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- Humanitarian food assistance needs in Ethiopia are expected to peak in the June to September period at record levels for the second consecutive year. The level of need remains most severe in areas impacted by conflict in the north and drought in the pastoral south and southeast (S/SE). The end of the 2020-2022 conflict in the north and the end of the 2020-2023 drought in the S/SE have yet to materialize in a decline in levels of acute food insecurity due to both the severe erosion of productive assets during these protracted shocks and the seasonality of rural food and income sources within Ethiopia. Typical food and income from crop and livestock production remain very low in these areas, leaving very poor and displaced households to subsist on atypical coping mechanisms, including heavy reliance on community support. Amid the pause of US government (USG) assistance, households in these areas currently face large food consumption deficits and high levels of acute malnutrition indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Government and humanitarian actors must take action to resume food aid and ensure limited humanitarian resources are prioritized for household use in order to save lives and protect against further deterioration in livelihoods.
- In the pastoral south and southeast, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to be widespread, and it is likely that very poor and displaced households with few to no livestock will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Households are expected to access some milk starting in September; however, low livestock herd sizes following large-scale drought-related losses means that the scale of seasonal improvements due to milk production and livestock sales will be relatively low. The areas of highest concern are the southern Somali Region and Borena Zone of Oromia, where destitute and displaced populations are not expected to benefit from seasonal improvements. Income from migratory labor and charcoal and firewood sales, along with community support, is expected to mitigate extreme consumption deficits in the absence of food assistance. Overall, there is a risk of more extreme outcomes amid the prolonged absence of food assistance, particularly if income and seasonal increases in livestock production do not materialize to the degree that is anticipated.
- In Tigray, households are likely to face extreme difficulty trying to access food until the meher harvest begins in September. The populations of highest concern include those who remain displaced, those continuing to reside in areas along the Eritrean border, and very poor households with a limited asset base. These populations are likely to engage in begging and migrating to urban areas in Tigray in attempts to access food. Additionally, support from community members and the government are likely to provide some access to food. The high food consumption deficits are expected to continue to drive high levels of global acute malnutrition (GAM) and atypical hunger-related mortality. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to be widespread across the region, with households expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Once the meher harvest begins, food availability and access will most likely improve and reduce food consumption deficits among a large proportion of the population. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to emerge during this time; however, populations are expected to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Food insecurity will most likely deteriorate again in early 2024, when household food stocks will become depleted and labor income is expected to remain low.
Evidence collected by FEWS NET and humanitarian partners through field assessments, key informant interviews, and health site surveillance data indicate Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing across most of Tigray and the pastoral south and southeast (S/SE). In both areas, there are widespread signs of large food consumption deficits and a high reliance on charity and begging; proxy GAM levels suggest Critical (15-29.9%) to Extremely Critical (≥30%) levels of malnutrition; and government and humanitarian partners are investigating anecdotal reports of hunger-related deaths. The severity and length of the 2020-2022 conflict in the north and the 2020-2023 drought in the S/SE left much of the affected population with scarce resources to produce or purchase food and high levels of debt, especially among destitute and displaced populations, who face a lack of access to land and livestock. Furthermore, Ethiopia’s cropping lean season in the north and pastoral dry season in the S/SE occur between June and September, compounding the atypically low availability of staple cereals and milk and inflationary pressures on staple food prices. At the same time, levels of food aid remain minimal following the pause of USG assistance in May 2023 in response to large-scale aid diversion. While the meher harvest in Tigray and the deyr/hageya rains in the S/SE will bring some reprieve in food availability and access between October and January, government and humanitarian actors should anticipate and plan for a resurgence in needs by early 2024. Food assistance must resume immediately with assurances it reaches those most in need to prevent further loss of life.
Risk of extreme outcomes in the pastoral S/SE requires close monitoring amid high destitution and displacement: From October 2022 to May 2023, FEWS NET assessed Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) was ongoing in the worst drought-affected areas – including Borena, Afder, Dawa, and Liban zones, as well as parts of Korahe and Shabelle zones – and warned food assistance was likely the main factor preventing worse outcomes. While the drought has now ended, the recovery of livestock production is expected to be marginal this year, limiting the extent to which it can compensate for the absence of food aid. Livestock births will occur during the forecasted, above-average deyr/hageya rains starting in October, but destitute and displaced households face barriers to recovering their livelihoods given the near-to-total loss of their livestock. In Borena Zone, for example, IDPs and other destitute groups comprise an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the total population. Moreover, prior to the pause of food aid, admissions of malnourished children for treatment in Borena in May were already at the highest level observed since 2011. Without livestock and food aid, the worst-off households will only be able to mitigate their hunger through meager wages earned from labor and firewood/charcoal sales; charity from community members; cash/food from annual PSNP distributions that began in January and ended in June; and some cash assistance from WFP to an estimated 324,000 households in the Somali region. While evidence is insufficient to conclude the technical thresholds for extreme outcomes will be met by January, high levels of acute food insecurity, including very high GAM levels and the potential for hunger-related mortality, will likely persist. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are considered most likely; however, there is a credible risk of worse outcomes if anticipated income and increases in livestock production do not materialize.
The below-average 2023 harvest will only temporarily alleviate severe levels of acute food insecurity in Tigray: Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening data collected in May showed a 23-27 percent proxy GAM prevalence across southern, northwestern, and eastern Tigray (except in Mekelle), reinforcing FEWS NET’s assessment of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Low food consumption is the key driver of high malnutrition, as households’ productive assets remain decimated by the conflict; competition for income-earning opportunities is very high; and households report investing their time and money planting crops to the greatest extent possible at the expense of other needs. At the lean season's peak, more extreme food insecurity will most likely be mitigated by increased freedom of movement to access markets and migrate in search of income. Additionally, in the worst-off areas such as Samre woreda, community members and the government are actively identifying and giving food on an ad hoc basis to the most food-insecure households, predominantly comprised of the very poor and displaced. NGOs such as Action Against Hunger are also likely to distribute aid, targeting about 50,000 households. However, there is a credible risk of deterioration to worse outcomes if these food and income sources do not materialize as anticipated.
The meher harvest in September will only temporarily ameliorate these dire conditions, as below-average stocks will most likely become depleted by January and give way to an atypically early 2024 lean season. Based on the government’s and partner’s estimates of seed distributions and area planted and FEWS NET’s field observations, cultivation significantly rebounded compared to last year, and the kiremt rains have performed more favorably than initially forecasted during the land preparation and planting periods. However, low access to fertilizer is reducing yields and most IDPs did not cultivate. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected by October, but a subset of IDP and very poor populations will likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Furthermore, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are highly likely to re-emerge by January. Close monitoring of the risk of extreme acute food insecurity will be imperative during the 2024 lean season.
Rainfall: Rainfall during the early 2023 rainy seasons was well above average across much of Ethiopia and, in some areas, among the wettest on the historical record (Figure 1). Most critically, in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, the 2023 March to May gu/genna season marked the end of drought conditions after nearly three years. Rainfall for the season was over 150 percent of average in some areas (Figure 2). Meanwhile, in northern pastoral areas, the March to May dirrac/sugum rains broke records with rainfall anomalies as high as 300 percent above average. Similarly, the February to May belgrainfall was also historically high. A key exception to the favorable rainfall are the northeastern areas – specifically Zone 2 of Afar (which encompasses Bidu, Afdera, Berhale, and Dallol woredas) and Elidar and Kore woredas of Zone 1 – which have experienced arid conditions and received little rainfall in early 2023.
Large-scale flooding occurred across many areas of the country due to the deluge of rainfall in early 2023, coupled with very dry soils, notably in the south and southeast. In the southern areas of the Somali Region, Dawa, Liban, Afder, Shabelle, Fafan, and Erer zones, flooding affected more than 45,400 households and displaced more than 25,800 households. In areas of Afar, flooding damaged properties and displaced an unverified number of households. Parts of Oromia also experienced flooding and landslides, resulting in reports of widespread displacement, loss of livestock, and damage to infrastructure and crop lands, which in turn impeded the planting of crops across the entire region.
Since June, rainfall performance has exhibited more variability. The June to September kiremt rainfall season, in particular, has shown a mixed start (Figure 3). While rainfall in northern and western Ethiopia has been generally favorable, rainfall deficits have been increasing across Afar, eastern Amhara, northern Somali, eastern Oromia, and SNNPR.
Source: USGS/UCSB Climate Hazards Center
Source: USGS/UCSB Climate Hazards Center
Conflict: Over the first half of 2023, conflict incidents and fatalities continued in localized areas of the country but at lower levels compared to the same period of 2022 (Figure 4). For the March to June period, conflict and insecurity were concentrated in Oromia and Amhara (Figure 5). In Oromia, a brief decrease in the intensity of the conflict was exhibited in April, after the announcement of the peace talks between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). However, conflict sharply increased in May and June after the talks ended with no agreement. The persistent movement of armed forces in central and western areas of Oromia is driving increasing tensions in affected and neighboring areas. In May/June, OLA attacks resumed, inflaming an already tense and precarious situation. Meanwhile, in areas of southern Amhara, conflict and insecurity have increased in recent months due to conflict between Ethiopia federal forces and armed groups.
Source: FEWS NET analysis of ACLED data
Source: FEWS NET analysis of ACLED data
Levels of active conflict were minimal in Tigray and adjacent parts of Amhara and Afar over the past three months; however, protests have occurred amid high tensions among ethnic groups. The tensions remain especially high in western and southern zones of Tigray. Furthermore, areas of northern Tigray remain occupied by Eritrean forces and are difficult to access.
In Afar, no active conflict was reported in June between the Afar-Issa clans; however, the situation is assumed to be volatile. A few kebeles in Hanuruka and Yangude woredas of Afar bordering the Somali Region are inaccessible, as these areas are disputed and both the Afar and Issa populations are either afraid to enter or not allowed into these areas. In the Somali Region, the frequency of conflict events has declined. However, occasional events still disrupt trade, access to aid, and livelihoods.
Displacement: According to IOM’s last official national estimate in January, over 3.14 million are recognized as internally displaced people (IDPs) nationally. The primary reasons for displacement are conflict and drought (Figure 6). Overall, national displacement is likely higher than reported by IOM in January, given that conflict continues to constrain access for assessments in many areas and displacement in Tigray was not assessed.
While overall displacement remains high, the size of displaced populations in areas of northern Ethiopia affected by conflict – including eastern Afar and northern Amhara regions – have relatively decreased as conflict has subsided. In eastern Afar and northern Amhara, over 1.5 million IDPs had already returned to their place of origin per IOM’s January report, while roughly 478,000 people remained displaced. In Tigray, IOM reported in June that over 1.2 million IDPs had returned to their place of origin in accessible areas, while over 1.0 IDPs remained displaced. The persistently displaced population represents 15 to 20 percent Tigray's total population. OCHA also reported that about 19,000 people who received food assistance had returned from IDP sites in Adigrat (Eastern Zone) and Abi Adi (Central Zone) to their place of origin as of mid-May. Ongoing efforts are being made to relocate IDPs back to their places of origin in practically all zones, except for people who are displaced from Western Tigray. However, IDPs from areas in Kilbat Zone of Afar bordering Tigray Region have not returned to their area of origin due to continued security concerns and the inaccessibility of these areas. Furthermore, in Amhara, nearly 70,000 people remain displaced in North Wello, South Wello, and North Shewa Zones of Amhara, according to the findings of the 2023 multi-agency belg assessment.
In the rest of Afar and Amhara regions, displacement has been reported due to ongoing conflict in Amhara and due to flooding and drought conditions in Afar. According to the regional Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Bureau of Afar, about 141,500 people are displaced currently in Afar due to the impact of the drought and flooding in 2022 and 2023, while over 867,000 people have been displaced due to the Afar-Tigray and Afar-Issa conflicts. The regional government also estimates that nearly 90,000 IDPs have been displaced by the Afar-Somali conflict, and they are still sheltering in IDP sites and among the host community in Zone 1.
In the south and southeast, drought-related displacement is still high but has decreased over the past few months, while displacement due to flooding increased during the March to May rainy season. According to the IOM, over 1.2 million people were displaced in assessed areas of Somali Region as of January due both to drought and conflict. Some of these displaced populations have been in a state of protracted displacement since the last drought in 2016/17. Drought-related displacement also persists in Borena Zone and other affected areas of Oromia. In Borena Zone, the Zonal government estimates nearly 25 percent of the population is displaced.
Much of the displaced population in Borena Zone is destitute and lives in displacement camps or among the host community.
There are also a considerable number of displaced people in Sidama Region and SNNPR due to conflict and flooding. According to the regional government’s early warning office, a total of 31,200 IDPs from Konso Zone and Ubadebretsehay, Zala, Gard Marta, Burji, and Derashe woredas of SNNPR are currently hosted in sites and among the communities. According to the Regional DRM Bureau (Gossa Bonofa), over one million people were displaced in the region from conflict as of early May, with over 800,000 from western Oromia and the remainder from the Guji zone.
Refugees: According to UNHCR, nearly 916,500 refugees resided in Ethiopia as of May, primarily from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. At this time, only 7,000 refugees from Sudan were included in the refugee population estimate. However, over 68,000 people from Sudan arrived in Ethiopia between mid-May and late June, according OCHA. Most of the refugee population from Sudan are arriving through the Metema point of entry in the Amhara Region. Most refugees in Ethiopia live in refugee settlements or among the host community. Newly arriving refugees from Sudan are being placed in refugee settlements or live among the host community. Refugees who live in settlement camps typically rely in part on food assistance as a food source; however, with the pause of assistance, this food source has run out, forcing populations to rely more on what food can be purchased, putting further pressure on markets, driving up food prices amid already high demand.
Crop production: The favorable belg rains facilitated the planting of crops, which were in tasseling, seed setting, and harvesting stages as of June. Despite shortages in agricultural inputs, high prices for agricultural inputs, and the lack of draft power, area planted was near average nationally and across many areas for belg crops. The favorable start to the belg season resulted in households prioritizing accessing seeds and other agricultural inputs at the expense of other basic needs for the belg season. Localized deficits are expected in conflict-affected areas and in areas where crop disease incidence was atypically high, such as armyworm infestations that have caused slight damage to crops and pastures in South Omo and southern special woredas including Konso, Alle, and Derashe, though, control measures are being implemented through chemical spray and cultural protection methods. However, these deficits are offset by increased planting. In other areas, and it is expected to result in a near-average net harvest on the national level.
Above-average belg rainfall also favored timely planting of long-cycle meher season crops across most of the country, and total planted area is estimated to be near average nationally. However, heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding led to delays in land preparation for long-cycle meher crops in areas of Fafan and Sitti zones in northern Somali Region. In these areas, many households are expected to plant short-cycle meher crops instead. Overall, though, long-cycle meher crops were in the germination and vegetative growth stages and in good health across most areas as of June.
Similarly, land preparation and planting of short-cycle meher crops, which are typically planted during the kiremt rainy season, are proceeding normally across most of the country. Cultivation in kiremt rainfall-receiving areas particularly benefitted from favorable and early rainfall in May. However, there are concerns that shortages of improved seeds and fertilizer will result in some yield reductions.
In Tigray, households are planting either with seeds distributed by the government or with seeds they purchased, even if the purchase of seeds necessitated foregoing other essential needs. In cases where households own some arable land but did not receive seed distributions or have the means to purchase seeds, they are renting out land for cultivation by other households and will receive stocks from the harvest in lieu of payment. Based on the Tigrayan government estimates, area planted for the meher production season is near the government's planned target, which is typically linked to the average. FEWS NET also observed during a field assessment that planting has rebounded compared to last year. In SNNPR and Sidama, perennial crops such as coffee and khat and root crops like sweet potato, cassava, taro, and enset have benefited from the average to above-average belg rains. Coffee crops are currently in the third flowering and seed-setting stage and are expected to result in an average production, starting in October.
Pasture and water availability: Pasture and water availability have significantly improved due to favorable rainfall since the start of 2023 and are widely available across most of the country, including but not limited to all pastoral areas in northern Afar and Somali Region and much of southern Oromia (Figure 7). However, some lingering impacts of the previous year’s drought can still be seen in the lowlands of Sidama and SNNPR along the Rift Valley, where pasture has not been fully restored to normal levels due to overgrazing, which is in turn reducing the availability of grass to reseed. In addition, in parts of southern Oromia, plants that are inedible to livestock (e.g., parthenium) are competing with edible plants, reducing to some degree the availability of pasture for livestock consumption. Similarly, in Somali Region, the mosquito tree (prosopis juliflora) has been steadily encroaching on grasslands, consuming scarce water, and decreasing the amount of pasture that is edible by livestock.
Livestock body conditions and productivity: Across most southern and southeastern areas, livestock body conditions are near normal due to sufficient pasture and water in early 2023. However, the compounding effects of extensive livestock mortality, excess livestock sales, and extremely minimal birthing rates during the drought have resulted in very small herd sizes and a decrease in livestock holdings. In Borena Zone, the zonal government estimates that livestock holdings have decreased by nearly 50 percent and that around 20 percent of households are destitute. In the Somali Region, there are also high levels of destitution and large reductions in livestock herd sizes.
In these areas, milk availability remains limited to nonexistent, as livestock births have not occurred regularly since 2021. A large number of goats and sheep, along with some cattle, conceived during the gu/genna season, although milk won’t be available until livestock births begin with shoats in July/August. In southern Oromia, some milk is supplied from neighboring zones and from Kenya with high cost. Current milk prices are extremely high across all southern pastoral areas, ranging from 60 to 75 ETB per liter, and it is usually sold in towns, rendering it unaffordable and difficult to access for poor households.
In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions are generally normal, supported by sufficient pasture and water for livestock consumption. In central and southern areas of Afar as well as in northern Somali Region, where conflict has been relatively lower, livestock herd sizes are generally normal, with generally average herd sizes and milk production. However, in Zones 2 and 4 of northern Afar, particularly in areas bordering Tigray, livestock holdings remain low due to the significant losses associated with the conflict in Tigray. Based on FEWS NET’s field assessment in Teru, Abaala, Berhale, and Elidar woredas in Afar in May, average household herd sizes have decreased by around 40 percent since November 2020. However, livestock body conditions and productivity per head of livestock have improved due to better pasture and water availability compared to the same time last year.
Macroeconomy: Macroeconomic conditions remain poor overall, driven by low reserves of hard currency and high government spending. While annual headline inflation has cooled in June to its lowest rate in the last eight months and dropped below 30 percent for the first time in nearly two years, it remains quite high. According to the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), the annual headline inflation rate in June was 29.3 percent (Figure 8). Food inflation was recorded at 28 percent, a slight reduction of 5 percent from May. Overall, the cost of food is rising at a slower pace than it did in the last year, largely due to the improved 2023 belg harvest compared to last year and continued availability of the 2022 meher harvest in areas not affected by conflict or drought.
Overall, the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) continues to lose value on both the official and parallel markets. However, the depreciation of the ETB on the official market has slowed thanks to government intervention. As of June 2023, ETB depreciated by about 5 percent on the formal market since the same time last year. Yet anecdotal information indicates 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 the official market rate. The continued reduction in the value of the ETB is a key factor placing upward pressure on the cost of imported goods and contributing to general inflation.
Another key driver of inflation is the gradual removal of fuel subsidies that the government of Ethiopia has implemented over the past year. The subsidies completely ended by May, and fuel prices in Addis Ababa rose by nearly 12 percent over April. Fuel prices are even higher in the rest of the country, notably in the south and west, driving high and increasing transportation costs for people and food.
Flow and supply of commodities: Market functioning and the movement of goods across Ethiopia has improved over the last few months due to the declines in conflict; however, some disruption still exists, notably in northern Ethiopia (Figure 9). In Tigray, most market goods are supplied from other areas of Ethiopia, with no locally sourced goods available on the market. Staple foods are transported into Tigray through Amhara, where the movement of goods into the region is relatively normal. Meanwhile, the movement of goods between Tigray and Afar has not yet started, besides some minimal and localized petty trading. In northeastern Amhara, current market supplies of foods from surrounding areas are minimal, as stocks are currently exhausted. Many markets are currently supplied with staple foods transported from western surplus-producing areas.
Some disruptions are also observed in other locations. While most markets in Sidama and SNNPR are operating normally, localized conflict is disrupting market access in some areas of Gedeo zone and Burji and Amaro woredas of SNNPR, which borders Guji zone of Oromia. Likewise, the ethnic conflict in areas of Konso, Burji, and Derashe woredas has resulted in limited road access to local markets and thus limited supply of staple grains during active conflict. Finally, the movement of goods to southern and southeastern areas of the country is occurring at lower-than-normal rates due to security concerns in areas of the Somali Region, resulting in below-normal market supply.
Staple food prices: Staple food prices remain elevated and on an increasing trend (Figure 10), driven by high market demand, lower-than-normal market supplies, and high transportation costs. In Addis Ababa, the cost of maize rose over 50 percent in June when compared to the same time last year. In Sekota, sorghum prices in June were around five percent higher than May, but nearly 85 percent higher than the three-year average.
*Due to the conflict in Tigray, price data collection was disrupted, and the comparison is between June 2023 and June 2020.
Source: FEWS NET
In Tigray, prices remain well above pre-conflict levels despite a relative decrease following the peace agreement. The pause of humanitarian assistance in May has likely also contributed to a slight increase in food prices given the effects on increased market demand and decreased market supply. In Mekele, the price of maize in May 2023 was 47 percent lower than in November 2022, when conflict was at its peak in the region. However, the price was 136 percent higher than in the pre-conflict period (October 2020). In June, maize prices rose further by 12.7 percent on average across Tigray.
Staple grain prices in southern and southeastern pastoral areas have continued to increase because of low supply from reduced national production after consecutive droughts. In Gode and Jijiga markets, the price of maize in June was over 45 percent higher than the same time last year (Figure 11).
Livestock market supply and prices: Across much of Ethiopia, the livestock market supply is normal and livestock prices are increasing due to both inflationary pressures and improving livestock body conditions (Figure 12). Anomalies persist, however, in northern Ethiopia and southern and southeastern pastoral areas. In Tigray and Amhara, specifically, livestock trade and market activity have made some steps toward recovery in recent months, but the trade volume of livestock is still significantly below average. Many poor households have limited to no livestock to sell or will become destitute if they sell the last remaining livestock. In June, goat prices in Mekele were more than double the price recorded prior to the start of the conflict. Similarly, livestock prices in Sekota in the Amhara region were around twice the average and 12 percent higher than at the beginning of the year. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, where livestock market supply and body conditions are improving, livestock prices have also risen. For example, in Gode, livestock prices increased by 35 percent in the first six months of 2023 and have doubled compared to the three-year average. A key exception to these trends is observed in previously conflict-affected areas of northwestern Afar, where livestock prices have remained generally stagnant due to the lack of functioning markets and low livestock holdings among the community.
Although livestock prices have increased in most areas of the country, they have not kept pace with food price increases. This continues to drive lower-than-normal terms of trade across many monitored markets. In Gode, in June, the sale of one goat could purchase around 55 kgs of maize, which provides a family of seven only slightly over a week’s worth of food (Figure 13). In Yabello market in Borena Zone, livestock prices similarly improved in the last few months; however, terms of trade remain nearly 50 percent below average. Households in this market with goats to sell in June 2023 can purchase enough maize for a household of seven to last in 20 days.
*Due to the conflict in Tigray, price data collection was disrupted, and the comparison is between June 2023 and June 2020.
Source: FEWS NET
Source: FEWS NET
Agricultural labor: Agricultural labor, associated with the belg harvest and meher planting and weeding in cropping zones, is currently available, as is some agricultural labor associated with livestock keeping in pastoral areas. Nationally, labor demand associated with kiremt rainfall/meher production is at its annual peak, but there are variations in demand at the subnational level. Across most central and western areas, labor demand and opportunities are generally normal. In contrast, labor demand is low in conflict-affected areas and somewhat low in previously drought-affected areas; furthermore, the ability of households to access these labor opportunities remains below normal in conflict-affected areas due to some lingering limitations on population movement, especially in Tigray and eastern Amhara due to insecurity and continued ethnic tensions. Additionally, within Tigray, many middle and better-off households still have limited financial capacity to hire poorer households for labor, which is in turn limiting income among poorer households. While the situation is less restrictive in Amhara than in Tigray, many households are reluctant to move to access income-earning opportunities due to sporadic conflict in the region, causing access to be slightly below normal.
In coffee-producing areas of Sidama, Gedio, and SNNPR, labor demand is generally normal due to ongoing favorable production. However, the supply is high for daily laborers, driving high competition for available coffee labor opportunities.
Overall, households who can access labor opportunities are earning wages that are broadly higher than the three-year average across the country (Figure 14). However, similar to livestock prices, wages are not keeping pace with increases in food prices. As a result, the amount of maize a person is able to purchase with a day’s labor is well below normal (Figure 15).
*Due to the conflict in Tigray, price data collection was disrupted, and the comparison is between June 2023 and June 2020.
Source: FEWS NET
Source: FEWS NET
Non-agricultural labor and self-employment: Income from self-employment, such as petty trade and firewood and charcoal sales, is normal in much of the country but low in drought-affected southern and southeastern pastoral areas and in Tigray.
Firewood and charcoal prices have not significantly changed over the last year; however, demand for these items is far below the supply, resulting in low sales for households. Petty trade in Tigray has made some recovery post-conflict but is still below normal compared to the pre-conflict period. Charcoal production increased due to the engagement of increased number people, but income from charcoal sales remains minimal as many people cannot afford it. In Amhara, both charcoal sales and petty trade are at nearly normal levels. In Afar, income generated from construction, sale of firewood and charcoal, transportation services, and Afdera salt mining has shown some improvement, although it remains below average, particularly in conflict-affected areas.
Remittances and community support: International remittances remain lower than normal, due to high population returns from the Middle East. However, remittances and community support from urban areas within the country are at generally normal areas, supported by a reduction in conflict events compared to the previous two years. In Tigray specifically, remittances have increased as conflict has subsided, but overall amounts are generally low in comparison to overall income needs. In addition, households in Tigray have minimal ability to support one another given that available income is diverted to repaying debts previously incurred. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, community support is above average, as communities continue to help support those who have lost a multitude of assets.
Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) distributions: PSNP resources are typically distributed between January and June for public workers and year-round for permanent direct support PSNP clients, predominantly across much of northern, central, eastern, and southern Ethiopia. PSNP distributions are ongoing in June for many households. The government typically adjusts cash wages of PSNP at the beginning of the year when prices are high and increases the cash disbursement as the PSNP budget allows. Due to the high inflation rate, cash wages increased on average by 18 percent in comparison to 2022. Despite the increases in wages, PSNP cash remains insufficient to cover the full cost of the intended 15 kg ration.
Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian assistance distributions from USAID and WFP were paused in Tigray in May, with the last distribution occurring in the region in late April. Subsequently, assistance distributions were also paused across the rest of the country by early June due to the apparent large-scale diversion of food aid. Prior to the nationwide pause of assistance, humanitarians reached nearly over 4.0 million people between early April and mid-May, and subsequently, 3.0 million people from mid-May to early June across Ethiopia. According to the prioritization committee, in June, the government, JEOP, and WFP, food aid was distributed to around 2.1 million people in the Somali, Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, Sidama, and SNNP regions, following the nationwide suspension of assistance. This represents only about 10 percent of the target. This assistance was in the pipeline and already dispatched for distribution allowing for some small distributions to occur. Overall assistance distributions have been reduced by nearly 50 percent since April. In Tigray, some small faith-based and non-governmental organizations have distributed some assistance, although the assistance distributed in Tigray is minimal compared to the need.
Among those who receive assistance, food aid is likely to mitigate food consumption deficits; however, overall distributions are well below the aid needs in Ethiopia. An immediate of resumption of food aid is needed to save lives and protect further deterioration in livelihoods.
Acute malnutrition: Levels of acute malnutrition remain elevated and concerning as household food consumption gaps remain large in northern and southern areas due to the negative impacts of conflict and drought, alongside disease outbreaks such as cholera. Nationally, available data point to proxy levels of acute malnutrition within the Critical (GAM 15–29.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (GAM ≥ 30 percent) ranges of acute malnutrition in areas of highest concern.
In Tigray, WFP’s February Emergency Food Security Assessment pointed to Critical and Extremely Critical levels of acute malnutrition. Then, in March, a record number of therapeutic feeding program (TFP) admissions were reported in the region, with over 11,000 children diagnosed with acute malnutrition. Since then, there has been a decline in admissions in April and May. The decline in admissions is likely attributed to the assistance delivered in late 2022 and early 2023, as nutrition outcomes are a lagging indicator. Furthermore, with the declines in admissions in April, this does not necessarily mean that proxy levels of acute malnutrition have declined as access to health care shifts based on available resources and TFP admissions have been so high. In the rest of northern Ethiopia, specifically the Amhara and Afar regions, TFP admissions remain elevated. Additionally, alongside the high levels of acute malnutrition, hunger-related mortality has been reported in Tigray. Government and UN agencies are carrying out assessments to further investigate and confirm the number of deaths and verify the cause of death.
From January to April 2023, the SAM admission rate in the Somali Region decreased by nearly 20 percent compared to the same period of 2022 and was over 30 percent higher than the five-year average. According to the Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU), a total of 637,000 children 6 to 59 months of age were screened in the Somali Region from January to May 2023, identifying a proxy GAM rate of 21.6 percent. The findings indicate a proxy level of acute malnutrition at Critical levels, with variation in the exact level from zone to zone. Similar results were found from the May SMART survey in the AFP livelihood zone of the Afder Zone, where GAM levels are estimated at 21.9 percent.
In Oromia, the regional ENCU also reported that in May near 23,500 SAM cases were admitted in TFP sites. The number of SAM cases admitted in May is higher by about 16 percent compared with the previous month. In May, increased TFP admissions were reported from Arsi, West Arsi, East Hararghe, West Haraghe, West Guji, Bale, Guji, and East Bale zones. A more than 25 percent increase in admissions was reported from West Ari, East Hararghe, and West Hararghe.The proxy GAM from monthly MUAC screening results from Borena Zone have declined from January to May 2023, likely associated with the high levels of humanitarian food assistance in the areas. Regardless of the decline, the levels of TFP admissions are over 200 percent higher than the five-year average.
The current cholera outbreak is only exacerbating levels of acute malnutrition of households throughout the country. Despite humanitarian and government efforts, cholera has been rapidly expanding during the first half of 2023 with no signs of containment. Confirmed cases of cholera outbreaks increased by 85 percent in May, from 6,157 to 11,407 cases as of June 20, 2023, with 156 associated deaths reported in 43 woredas, mainly in Oromia, Somali, and SNNP regions. The alarming rise in cholera cases is attributed to insecurity and access constraints in affected areas, compounded by the contamination of water sources along with the continued rains.
Current Food Security Outcomes
The severity of food insecurity and size of the food insecure population in Ethiopia is among the most severe globally. As the primary lean season in Ethiopia begins to peak, food assistance needs are at record levels for the second consecutive year. Those in need of assistance are concentrated in northern, southern, and southeastern areas of the country in conflict and drought-affected areas. Furthermore, The pause of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia has also removed a critical source of food, resulting in more severe food security conditions in areas of highest concern, including in Tigray and the southern and southeastern pastoral areas. As a result, large populations in these areas of the country are experiencing moderate to extreme consumption deficits.
Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread across northern, central, southern, and eastern parts of the country. Outside of northern conflict-affected areas and southern and southeastern drought-affected areas, millions of households have depleted the harvest from the 2022 harvest and are reliant on market purchases for food. Household ability to purchase food is low due to high prices amid low income. Additionally, households are likely expanding their use of livelihood coping strategies such as firewood and charcoal/firewood sales and petty trading. While this income is mitigating large income deficits, it is not sufficient to allow households to purchase their minimum food needs.
In Tigray, where households have not received humanitarian food assistance in over two months, food security conditions remain dire and poor households’ access to food is predominately through extreme levels of coping and community and institutional support. The extreme levels of coping include begging and migrating whole households. The strong community and cultural support network allows those households who no longer have access to food assistance to access some food. As a result, household face large food consumption gaps, which is supported by high levels of acute malnutrition and reported levels of hunger-related mortality. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely widespread with worst-affected households and many displaced households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
In the rest of northern Ethiopia, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread as the prolonged impacts of conflict have severely impacted household ability to engage in typical livelihood activities, notably among those that remain displaced, have limited ability to earn income, and pastoralists with low livestock holdings. Most households are accessing food through PSNP and market purchases. Due to the low levels of income for purchasing market food coupled with high food prices, purchasing power is low. For displaced households and those in areas where food prices are very high, such as in areas of Amhara and Afar that border Tigray, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing. In areas where households have some access to the belg harvest and access to income for food purchases, such as in North and South Wello zones of Amhara, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing.
In southern and southeastern areas of the of the country, food security conditions remain severe as many poor households are experiencing large consumption deficits. Poor households are able to earn some income from atypical livelihood activities like labor migration to Kenya and other areas of Ethiopia and firewood and charcoal sales. Additionally, PSNP and community support is helping to mitigate some of the consumption deficits for households. Households are also likely consuming wild foods. Given the pause of humanitarian assistance, households are likely depleting food received from the last distributions that occurred and are likely facing increasing consumption deficits. Displaced and destitute populations are of the highest concern as they have few assets and access to income-earning activities. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely widespread across drought-affected areas, including Borena Zone of Oromia and much of the Somali region, and a sub-set of the population in these areas most likely face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Source: FEWS NET
The most likely scenario from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- The June to September kiremt/karan/karma season is expected to be below average, with forecasts showing less than 75 percent of average rainfall likely from July to September. There is an increasing risk of drought in northeastern and southern Ethiopia (Figure 16).
*Analog Years used were as follows: 1982, 1987, 1991, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2015
- The October to December 2023 deyr/hageya season in southern/southeastern areas will most likely be well above-average.
- Conflict between Tigrayan and Amhara regional forces are likely, but at very minimal levels with relative calm expected in Tigray. Additionally, tension over control will persist across Southern and Western zones of Tigray.
- In Amhara, localized armed confrontations between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and FANO armed group are likely to persist as the federal government continues to implement its policy of integration of regional security forces. It is expected that fighting between the ENDF and ASF will remain elevated through 2023, concentrated mainly in rural areas of the region.
- Sporadic violence in Afar, Somali Region, and SNNPR is expected without the advent of negotiations between the disputing parties.
- In areas of western and central Oromia, areas along the SNNPR-Oromia border, and across Afar and the Somali Region, localized conflict is expected to lead to temporary household displacement and negative impacts on kiremt crop cultivation.
- The displaced population in Tigray is expected to slightly decline as conflict has subsided and households are able to return to their area of origin.
- With the conflict in Sudan expected to persist, more refugees are expected to arrive in Ethiopia throughout the projection period. As a result, this is likely to result in a moderate increase in the total refugee population in Ethiopia.
- Average belg crop production is anticipated, given the favorable belg rainfall and generally lower levels of conflict in 2023 than in recent years. Moreover, in the agropastoral areas of the south and southeast, average crop production is expected in July/August in agropastoral areas. An average harvest is also expected in flood recession areas of the Somali Region in August.
- Area planted for short-cycle meher crops nationally is likely to be near average. However, planting of short-maturing crops will be disrupted in localized areas, particularly in Tigray, where conflict is likely to persist and a shortage of inputs is reported.
- In western surplus-producing areas, the 2023 meher harvest starting in October is likely to be average. In the eastern half of the country, the 2023 meher harvest is expected to be below average due to the anticipated below-average kiremt rainfall and limited access to agricultural inputs. Nationally the 2023 meher harvest is expected to be below average.
- In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock will most likely have adequate pasture and water availability during the July to September hageya dry season. The anticipated above-average deyr rainfall will further improve pasture and water availability from October to January.
- Water and pasture availability in most northern pastoral areas is likely to improve and reach average levels within a month of the onset of the karan/karma rainy season. Despite the likely below-average karan/karma season, pasture and water are expected to remain available for livestock use due to the favorable early 2023 rainfall.
- In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions are expected to be generally normal throughout the projection period. However, livestock productivity is still below average, although some improvement is expected from October to January. Although milk availability is anticipated, it is expected that a significant proportion of poor households will lack access to milk due to limited low livestock holdings.
- In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions are expected to improve; however, due to below-normal herd sizes, production and productivity will remain below average despite some improvement compared to the previous year.
- Macroeconomic conditions will likely remain poor through at least January. Shortage of hard currency and associated depreciation of the ETB on the official and parallel markets will remain the key drivers for high inflation, increasing staple food prices across the country. As a result, the ETB is expected to depreciate further, causing inflation to rise.
- The flow of food and non-food commodities to the northern conflict-affected areas is likely to improve through January. Sporadic disruptions in market function are anticipated in western Oromia and bordering areas of Afar and Somali Region, where conflict is likely to persist, limiting trade flows due to insecurity.
- High prices and fuel shortages will continue affecting transportation and supply chains, leading to higher food and non-food commodity prices in local markets.
- Market supply will be much lower in localized areas where conflict continues and in eastern deficit markets from July to September. In the rest of the country, market supply will remain normal, following typical seasonal trends.
- Staple food prices are likely to reach their peak in August and September, then slightly decline from October through January due to the anticipated meher harvest; prices will still remain above those from previous years. In belg-producing areas, staple food prices are likely to stabilize in June/July due to the availability of belg production.
- In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to increase as body conditions improve. However, the supply of livestock to the market is expected to remain below average due to the impact of the previous drought on herd sizes. A temporary increase in livestock supply is anticipated during the holiday season from July to September. Most markets in the country should expect a normal supply of livestock.
- In northern pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to increase, while market supply of livestock is expected to remain below normal throughout the scenario period due to the impact of the previous conflict on the reduction of herd size, especially in areas bordering Tigray.
- Migratory labor opportunities are expected to remain limited, particularly for labor-dependent poor and very poor households in Central and Eastern Tigray, despite the decline in conflict in Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar. Unresolved disagreement over administrative issues in Wolkayit and Raya woredas is likely to continue generating conflict that will negatively affect labor movement. This will result in low access to labor income.
- The normal onset of the kiremt rainfall will facilitate land preparation and crop cultivation, creating near normal local labor opportunities and income in meher-dependent areas. During the harvest season of October and November, local labor opportunities are likely to decrease due to the projected below-average production, reducing labor income. In the western half of the country, local labor opportunities are likely to remain normal throughout the scenario period.
- In most parts of the country, income and labor opportunities from self-employment such as petty trade, firewood and charcoal sales, and construction labor in towns are likely to remain average, with the exception of areas affected by drought or conflict, where income earned will be minimal due to high competition for available labor opportunities amid low prices. Economic activities in conflict-affected areas in the north are still in the process of recovering; therefore, income from these sources will remain below average and are even lower in the rest of the country.
- The impact of high global commodity prices on household budgets will most likely limit the value of remittance inflows and cause overall remittances to remain below average. Remittances from urban to rural areas within Ethiopia will likely be similarly affected and will remain lower than normal.
- PSNP transfers are ongoing and will continue through June/July 2023 for Public Work PSNP beneficiaries and throughout the outlook period for those receiving direct support; however, in Tigray PSNP transfers are not likely to occur.
- The timeline for the resumption of USG and WFP assistance to Ethiopia remains uncertain. This scenario assumes it is most likely that the pause of humanitarian food assistance will continue throughout the projection period. Some small levels of assistance are expected from NGOs and the humanitarian community; however, it is not likely to fill the gap of the pause of assistance.
Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
Food security conditions are expected to be among the world’s worst from the rest of 2023 and into 2024 due to the prolonged nature of recovery from the conflict in the north and drought in the south, exacerbated by continued poor economic conditions. Millions of households across the country are expected to face difficulty coping with the aftermath of the shocks that occurred from 2020 to early 2023 as they try to begin to rebuild their livelihoods. Food assistance needs will most likely peak from June to September at record-levels for the second consecutive year. Levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality are expected to remain concerningly high through at least September.
While the acutely food insecure population is expected to markedly decrease once the meher harvest becomes available in October, needs are expected to remain higher than normal for the harvest period due to the lingering impacts of the prolonged drought and conflict that eroded households’ livelihood assets. As millions of households start accessing food from their own production, improving household food access and availability, many areas of the country are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1); however, in areas where livelihoods have been severely eroded and households are expected to face difficultly coping and beginning to rebuild their livelihoods, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist. Food assistance needs are expected to remain high in northern and southern pastoral areas of Ethiopia between October and January.
In Tigray, acute food insecurity is expected to remain severe from June to September amid the pause of humanitarian food assistance. Displaced and very poor populations have few sources of income, and they will increasingly rely on community support, wild foods, and gifts from the transitional government. Large-scale begging and illegal means to earn income is likely, as well as migration of households and household members to urban areas. Levels of acute malnutrition are expected range within the Critical (15-29.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (≥30 percent) levels, and some hunger-related mortality is likely to occur. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with household in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)are currently considered most likely. . However, there is a credible risk of deterioration to worse outcomes if these food and income sources do not materialize as anticipated, notably in August and September just prior to the start of the meher harvest when food and income access is likely to be at its lowest.
Levels of acute food insecurity are expected to improve in Tigray once the meher harvest becomes available in September and October. While the meher harvest is expected to be below-average in Tigray, households are expected to have access to several months of food stocks from the harvest, and this will mitigate the size of food consumption deficits among much of the population. Overall, households are expected to access food from crop production through own cultivation, sharing amongst the community, and – for those who were unable to cultivate but rented out their land for others to cultivate –in-kind payments of food. Additionally, some labor opportunities will allow households to access some income to purchase food. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in much of Tigray from October to January, but a subset of households with no social networks and a lack of harvest stocks are likely to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes. Furthermore, it is anticipated that there will be below-average production, leading to an early depletion of stocks. This, in turn, will result in the onset of the lean season as early as January onwards. Consequently, while this falls outside of the current projection period, it is important to prepare for the likelihood that much of Tigray will experience a resurgence of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in early 2024.
Areas of northern Ethiopia, including areas of Amhara that border Tigray and bordering areas of Afar, are expected to continue to face some prolonged impacts from the conflict. In areas of Amhara, from June to September, households are expected to continue to face significant lack of access to food and income as the lean season progresses. In these areas, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist. The meher harvest in October is expected to lead to some improvement in household access and availability of food from October to January. As a result, most of these areas are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In Afar, the high levels of livestock losses associated with the conflict has resulted in households continuing to have significant difficulty access food and income, and this is expected to persist given the longer time it takes pastoral livelihood systems to recover from losses. While drought conditions are most likely for the June to September season, this is not expected to have significant impacted on households as early 2023 rainfall was favorable supporting pasture and livestock productivity. Displaced households and those with limited livestock holdings remain of highest concern as their financial access to market foods is expected to remain low. Households are expected to primarily earn cash for food purchases from labor, self-employment, and remittances, but at very low levels. This is expected to drive Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the projection period. In southern areas of Afar, where conflict had limited impacts on livelihoods and access to labor and food from own production associated with the harvest in October is expected to increase, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to be widespread.
The pastoral south and southeast are expected to remain of high concern despite the end of drought conditions, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes expected to remain widespread. While livestock body conditions have improved, a large number of households remain displaced and destitute. Households are expected to continue to rely on atypical livelihood strategies to earn income to afford food purchases, such as charcoal/firewood sales, labor migration, and petty trade. Additionally, the better-off and middle wealth groups in the country are expected to provide some support for those who are expected to face extreme difficulty accessing food. In September, goats are expected to give birth and while overall milk availability is expected to be well below normal due to low herd sizes, milk availability is expected to provide some food and income availability for households with livestock.
FEWS NET has particularly high concern for Borena Zone of Oromia and Liban, Afder, Dawa, and parts of Korahe and Shabelle zones of the Somali Region, where the displaced and destitute population is high and could be surpassing the 20 percent threshold. These populations are likely to mitigate extreme consumption deficits by engaging in atypical livelihood strategies like selling firewood and charcoal and engaging in labor migration to earn some income. Additionally, these household are heavily relying on support from those in the community. Households are expected to access some milk and income from livestock sales starting in September. However, low livestock herd sizes following large-scale drought related losses means that the scale of seasonal improvements due to milk production and livestock sales will be relatively low, and many poor households will still face food consumption deficits in line with Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Furthermore, households who are displaced and/or have lost their entire herd are not expected to benefit from seasonal improvements, and it is among the worst-affected within this population that Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely. Overall, a risk for more severe outcomes exists – amid a continued prolonged absence of assistance – if seasonal improvements in livestock conditions were not realized to the degree anticipated. As such, FEWS NET will closely monitor livestock restocking efforts, household access to resources for livestock production, levels of migration to urban areas/towns in search of income, remittance flows, and levels of destitution throughout the projection period.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
|Area||Event||Impact on food security outcomes|
|National||Resumption of humanitarian assistance||Areas that have been significantly impacted by drought and conflict will experience improved access to food, likely mitigating food consumption deficits among beneficiaries. There is the potential for the resumption of humanitarian assistance could drive an improvement in food security outcomes, especially in areas where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are currently expected to occur. However, this is contingent on the area where assistance is distributed, number of people reached by assistance, if assistance is likely reaching those most in need, like the destitute and displaced, timing of assistance delivery, and ration size.|
|Most parts of Amhara, Western and central Oromia, some areas in the SNNPR bordering Oromia and Somali Region, and the border areas between Afar and Somali Region||Escalation of conflict (beyond the level already discussed)||An escalation in conflict in these areas exceeding initial expectations is likely to cause a decline in household engagement in both formal and informal livelihood activities and increase displacement. If the conflict arises during the harvest season, it will have a significant effect on agricultural activities. This could result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the scenario period.|
|Flood-prone areas of the country, particularly in Afar, Somali Region, SNNPR, and Gambella Region||Significantly above-average rainfall in the June to September kiremt season||Flooding would occur in many flood-prone areas of the country, particularly in those along the catchments of major rivers, displacing thousands of people. It would cause damage to assets, property, and agricultural fields, along with an increased incidence of water-borne diseases. This may result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among displaced households.|
Many areas of Tigray are of concern in the aftermath of the 2020-2022 conflict as well as in the south and southeast due to the prolonged drought. FEWS NET has selected two areas to illustrate the impacts of conflict in north and drought in the south.
Eastern Plateau (EPL) Livelihood Zone (Figure 17)
Source: FEWS NET
Rainfall: The March to May 2023 belg/azmera season rains started on time, were well distributed, and were well above average. Satellite-derived rainfall estimates indicate cumulative rainfall totals were over 145 percent of the long-term average.
Cropping conditions: The belg/azmera rains supported timely land preparation for the subsequent planting of meher crops during the kiremt rainy season, which began in June. Despite shortages of oxen, according to the regional government, 75 percent of the first round of plowing has occurred, supported by labor and crop sharing agreements among households.
Livestock conditions: Livestock feed and water are readily available, as the recent rains created favorable conditions. However, the livestock supply in this zone was severely reduced by the conflict between November 2020 and November 2022 in which there was extensive looting, killing, and slaughtering of all types of domestic livestock. The lack of veterinary services resulted in a sizable number of livestock dying due to disease. In addition, households facing severe cash shortages engaged in excessive sales of livestock to buy food for survival. The livestock were sold at a cheaper price as markets were closed for traders. The significant reduction in livestock during the conflict has greatly affected the sale of livestock and livestock products. Chickens were the most extensively looted, and replacing the supply in rural areas is limited as households do not have the financial means to do so. Consequently, income from the production and sale of eggs, which typically provide a significant portion of income in this zone, is low.
Other sources of income: Typical income sources include labor employment, PSNP, and credit, but none of these cash income–generating options are available at present. Construction labor in this zone and other nearby towns is extremely limited, as economic recovery is still in progress and the cost of construction materials has increased dramatically. Agricultural labor involving migration, for example towards Humera, continues to be inaccessible, as traveling to the area is not possible due to insecurity. In the absence of these typical sources of income, households are struggling to search for other income-generating activities such as atypical production and sale of charcoal and firewood. Additionally, remittances from families within the country or abroad (in particular, from family members living in the Middle East) are available to some extent.
Market conditions: In the EPL livelihood zone, supplies from local production are almost non-existent as production in the past meher season was well below normal. Staple foods are currently sourced from Amhara and other regions and transported to Tigray. Following unprecedented increases in staple food prices during the conflict, prices have declined since December 2022, after the peace agreement. In May, prices were the lowest since last year and became comparable to markets in other regions. However, prices remained high compared to before the conflict and long-term average. For instance, when the war broke out in November 2020, the price of maize in Mekele was 14.8 ETB/kg. Prices continuously escalated and reached the record high price of 91 ETB/100 kg in October 2022. After the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in November 2022, supplies began improving and prices started dropping. In June, the maize price in Mekele was 42.8 ETB/kg, which is 24 percent higher than last month, 31 percent lower than last year, and 47 percent higher than the five-year average.
Since January, livestock prices have also sharply increased, largely due to the effects of the peace agreement on the re-opening of market and trade activities. By June, goats were being sold at an average price of 5,880 ETB in Mekelle, whereas the price dropped as low as 2,000 ETB during the crisis. Compared to October 2020 before the conflict broke out, current goat prices are twice as high. However, many households do not have livestock to sell and are unable to access income from this source.
Additionally, egg and chicken sales are typically important income sources. However, while prices of both have substantially increased, availability and supply are extremely low. Given that ownership rates of livestock are very low, the vast majority households are benefitting minimally if at all from increased livestock prices.
PSNP: PSNP across Tigray region has not occurred since the outbreak of conflict in November 2020. WFP has recently conducted capacity assessments of the PSNP program to assess microfinancing institutions, and there are indications that the program is about to start in the near future.
Humanitarian assistance: Communities in the livelihood zone report that the last distribution of food assistance took place in February, and it has been over three months since households received food assistance. However, according to the Prioritization Committee, food was distributed to 138,378 people around Mekele between March and April, including to some of the population in this livelihood zone. The pause of USG assistance began on April 21, 2023, initiated by reported incidents and allegations of large-scale diversion and sale of humanitarian food commodities destined for Tigray and other regions in markets in Mekele and some zones. Currently, leftover stocks from past assistance are minimal to none.
Acute malnutrition: Levels of acute malnutrition rose sharply during the conflict, and available information suggests alarming levels of malnutrition persist despite the end of active conflict due to inadequate food access and poor health services. A record high of 11,246 TFP admissions was reported in Tigray in March 2023. This is higher by over 500 compared with last year at the same time. WFP Emergency Food Security Assessment data collected in February 2023 in the Eastern Zone of the Tigray region identified GAM rates within ‘Critical’ thresholds. In Sewa Saese woreda, results of screening data collected in February and April revealed a rising trend in the proxy GAM rate, which rose from 46 percent in February to 52 percent in April. This is indicative of a deterioration in the nutrition situation after the suspension of food aid distributions.
Current food security outcomes: Based on all available evidence, include discussions with community members, households’ current food stocks and major food sources, including humanitarian food assistance, are extremely limited. The limited amount of food that households have is currently accessed through either market purchases, loans, or support from within the community. Households in this area prefer to consume maize, which is relatively affordable compared to other commodities, but the lack of cash income still renders the price of maize broadly out of reach for the very poor and displaced. Many households face significant food consumption gaps, leading them to engage in multiple food-based coping strategies, including the consumption of cheaper foods, wild leaves, and reduction of meal size and frequencies. Alternative livelihood options are currently limited, and households have exhausted their loan or support options. Begging is increasingly practiced, and atypical production and sale of firewood and charcoal are seen around the livelihood zone. Facing large food consumption gaps compounded by a deterioration in nutrition status, households are currently in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
The national-level assumptions also apply to this Area of Concern.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Poor households’ food access will likely be severely constrained from June to September. Given that stocks from their own harvest have been almost entirely depleted, households will be forced to rely on market purchases for food despite increased market prices and extremely limited cash income derived from charcoal sales, loans and support, and livestock sales for those few households who own livestock. Households are not likely to have access to food assistance through the projection period. As a result, households are likely to face large food consumption gaps, resorting to coping strategies such as increasing their consumption of cactus, reducing meal size and frequency, and purchasing less-preferred food items. Additionally, the poorest households will likely escalate their engagement in begging. Given very limited food access, levels of acute malnutrition are expected to deteriorate further within the Critical to Extremely Critical ranges. At the same time, households will likely increasingly intensify the use of emergency coping strategies. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are most likely. from June to September.
Starting in October, households are expected to obtain some food from their own harvest, although not enough to cover their food needs. The remaining gap is expected to be filled by market purchases. The availability of food from the new harvest and the decline in demand may moderate food prices. However, many typical income sources will continue to be limited, and households’ cash income problems will persist. Although food consumption is expected to improve, households in the livelihood zone are likely to continue experiencing food consumption gaps and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from October to January.
Borana-Guji Cattle Pastoralist (BGP) Livelihood Zone (Figure 18)
Source: FEWS NET
Weather Situation: The BGP livelihood zone is a bimodal rainfall zone, with a long rainy season (genna) from March to May and a short rainy season (hageya) from October to December. The period between June and September is the dry period. The March to May rainfall season was about average, characterized by a timely onset and normal distribution. According to CHRIPS, seasonal rainfall acccumulation is about 120 – 150 percent of normal.
Pasture and water conditions: The genna 2023 rains have improved the availability of water and pasture across the zone, which had been experiencing severe drought over the past five consecutive seasons. Rivers, ponds, and catchments have been replenished, while pasture/browse is regenerating; however, large areas of the grazing lands are occupied by an invasive weed (parthenium), which is creating a shortage in access to feed by grazing animals.
Livestock migration, deaths, and herd size: Due to the recent rains, livestock migration patterns are currently normal within the livelihood zone, with most livestock returning to wet season grazing areas near the homestead. While there are no atypical deaths of livestock occurring at this time, over 53,000 livestock deaths were reported between March and April due to the seasonally cold temperatures, incidents of flooding, and feeding on unripe pasture. According to the zonal DRMO and Emergency Task Force report, 3.3 million livestock deaths have been reported in Borena Zone since late 2021, and the reduction in herd size is estimated at 46 percent, with about 60,000 households having totally lost their livestock. In addition to the deaths, excessive sales and a decline in the breeding cycle have contributed to the reduction in herd sizes.
Livestock body conditions and productivity: Livestock body conditions showed improvement; however, the size of household livestock holdings has dropped, with poorer households owning few to no livestock. Given the favorable genna rains, many of the few breeding shoats that remain have conceived, and a few cattle also recently started conceiving. Births from shoats are expected in September and October, while cattle calving is expected to commence in March and April of next year.
Milk availability and consumption: Cattle is the main livelihood asset that generates the largest amount of household cash income and provides the main source of milk. Currently, however, there is no milk available from cattle because of the massive number of deaths and the lack of new births between October 2021 and January 2023. Goats and camels are currently the only sources of milk for the community, which is very inadequate because of the lower milk yield per goat and the smaller number of camels in the BGP livelihood zone. The price of milk is very high (60 to 75 ETB/liter) and unaffordable; thus, milk consumption by children remains critically below average.
Crop production: The genna 2023 season has been favorable for crop production. According to the zonal agriculture office, 105,279 hectares of land were planned, of which 96,166 ha (91 percent) have been planted. In this production season, over 55,000 households engaged in crop production activities in agropastoral woredas such as Yabello, Dire, Taltale, Elwoye, and Gomole. As of June, the planted crops (maize, teff, and wheat) were in the seed heading/seed seating stages. In some locations of the livelihood zone, crop pests like armyworm and shoot fly have infested maize and teff crops. Although the community received support in the form of crop seeds, fertilizer, and cash for renting tractors from various sources, this support was inadequate and delayed, driving production prospects to below normal levels.
Cash income from labor and other sources: Demand for labor for livestock herding and crop production is gradually recovering relative to the collapse in demand observed during the drought. In June, the average wage rate was around 200 ETB/day. While labor demand has improved in the area, it remains below normal due to the significant reduction in livestock herd sizes.
Charcoal production, firewood collection, and sales of these goods are not typical livelihood activities; however, due to the loss of livestock-related income and accumulation of death during the drought, many poor and very poor households are currently engaged in such activities as their main source of income and coping mechanism. There is excess supply and the demand for firewood and charcoal is atypically low, but the price has remained unchanged compared to last year because of inflation. The average price of a sack of charcoal ranges between 300 and 450 ETB, while a bunch of firewood fetches 80 to 120 ETB.
Household purchasing power: As the peak of the lean season approaches, seasonal declines in food supplies have led to rising staple food prices. The purchasing power of pastoralists in BGP has dropped due to the reduction in livestock prices against the soaring prices of staple food. For instance, the sale of one average-sized goat could only generate enough income to purchase 67 kg of maize in Yabello as of April, reflecting a four percent drop compared to 70 kg in April of last year and a 40 percent drop compared to the April three-year average of 111 kg. The declining goat-to-maize terms of trade are negatively affecting the pastoral community and compromising their purchasing power and access to food.
Displacement: According to the zonal government, nearly 70,000 households or 380,000 people are displaced in Borena and currently sheltering in IDP camps and among the host community. Most of these IDPs are those who have totally lost their livestock because of the drought. Some members of these families have atypically migrated far from their livelihood zone to urban areas and crossed the border of Kenya looking for labor opportunities.
Acute malnutrition: Due to the lingering impact of the previous poor rainy seasons, levels of acute malnutrition are high. The acute malnutrition trend from monthly MUAC screening indicates the prevalence of Proxy GAM in January to April has generally been stable with levels of acute malnutrition between 15 to 19 percent. This suggests proxy levels of acute malnutrition within the Critical threshold.
Current food security outcomes: With cattle holdings largely wiped out by the prolonged drought, households have very limited to no access to food and income from livestock. At the same time, stocks from their own harvest have been depleted.. Household cash income from labor is still below average, although it shows improvement, while staple food prices are increasing rapidly and becoming unaffordable. The last humanitarian food assistance distribution occurred in April, and this was subsequently followed by the official pause of USG food assistance in June. As a result, PSNP is currently the main source of cash available to purchase food among beneficiary households which began in February and occurred monthly through July. Among those who receive As a result, a large number of households are now suffering from significant food consumption gaps and are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are those who are destitute and or displaced with minimal ability to earn income to purchase food.
In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:
- Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to increase during the July/August period, which is the peak harvesting season in agropastoral areas. Given the forecast of an average hageya rainfall, the harvest is expected to be below average.
- With shoat kidding anticipated in September/October and calving likely to occur outside of the projection period, access to milk and the herd size of shoats is expected slightly improve. However, more substantial improvement is not expected until cattle calving occurs in March/April of next year. Furthermore, multiple good rainfall seasons and/or livelihood restocking support will be required for full recovery of livestock herds.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
While livestock body conditions are likely to improve, poor and very poor households have minimal to no holdings; thus, income from livestock sales is likely to remain significantly below average. Given the end of the yearly six-month PSNP transfer payments in June/July and the pause in humanitarian food assistance distribution, households will solely rely on income earned from atypical labor migration and charcoal and firewood sales. Due to inadequate food and income, poor and very poor households in the BGP livelihood zone are likely to continue experiencing significant food consumption gaps and will resort to eating low portion sizes, skipping meals, and foregoing food so children can eat. Overall, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected across the BGP livelihood zone, with a considerable number of people facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) from June to September. There is the possibility for more severe outcomes during the projection period. If displaced and/or destitute households do not experience seasonal improvement in livestock and income-earning possibilities were not realized to the degree anticipated, more severe outcomes are possible.
In agropastoral areas of the BGP, an average gu/genna harvest is expected in July/August. In addition, the average forecast of the hageya 2023 and subsequent harvest is likely to improve access to food from own harvest. With the anticipated seasonal supply of grains, staple food prices are expected to decline from October to January. From September onwards, new births of shoats are expected, which will lead to a slight improvement in goat milk consumption. Furthermore, agricultural labor opportunities are expected to increase as the harvest progresses. With the cumulative effect of the two consecutive good seasons (genna and hageya), the food security situation in the agropastoral part of the livelihood zone will likely show improvement, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected from October to January, with a considerable number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). However, the purely pastoral areas will continue experiencing significant food consumption gaps, and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist from October to January.
Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Ethiopia Food Security Outlook June 2023 - January 2024: Lasting, severe impacts of conflict and drought leave millions struggling to cope, 2023.
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.