in camps and have some resources to engage in income-earning and agricultural activities but are predominantly reliant on humanitarian food assistance. While information on the conditions of refugees within Tigray is limited, Eritrean refugees currently residing within Tigray are of high concern. These populations have extremely limited access to food and income, with some deaths have been reported due to the lack of health services. Additionally, based on reports by OCHA, attacks on this population are of concern.  

    The distribution of safety net assistance through the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is ongoing, except in conflict-affected areas of Tigray and eastern Amhara. As of late June, PSNP beneficiaries received their fourth of six distributions as some delays in distribution have occurred, as is typical. In Tigray, PSNP resources have been rolled into humanitarian assistance distribution.  

    Humanitarian operators are currently providing Round 1 and Round 2 assistance across the county, with plans to reach 10.9 million people for each round, according to the HRP. Although, due to funding, it is not likely that all 10.9 million people actually received assistance in each round. There are often delays and irregularities in assistance delivery. Furthermore, beneficiaries are meant to receive a complete ration; however, due to sharing, looting in Tigray, and in some cases available resources, it is likely across areas of the country that households have not received a complete ration.

    In Tigray, humanitarians are targeting 5.2 million people; however, severe supply challenges are limiting distribution. It is also difficult to discern the level of assistance households are receiving as many have to travel hours for assistance, and humanitarians also report that they have been unable to access many areas and are not always able to track assistance once offloaded from their trucks. Even among the assistance that is being distributed, available reports indicate that some woredas have not been reached with any assistance between January and May. Several of these woredas are within livelihood zones in which poorer households are heavily reliant on PSNP to meet their basic food needs. This food/income source has been unavailable since the conflict broke out in Tigray. Humanitarian assistance distribution to Tigray is not being delivered at the scale required to meet the immense need.

    Nutrition outcomes deteriorated between March and April across much of eastern Ethiopia, with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admissions to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP) among the highest seen in recent years. According to ENCU, compared to the same time last year, admissions rates are highest in Tigray, SNNPR/Sidama, Oromia, and Afar. In April, ENCU also reported that national SAM admissions to TFPs were 26 percent higher than the same time last year. As the lean season

    is ongoing, declines in food consumption are likely contributing to the increased and high levels of malnutrition. The change in the cutoff for mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) screening to the global standard, a decline in nutrition programming, and poor sanitation nationwide also contribute to the increase in TFP admissions.

    In Tigray, while data on nutrition outcomes is limited, available data has led to increasing concerns. Data on admissions of severely malnourished children to treatment programs in 2021 is higher than those of preceding years with sharp increases in April and May. Admissions increases are further noteworthy when considering that conflict and restricted humanitarian access have led to a decline in the number of sites for the treatment of acute malnutrition. A rapid nutrition assessment has been undertaken in Tigray, showing extremely high levels of acute malnutrition. These assessments purposively sampled the worst-affected kebeles within easy-to-reach woredas and then randomly sampled children within those kebeles. These data point to the likelihood that the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) measured by weight-for-height Z-score (WHZ) prevalence in March and April was approaching the 'Extremely Critical' threshold of 30 percent in the areas surveyed. Given the purposive sampling of the kebeles, they are likely hotspots, and it is expected there are non-hotspot kebeles in which nutritional status is relatively better. At the same time, the kebeles in which rapid nutrition assessments were undertaken were in accessible areas, and it is likely that outcomes are similar or worse in inaccessible areas where food aid is less likely to have reached.

    Additionally, in Tigray, access to health facilities and potable water is low across the region. Conflict and looting have led to extremely limited and, in some cases, nonexistent social services, including electricity, water, telecommunications, and health services. According to Ghent University, only around 10 percent of IDPs living in Shire, Adwa, Mekelle, Aksum, and Adigrat have access to health care or potable water. Numerous ground reports point to the destruction of key health infrastructure and water points.

    Across Eastern, Southeastern, Central, and Northwestern Tigray, households face an extreme lack of access to food and income. High levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality are ongoing, with at least Emergency (IPC Phase 4) area-level outcomes and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) among some households likely. Worse outcomes are possible, but information is insufficient to confirm or deny. In Western and Southern Tigray, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing as conflict has been relatively lower in these areas with market function relatively higher than in other areas of the region, facilitating better  household access food and income, though much higher than normal food assistance needs still exist.

    In areas of Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz, conflict has disrupted households' ability to obtain access to food and income, and while some households are returning to their areas of origin, they are predominately engaging in own farm activities. As a result, household purchasing power is low, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present. In most of the rest of western Ethiopia, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are ongoing as households are either continuing to consume their own food stocks left over from last year’s harvest,  or accessing sufficient cash income to purchase enough food to meet their needs.

    As pastoral households in southern and southeastern areas have returned to their homesteads milk is available for consumption and sale at the homestead; however, milk availability remains low due to the below-average herd sizes and livestock body conditions. In some cases, households are atypically selling some livestock to purchase food. Due to high food prices and lower availability of livestock to sell, household purchasing power is low, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present across most southern and southeastern pastoral areas, with the exception of the Hawd area of eastern Somali Region, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present, with good pasture conditions supporting average milk production for consumption and sale, and facilitating households' ability to access market foods.. In northern pastoral areas, livestock holdings are low due to losses associated with flooding in 2020, and livestock is in poor condition. Households are atypically selling livestock and other assets for income to purchase food. Moreover, conflict in Tigray and the reduction of cross-border trade are also limiting income. Most areas are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    South Omo of SNNPR, Borena, Guji, Bale, and Hararghe lowlands of Oromia are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as conflict has disrupted households' ability to engage in livelihood activities and access markets, predominantly in Guji and some neighboring areas of southern special woredas of SNNPR.  Additionally, income from labor is lower than typical due to the poor rainfall seasons and declines in available work opportunities.

    In the Rift Valley of SNNPR and the lowlands of Waghimra and eastern zones of Amhara, access to income is lower than average due to low wages and fewer available opportunities. Additionally, access to income from typical off farm sources of income, such as petty trading and self-employment activities, is low due to security-related concerns and poor macroeconomic conditions. As a result, these areas are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    The most likely scenario from June 2021 to January 2022 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • According to forecast models, June to September kiremt rainfall is most likely to be above average. This rainfall is expected to lead to an elevated risk of flooding in the Blue Nile, Awash, Baro Akobo, and Omo-Gibe river catchments.
    • July to September karan/karma rainfall in northern pastoral areas of Somali and Afar regions is likely to be above average.
    • October to December 2021 deyr/hageya seasonal rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas is forecast to be below average.
    • Despite current favorable pasture conditions, early depletion of pasture and an atypical decline in water availability is anticipated due to the two poor consecutive seasons in southern and southeastern pastoral areas. While 2021 deyr/hageya rainfall will somewhat improve pasture conditions, these improvements are likely to be short-term, and overall continued poor vegetation conditions are likely through at least January 2022.
    • Livestock in southern and southeastern pastoral areas are expected to migrate to atypical areas in search of water and pasture from western to eastern areas of Somali Region and from the pastoral lowlands of Oromia to the highlands during the dry season. Due to conflict, livestock movement between the Somali and Oromia regions is not expected. Desert locusts are expected to have limited negative impacts on pasture.
    • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions and productivity are expected to atypically deteriorate through January 2022, notably in western Somali Region and in the lowlands of Oromia Region. As a result, livestock herd sizes, births, and milk production are likely to remain below average.
    • In northern pastoral areas, pasture and water availability are expected to remain favorable throughout the projection period, driving favorable livestock body conditions, reproduction, and productivity. Despite improvements, calving, lambing, and kidding are expected to remain below average due to the low conception rate.
    • Livestock prices in southern and southeastern pastoral areas are expected to increase as pastoralists restrict livestock sales to sell when prices are seasonally higher in the period leading up to the Hajj. Thereafter, livestock prices are anticipated to decline; however, remaining above average. The livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are expected to remain near to slightly below average and expected to deteriorate into early 2022.
    • A delayed start to the belg harvest is anticipated in July/August and be below average in most belg-producing areas, particularly in northeastern Amhara and southern SNNPR.
    • Meher crop production is expected to be average, although below average production is likely in conflict-affected areas. In Tigray, production is expected to be significantly below average.
    • The desert locust upsurge is expected to continue; however, desert locust swarms and hatching are expected at lower levels than in 2020 due to ongoing control operations and unfavorable conditions for hatching and swarm development in the first half of 2021. Desert locusts are expected to be concentrated in eastern Ethiopia in June and July before moving to the north towards Afar in August and September, where conditions will likely favor breeding. The impacts of desert locusts are expected to be lower in 2021 than during the same time in 2020.
    • Due to continued indirect impacts of conflict, notably in coffee and sesame producing parts of the country, laborer supply is not expected to be sufficient during the upcoming seasons with laborers from areas of Amhara and Tigray not likely to migrate, driving lower than typical coffee and sesame production and labor income.
    • Macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue to deteriorate due to budgetary support cuts, increased expenditure on the military, and debt repayment requirements, driving the continued depreciation in the ETB and a high inflation rate in at least the double digits.
    • The continued currency depreciation and limited access to hard currency are expected to limit imports, including staple food, from the international market. This is also expected to drive high fuel/oil prices and transportation costs.
    • Trade flows of staple foods and livestock are expected to be disrupted across the country due to political tension and conflict, notably in Tigray and in Wollega Zone of Oromia; Metekel Zone of Benishangul Gumuz; North Shewa, and Oromia zones of Amhara, where the movement of goods is expected to be limited.
    • Market supply is expected to be atypically low through September in belg producing areas. Market supply across much of the country is expected to improve in August/September, with the harvest at near-normal levels, with the exception of conflict-affected areas, where market supply is expected to be below-average to limited.
    • Staple food prices are expected to remain above average due to continued poor macroeconomic conditions, although following seasonal trends. Prices are expected to be even higher above average in conflict-affected areas.
    • Given the nature of COVID-19, the evolution of cases, and likely limited vaccine availability, the pandemic is anticipated to persist. As the cumulative number of COVID-19 increases, the government is likely to put in place different measures limiting the number of people in public transport, temporarily banning large gatherings, and engagement in different income generation activities in localized areas, mostly around larger towns; however, restrictions are not expected to be as severe as in 2020.
    • Local agricultural labor availability in meher producing parts of the country and migratory labor opportunities are most likely to be below average; however, slightly better than last year and during the belg season. In Tigray, labor migration and agricultural labor, a key source of income through September, is expected to remain minimal due to the limited ability for populations to move and due to low effective labor demand.
    • In general, household income from self-employment, petty trade, and construction labor is expected to remain lower than normal through September, improving slightly during the October to January period following the meher harvest, although remaining below-average. In conflict-affected areas, no improvement is anticipated from this income source, remaining extremely limited in Tigray.
    • Remittances from the Middle East and neighboring countries are expected to remain below average due to the high number of returnees; however, remittances from western countries are expected to increase relative to 2020 though remaining slightly below average. Remittances from urban to rural areas within Ethiopia, an important income source for many poor households, are likely to be lower than normal due to high living costs in urban areas.
    • Exceedingly high levels of conflict are likely to continue, though vary in intensity depending on region. The ongoing conflict in Tigray is not likely to subside, and in the near term is likely to increase along the borders with Afar and Amhara and in western Tigray. Inter-communal violence in the Afar, Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, and Oromia is likely to continue. 
    • Recent, elevated levels of attacks by groups like OLF-Shene and Gumuz liberation front against civilians in Western Ethiopia, notably in Arsi, Guji, Jima, & Wollega Oromia and the Metekel area of Benishangul-Gumuz, and in some special woredas in SNNPR are likely to increase through January 2022.
    • Ethnic tensions stemming from competition over rangeland and water are likely to occur at typical levels when seasons are poor in the lowlands of southern and northern pastoral areas during the dry seasons.
    • Political tensions between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are expected to increase. Sudan is likely to align with Egypt in opposition to the filling of the dam amid a reinvigorated border dispute with Ethiopia. Conflict over the border demarcation between Sudan and Ethiopia is expected to continue at elevated levels. This is anticipated to disrupt livelihood and market activities that depend on cross-border movement.
    • The high level of conflict across the country is expected to drive an increase and atypically high levels of displacement in affected areas. The movement of refugees into Ethiopia from neighboring countries is expected to be lower than in previous years; this, combined with higher than typical outflows into Sudan and other neighboring countries, will likely result in a net reduction of refugees in the country.
    • Based on historical trends and that PSNP transfers started late, transfers will likely be completed in July/August. In Tigray, while PSNP is likely to continue to be distributed alongside humanitarian assistance, it is unlikely all PSNP beneficiaries will be reached due to ongoing constraints in distribution related to security, seasonal access, and supply routes.
    • Based on historical trends, food operators are expected to distribute at least five rounds of 2021 humanitarian assistance through January 2022, with plans to reach 10.9 million people per round. Due to the expected severity of food security and limited funding to cover national needs, the Prioritization Committee (PC) is anticipated to prioritize response to prevent the further deterioration in food security outcomes in the worst-affected areas across the country. In Tigray, humanitarian assistance delivery is planned for 5.2 million people; however, assistance delivery is likely to be disrupted and insufficient to meet the immense need due to limited supply and movement restrictions.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Overall, widespread food assistance needs are expected to persist across Ethiopia, driven by the interaction of multiple factors, including conflict, deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, and multiple poor rainfall seasons. The most extreme outcomes are likely in Tigray.

    Across Tigray, millions of households already face large food consumption gaps, which are likely to remain extreme through the lean season as most livelihood systems are no longer functioning, and household food and income sources are minimal. Available information continues to be limited, and the conflict, as well as the associated impacts, are expected to be volatile in the coming months. Food security is likely to improve in October for households that have been able to plant and harvest; however, these stocks are not expected to last long for households in Southeastern, Eastern, Central, and Northwestern Tigray. Displaced populations and those among the host community who are unable to engage in the ongoing agricultural season are expected to continue to have minimal income-earning opportunities and food access, and will face severe difficulty meeting their food needs. In Southern and Western Tigray, known as typical surplus-producing areas, households are expected to have some food stocks covering household needs for a short period and relatively higher access to income and markets, though still constrained. Based on FEWS NET's analysis of screening data and March to April rapid nutrition assessments, the prevalence of 'Critical' and 'Extremely Critical levels' of acute malnutrition are expected. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in Western and Southern Tigray, and at least Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to be widespread throughout the June 2021 to January 2022 scenario period in Southeastern, Eastern, Central, and Northwestern Tigray. It is anticipated in these areas of Tigray, some households will likely face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In particular,  there is the potential for worse outcomes in these areas of greatest concern, but evidence is currently insufficient to confirm or deny.

    In areas of Amhara bordering Tigray, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected during the lean season due to a combination of conflict and restricted purchasing power. Most poor households are expected to rely on markets for food; however, due to the current conflict, cash income earned by the poor and very poor will likely be limited. While some disruption to agricultural production is expected, many households are expected to start consuming their own crops with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected to emerge with the harvest in September. Additionally, these households are expected to earn income from seasonal agricultural activities, self-employment, and livestock sales to support their livelihoods.

    In southern and southeastern pastoral areas of the country, a decline in livestock body conditions and milk production through at least January 2020 is expected to drive lower milk production for both household consumption and sale. Poor pastoral households are anticipated to atypically sell increased numbers of livestock for income. Most poor households are expected to have difficulty purchasing sufficient food from the market due to high food prices. With the below-average deyr/hageya forecast, only a short-term improvement in household purchasing power is expected. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least January, with some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    In northern pastoral areas, conflict, 2020 flooding, and poor early 2021 rainfall have resulted in lasting impacts, including low herd sizes and disruption to normal livelihood activities. This, coupled with above-average prices and the expectation of lower livestock prices, are expected to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across most areas. In some zones of Afar, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected largely due to poor households' ability to engage in some agricultural production and as herd sizes are relatively better than in neighboring areas.

    In the Rift Valley of SNNPR and the lowlands of Wag Himra and Eastern  Zones of Amhara, where June to September coincides with the typical lean season. Most poor households have already exhausted food stocks and, due to the delayed belg harvest, are expected to rely on the market to purchase food for a loner than normal period of time.  Access to income from agricultural labor is expected to improve starting from July; however, it is still unlikely to be sufficient to cover all household food needs. As a result, households in the lowlands of Wag Himra and eastern areas of Amhara are expected to depend on atypical sales of charcoal and labor, but this will not be sufficient for households to meet their food needs. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through June. As the belg and meher harvests become available, households are expected to start consuming their own crops, and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to emerge.

    In the western half of the country in western and central Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR, as well as Gambela and Benishangul Gumuz regions, poor households are expected to meet their basic food and non-food needs due to the availability of food from own harvests. Although, Wollega Zones of Oromia and Metekel Zone of Benishangul Gumuz some households are expected are expected to have some difficulty engaging in their normal livelihood activities due to conflict. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected among some households in Wollega Zone and Benishangul Gumuz during the projection period. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

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



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Tigray Region

    A cessation of conflict and unhindered humanitarian access

    An end to the conflict and humanitarian assistance delivered immediately and fully to addresses the required food needs and non-food needs in the region would significantly improve food security outcomes.  

    Southern and southeastern pastoral areas

    Failed deyr 2021 rainfall

    Although rainfall is already forecast to be below average, failed rainfall is not considered the most likely scenario. In the event that deyr rains do fail, earlier-than-normal depletion of pasture would be likely, leading to a high atypical livestock migration and livestock deaths. This will drive a high number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with some households likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.


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


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, June 2021

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: CSA; NBE; FEWS NET estimates

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 8

    Figure 6

    Source: FEWS NET; ETBC

    Figure 9

    Figure 7

    Source: FEWS NET; ETBC

    Figure 10

    Figure 8

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 11

    Figure 9

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 12

    Figure 10

    Source: FEWS NET; ETBC

    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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