Food Security Outlook

Food security Crisis expected to continue despite timely start to deyr season in areas of Somali Region

October 2020 to May 2021

October 2020 - January 2021

February - May 2021

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The start of the meher harvest is improving food access in many crop-dependent areas and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present. In some areas of Afar, SNNPR, Gambella, where flooding and landslides destroyed crops, households are experiencing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes as humanitarian food assistance is improving food access. In southern, eastern, and some northern areas of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. This is due to atypically high reliance on markets as desert locusts and flooding resulted in crop losses. Moreover, households in these areas are expected to have continued below-average purchasing power due to continued high food prices and the weak labor market. ​

  • Generally, continued high inflation, the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the negative impacts of flooding and desert locusts are expected to continue to negatively affect food access from own crops, livestock production, and markets. Therefore, most poor and very poor households in the eastern half of the country will most likely continue facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May 2021. These outcomes are likely to persist beyond the projection period due to the forecast for consecutive below-average rainfall seasons in southern and southeastern pastoral areas.

  • The start of the deyr/hagaya October to December rainfall season was timely in many areas; however, rainfall was at least 10-days late across some areas. In the later part of October, rainfall was established resulting in average to above-average cumulative rainfall across many southern and southeastern pastoral areas. There are some areas with localized deficits, with the largest deficits observed in border areas of Somali/Oromia. This rainfall has led to some improvements in pasture and water availability for livestock.

  • Beginning in June 2020, high levels of desert locust breeding, and hatching occurred in northwestern Afar and bordering areas of Amhara and Tigray. Furthermore, swarms migrated from Yemen and Somalia into northeastern and southeastern areas. Unlike the 2019 meher season, where desert locusts arrived after the harvest was mostly complete, this year, desert locusts are present as meher crops are maturing. This, coupled with the increased scale of the upsurge, has resulted in large-scale crop losses. In pastoral areas, particularly in Dire Dawa, northern Somali and agropastoral areas of eastern Oromia, desert locusts consumed pasture, resulting in pasture losses between September to mid-October.

  • Favorable Kiremt rainfall facilitated crop development; however, heavy rainfall in the latter half of the season resulted in severe flooding in parts of southern Afar, eastern Amhara, eastern and central Oromia, including Dire Dawa, northern and southern Somali, along with Rift Valley areas of SNNPR regions. This resulted in the damage and loss of crops, waterlogging of pasture and cropping areas, livestock deaths, and damaged infrastructure. According to NDRMC, flooding affected about 1.1 million people, and more than 342,000 people were displaced due to flooding.


Current Situation

While the meher harvest has started and is improving food access in most meher­-dependent areas, humanitarian assistance needs remain notably higher for this time of year than in recent years. This is primarily driven by the compounding effects of weather hazards, including desert locusts, poor macroeconomic conditions, COVID-19 related restrictions, and conflict. Moreover, record levels of flooding and the continued desert locust upsurge disrupted the ongoing harvest leading to some crop losses.

Between June and September 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are increased twelvefold. According to the Ministry of Health, as of October 30, over 96,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,400 deaths have been reported. However, the extent of testing remains low compared to the total population, and according to WHO, community transmission is likely ongoing. The highest known extent of the disease is in the Captial City, Addis Ababa, followed by Amhara and Oromia Regions. As the State of Emergency expired, the movement of people is increasing as well as economic activity. However, as many are not following social distancing and other guidance, there is the potential to spread the disease and increase the cases across the country.

Kiremt seasonal rainfall started early and on time in meher-dependent areas across the country. In areas of eastern Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, the early start to the Kiremt season offset some of the deficits from the belg season. For the season, kiremt rainfall was average to above average (Figure 1). Favorable kiremt rainfall has led to largely normal development of crops, and they are in the maturation to harvesting stage. Although land preparation and planting of most Meher crops were on time, the supply of agriculture inputs was limited in some localized areas due to COVID-19 related movement restrictions and access to transportation. The lower access to agricultural inputs and crop losses associated with flooding and desert locusts has resulted in a decline in meher production, with meher production anticipated to be slightly below average. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has estimated crop losses of around 15 percent due to COVID-19 and desert locusts, there are likely further crop losses associated with flooding and the recent uptick in conflict, which is limiting agricultural activities in some areas.

Heavy kiremt rainfall led to an overflow of rivers and dams in Afar, Gambella, SNNP, Oromia, Amhara, and Somali regions. This resulted in flash floods and landslides, resulting in the displacement of people and loss of assets. Waterlogging was also reported in Bale and Arsi Zones of Oromia. According to the NDRMC, flooding in August to mid-September resulted in the displacement of over 300,000 people and affecting over 1 million (Figure 2). Extensive crop and livestock losses have also been reported. According to the NDRMC, as of late September, most houses in Fogera and Demba Woreda around Lake Tana of Amhara, Gambela, and along the Awash river basin of Afar have collapsed and are submerged in water due to flooding. Displaced people are sheltered in tents, schools, and others are sheltered with their relatives. In addition to the displacement, there has been significant damage to infrastructure, food stocks, standing crops, and household assets. In some areas, including Afar, bridges are damaged, access is still a challenge. According to the Regional Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (RDPPC), along the Awash River, flooding destroyed over 41,000 hectares of crops and killed over 21,000 domestic animals. 

Moreover, despite continued control operations, the desert locust upsurge continues, damaging belg and meher crops. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) indicated that control operations are being hindered by the lack of planes for aerial spraying, conflict/insecurity, and resistance by some pastoral communities due to the perception the pesticides will affect livestock. In September and much of October, the desert locust upsurge was mostly confined to the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. In October, swarms have entered Ethiopia from Yemen and Somalia.  With the shift of the winds, desert locusts are starting to move south with moving from Afar south to Somali Region. According to FAO, as of mid-October, desert locusts have been observed in the northern Rift Valley, border areas of Amhara/Tigray highland, the Harar highlands, and in northern Somali Region, where extensive crop damage has been reported in some areas (Figure 3).

According to Amhara's local elders, which currently is among the worst desert locust affected regions, the current locust swarms are the most severe in over 25 years. When compared with the damage to last year, they estimate it as three to four-fold greater. From September to mid-October 2020, swarms of desert locusts damaged over 10,000 hectares of cropland in 17 Woredas in North Shewa, Oromia, South, and North Wollo Zones of Amhara, in 22 Woredas of East and West Hararge zones of Eastern Oromia, Dire Dewa, and Harari regions. Swarms also affected more than 30 hectares of cropland and 725 hectares of pasture and browse in the Afar region.  

Deyr/Hagaya rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas for October has been variable and performed better than previously anticipated in some areas; however, it has been poor in others (Figure 4).  In parts of the Somali Region, early-season rainfall in September, locally called lihkor, was observed and by local elders is considered a warning for poor October to December rainfall. According to CHIRPS rainfall estimates as of October 31, the largest rainfall deficits in October have been observed in some parts of the Somali region bordering the lowlands of Bale Zone, where rainfall was delayed. The favorable rainfall is due primarily to a few precipitation days with high rainfall amounts. Moreover, rainfall was delayed in the lowlands of Oromia, where rainfall is below-average.

While the 2020 gu was average to above average across many southern and southeastern pastoral areas, early cessation of precipitation led to a slight extension of the dry season; however, pasture and water availability are generally average in central pastoral areas (Figure 5). Livestock conditions of all species are typical, with most livestock generally migrating within common migration areas across southern and southeastern pastoral areas. Currently, livestock productivity is normal per animal; however, overall productivity among poor households is below-average as herd sizes remain below-normal following the large-scale livestock losses associated with the 2016/17 drought. However, recent ethnic conflict along the Somali and Oromia border has restricted livestock movements and disrupted access to usual grazing and watering areas in Bale and Guji Zones. In these areas, some atypical deterioration in livestock body conditions has been observed. Livestock holdings are broadly increasing, primarily for larger livestock among wealthier households, as households in most pastoral areas continue to recover from the 2015/16 drought.

Water and pasture availability have substantially improved livestock body conditions and milk availability in northern pastoral areas of southern Afar and Sitti and Fafan Zones of Somali Region following the average karma/karen 2020 season. Although, the desert locust swarms present in Afar in September and October have led to depleted pasture in some areas. No atypical livestock migration has been observed. Moreover, the consecutive years of near-average rainfall have improved livestock conceptions and productivity, although remains below average. This is due to below-average seasons in 2019, which led to livestock losses in northern pastoral areas. In some central and southern areas of Afar, flash flooding in Awash and different dams along the river caused the displacement of large numbers of people and damage to crops, livestock, and rangelands.

According to the Central Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the ETB continues to be devalued month to month. As of October 30, according to the CBE, the official exchange rate was reported at 37.54ETB/USD. This is nearly a 25 percent increase from the same time last year. As of October 30, according to informal exchangers, the ETB is trading between 47.00 to 50.50ETB/USD on the parallel market. According to the Central Statistics Authority (CSA), the annual inflation rate was reported at 18.7 percent in September, down from 20.1 percent in the previous month, the lowest inflation rate reported in 2020. The reduction in inflation is likely due to the introduction of the new cash notes that returned Ethiopian currency in circulation to banks. The inflation rate is related to the widening trade gap between import and export balance and the reduction in foreign currency reserves and liquidity in banks. According to the Ministry of Trade, since the beginning of 2020, hard currency earnings declined, most due to reductions in the tourism and textile sectors. However, some recovery has been reported, especially in the horticulture sector, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Market supplies of staple foods are at seasonally low levels, as this is the typical lean period for meher cropping areas. However, the early season harvest is reaching markets in northern parts of the country in Amhara and Tigray. Below-normal seasonal level market supply has been noted in areas affected by conflict as traders and households have some difficulty accessing markets. Staple food prices are currently stable across much of the country, though atypically high, primarily due to the poor macroeconomic environment. The poor macroeconomic conditions are leading to increased transportation costs and market pressures. According to FEWS NET/ETBC price data for October, teff, wheat, and sorghum prices were 9 to 20 percent above the same time last year and over 50 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 6).

Exports to Somalia for re-exporting camels and goats declined from June to September following the hajj religious festivities. However, cattle exports increased due to the relatively high demand from Egypt and Middle Eastern countries. Compared to the five-year average, camel and goat exports are significantly below average while cattle exports are near average. Livestock prices across much of the country are above average due to the macroeconomic conditions, the consecutive favorable seasons, which has led to good livestock conditions, and households continue to restock their herds from the 2016/17 drought. Despite a slight decline in livestock-to-cereal terms-of-trade (ToT) in Filtu market from June to August, the ToT remains favorable for pastoralists compared to normal. The slight decrease was mostly driven by the increase in maize prices. The ToT remains more than 29 percent above the same time last year and the five-year average.

Agricultural labor accounts for a significant portion of poor households' income in different parts of Ethiopia. However, at present, farmers spend much of their time in areas affected by desert locusts protecting their crops and re-constructing shelters where they have been washed away due to flooding. This leads to a decrease in labor migration to large commercial farms along the 

Awash river in Afar, parts of Wollega, Bale, and Arsi Zones of Oromia, and Western Amhara. This is decreasing the income for those who rely on labor migration for income. Income from non-agricultural labor, while somewhat improving, has yet to return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. This is mostly associated with the decline in the tourism sector, driving decreases in construction and casual labor, and wages, including urban areas. The decline in economic activity in urban areas and towns also led to reductions in petty trading and informal market activities. According to the Fourth Round of a World Bank nationally representative phone-based survey which monitors the COVID-19 impacts on households, 34 percent of surveyed households reported a reduction or total loss of their income since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, over 50 percent of surveyed households who reported receiving remittances from abroad or within Ethiopia prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic indicated a total loss or reduction in this income source.

Conflict and insecurity in the second of 2020 are at atypically high levels. Most of the conflict events are marked by inter-ethnic conflict, political insecurity, and civil unrest. In late-October, according to OCHA, conflict in southern and western Ethiopia led to fatalities and displaced about 6,700 civilians/farmers in Gura Ferda woreda of Bench Sheko zone in SNNPR. Similarly, according to the same source, in Oromia on October 31 in West Wollega Zone, conflict displaced hundreds of farmers and resulted in fatalities, burned houses, and livelihood assets and school. Conflict has also most notably increased in Somali and Oromia Regions as well as in Benishangul Gumuz. There has also been conflict in some areas of Amhara. At the time of publication (early November), there was an uptick of conflict between the Federal Government and the Tigray Regional Government. While the situation continues to unfold, the conflict is likely to disrupt livelihoods among affected households. An update on the current and expected impacts on food security will be provided in FEWS NET's November reporting.

The conflict has resulted in decreased humanitarian access, with some conflict-affected areas being difficult to access. According to UNHCR, in mid-October, there were over 1.8 million IDP, mostly due to conflict alone. Based on estimates by UNCHR and NDRMC, the total IDP population in Ethiopia is over 2.0 million when considering those affected by flooding and conflict. According to UNHCR, over 1.4 million IDP returned to their place of origin. Returned IDP often face difficulty upon return as they have limited assets and difficultly re-engaging in livelihood activities. Moreover, IDP often find themselves facing difficulty accessing food and income to meet their minimum food needs.

According to UNCHR, as of September 2020, Ethiopia hosts almost 792,030 refugees primarily from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea, most of which reside in camps with some moving to urban areas like Addis Ababa. In addition to the IDP and refugees, according to IOM, between early April and early-November, over 37,600 Ethiopians migrated from neighboring countries and the Middle East. Many of these populations typically return to their place of origin in the country to re-engage in their typical livelihoods.

Humanitarian operators including, National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC), World Food Programme (WFP), and Joint Emergency Operation Program (JEOP), are currently distributing Rounds 5 of emergency food assistance for about 7.2 million beneficiaries. IDPs, refugees, and those affected by flooding and desert locusts are being prioritized for assistance distribution. While the Prioritization Committee (PC) is targeting some of these most vulnerable populations, delays in distribution have been reported due to decreased humanitarian access in areas affected by conflict, primarily Guji Zone in Oromia and the flooding-affected areas of Afar, Gambella, and Somali Regions. Also, a pipeline break has been reported, impacting assistance delivery.

As per ENCU, national therapeutic feeding programs (TFP) admissions in May were 4.2 percent higher than average after a large increase. In August 2020, where admissions were 14.3 percent above the same time last year (Figure 7). TFP admissions increased in Tigray, Afar, Oromia, and Somali Regions between July and August, while most other regions reported a decline in TFP admissions. The large increase in Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admissions can be attributed to poor food consumption and the adoption of the global MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) standard of 115mm in May/June as well as some disease. Of concern, a Joint Government and Humanitarian Partners Rapid Nutrition Assessment, in mid-October, following flooding, found among surveyed children in Afar IDP sites, more than 39 percent were categorized in SAM and MAM, which is very concerning.

In most western and central surplus-producing areas, the meher harvest is improving household food access, and most households can meet their food and non-food needs. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present. Although, in localized areas where there is a high concentration of IDPs and refugees, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. Some of these populations rely on some food assistance, though most can earn small amounts of income to purchase food to meet their minimum food needs, but face difficulty meeting their non-food needs.

Despite the multiple favorable seasons and some herd regeneration in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, livestock holdings remain low. Moreover, decreases in remittances and income from labor, coupled with the well-above-average food prices, are constraining food access. As a result, poor households continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In northern areas of the Somali Region, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present as the area received average to above-average karen rain that supported the rejuvenation of water and pasture, which sequentially increased livestock production and productivity and is, in turn, driving improved household access to food and income.

In northern pastoral areas of Afar, most poor households generally have difficulty accessing food. Similarly to other pastoral areas of the country, livestock holdings are below average, and income from labor migration and other sources are constrained due to flooding as well as the decline in economic activity. Due to the below-average household purchasing power is low across much of this region. In northern parts of the region, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present. However, in southern areas, despite significant flooding, households are facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) as humanitarian assistance is improving food access.

In the lowlands of southern Oromia, bordering areas of SNNPR, and parts of the Rift Valley, the meher harvest is yet to be available, and household income is low and access to market foods, limiting access to food. Although humanitarian food assistance is improving food access with most areas facing Stressed! (IPC, Phase 2!). In some areas where access to income is better, and households can purchase enough food for consumption, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present.

In the lowlands of central and eastern Oromia, the lowlands of Waghimra and Tekeze river catchments of Tigray, many poor households rely heavily on the green harvest for food consumption as the meher harvest is starting. While access to own foods is improving, low access to income, especially for those reliant on agriculture, is limiting poor household access to non-food items. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. In conflict-affected areas of East and West Hararghe and isolated areas along the Somali/Oromia border Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing. In these areas, livelihood activities and market activities are disrupted, decreasing food and income access.

Urban poor households' income has been negatively impacted by the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions, inflation, and the decreased demand for casual and construction laborers. This coupled with high food prices, many urban households are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3); however, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) areal-level outcomes are present.


The most likely scenario from October 2020 to May 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Given the nature of COVID-19 and the evolution of cases in the absence of a vaccine, FEWS NET anticipates the pandemic to persist throughout the projection period. Given the recent trends of easing of restrictions and information from the MOH, movement restrictions are likely to be put in place in localized areas as cases significantly increase.
  • Economic conditions are expected to continue to deteriorate through at least the end of 2020 with the expected contraction of the macroeconomy. The government's ability to acquire hard currencies for debt repayment and importation of goods will be constrained. As a result, the ETB is expected to depreciate further while the inflation rate is expected to remain high through at least the end of 2021. The recent change in ETB notes is expected to reduce transactions on the parallel market and is anticipated to slow the depreciation rate of ETB, which is expected to moderate the rate of deterioration in the economy.
  • Based on the current performance, international forecasts, and NMA rainfall estimates, deyr/hagaya, October to December, rainfall is expected to be mixed with below-average to above-average rainfall. In areas where rainfall has been average to above-average, the cumulative rainfall for the season is expected to follow this pattern, driven by a few rainfall days with high rainfall amounts. Rainfall in the second half of the deyr/hagaya season is expected to be below average. Furthermore, based on research from UCSB and USGS, the Gu/Genna, March to May, rainfall is also likely to be below-average over the same areas.
  • Belg/Sugum/Diraac, February to May 2021, rainfall is likely to be below average. Belg 2021 crop planting and performance and livestock body condition and production are likely to be delayed due to the expected below-average rainfall, though access to agriculture inputs is expected to be near-average.
  • Based on the rainfall and wind forecast and desert locust projections by FAO, the desert locust upsurge is most likely to persist through at least mid-2021. Conditions are likely to favor breeding and increasing numbers of swarms in northwestern Afar bordering Amhara and Tigray, Southern Afar, Dire Dewa, and Fafan Zone of the Somali region. Vegetation and climatic conditions are expected to start pushing locust swarms in October to December southward towards the Somali, Rift Valley of SNNP, and Oromia Regions. Some crop and pasture losses are expected in these areas, and in areas where control measures are limited, considerable losses are expected.  In Amhara, Tigray, and Afar, where desert locusts are present, pasture losses are expected to be largely offset by favorable rainfall in other parts of these regions. Control measures are likely to be insufficient to control of the desert locust upsurge due to continued conflict and the country's topography. 
  • Pasture and water availability in southeastern pastoral areas are expected to regenerate somewhat and be available; however, be below average in many areas with localized pasture losses associated with desert locusts. During January to March, the jalal dry period, pasture conditions are expected to deteriorate and become sparse in some areas. The start of the gu, March to May, season though expected to be below average, will most likely lead to some short-term improvements in pasture conditions. Although, pasture will generally remain unfavorable. In northern pastoral areas, pasture and water availability are expected to be average though seasonally decline through the start of the sugum/diraac in March. However, some atypical livestock migration from southeastern pastoral areas to northern pastoral areas and to areas in southern pastoral areas that received favorable rainfall is expected, increasing competition for pasture, where atypical pasture deterioration is expected.
  • Livestock body conditions and productivity in southern and southeastern pastoral areas are expected to be mixed, depending on pasture availability. In Southern parts of Dollo and Korahe Zones as well as southern areas bordering Somali, due to the somewhat more favorable pasture, livestock body conditions are expected to be average. In other areas impacted by atypical pasture losses, livestock body conditions are expected to decline slowly due to below normal pasture availability. In northern pastoral areas, livestock body conditions and productivity will remain near average following the average karma/karen rainfall.
  • Livestock prices are likely to follow seasonal trends at above-average levels due to the underlying macroeconomic conditions in much of the country. Across the Somali Region and lowlands of Oromia, livestock prices are expected to slightly increase with the onset of the deyr; however, with the expected continued deterioration in livestock body conditions across many areas, prices are expected to start deteriorating in early 2021 through at least mid-2021. 
  • In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, household purchasing capacity, the terms of trade (ToT) to purchase staple food with the sale of an average local quality goat is expected to disfavor pastoralists throughout the scenario period as the market value of livestock is anticipated to increase at a lower rate compared to the increase the price of staple food prices in 202, before declining to start 2021. In northern pastoral areas, for households that had livestock wash away due to flooding, limited access to livestock-related income is anticipated.
  • National 2020 Meher production is expected to be slightly below average. Production in high-producing areas of western Ethiopia is likely to be slightly below average, following favorable rainfall performance and limited supply of inputs. Meher production is expected to be below average in some southern, central, and eastern parts of the country, associated with a limited supply of inputs and localized crop losses related to desert locusts and flood-induced damage. 
  • Prices of locally produced stable cereals such as maize, sorghum, wheat barley, and teff are expected to seasonally decline following the meher harvest; however, they remain above average. Staple food prices are expected to remain above average throughout the scenario period.
  • Agricultural labor opportunities and wage rates are likely to be below average due to the continued limited movement of people associated with COVID-19. However, due to the increased need for income by poor households to cover their daily subsistence, laborers are expected to move to urban and agricultural areas to search for labor activity starting from late 2020. 
  • Income from self-employment, including petty trading and street vending, are expected to remain below average through anticipated to improve as economic activity increases. Poor households who rely on labor for income are expected to migrate atypically in search of labor activity from early 2021 and increase their engagement in labor-related activities due to the need for income. Though engagement in economic activity is expected to increase, income from this source will most likely remain below average.
  • The flow quantity and frequency of remittances from Middle Eastern countries are expected to reduce and remain below average through early 2021, mainly due to the high number of returnees from these countries. On the other hand, remittances from other Eastern countries are likely to increase, though they remain below average in this reporting period. This is an especially important income source among pastoral households in parts of Somali and Afar Regions. 
  • Cholera cases are expected to increase, particularly in Somali and southern Oromia and SNNP regions due to the likely below-average deyr and gu rainfall, which affect water availability for drinking and sanitation.  There is the possibility of increased cholera outbreaks in other parts of Oromia, Afar, and Amhara, as of October to February is normally dry with a high likelihood of water shortages and associated with pilgrimage activities. The increased burden of disease will likely force households to divert their limited income and time that would have been used to procure food to seek treatment.
  • Nutrition outcomes are expected to improve with the meher harvest in October/November in most western parts of the country. In southern and southeastern areas, as access to milk and income anticipated to decline, and subsequently food access, will most likely result in a deterioration in nutrition outcomes. Nutrition outcomes are expected to be most severe from February to April 2021.
  • Conflict is expected to increase associated with the upcoming elections and continued ethnic tension, especially among Somali and Oromo communities due to increased competition to rangeland and water in the lowlands of southern pastoral Oromia, Amhara, and Tigray associated with the border and the election, Beshagule Gumeze due to insurgents, SNNPR related to the potential formation of new regions and ethnic tensions, and Afar and Somali due to pasture and water. The escalation in conflict is expected to coincide and disrupt the harvest in meher-dependent areas and plant in belg­-receiving areas.
  • The number of IDP is expected to increase associated with the anticipated increase in conflict. Based on past trends and the relative stability in South Sudan, there is likely to be lower than average refugees moving to Ethiopia from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.
  • Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) transfers will most likely begin in early 2021 and will continue through at least May 2021. However, there will likely be a disruption of distribution due to conflict.
  • Based on historical knowledge and current distribution information, humanitarian actors are likely to distribute 5 Rounds of assistance instead of the planned 7 in 2020. Due to the expected severity of the food security conditions in Somali and southern lowlands of Oromia Regions and given the ability of the government to assist, worst-affected areas will most likely be prioritized for a response, at status quo levels through at least January 2021; however, there are likely to be some delays in assistance delivery.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Generally, the magnitude and severity of acute food insecurity across much of Ethiopia are expected to remain atypically high due to the compounding impacts of a poor macroeconomy, weak labor environment, above-average food prices, conflict, weather shocks, and desert locusts. In Somali Region, poor access to income is expected to continue as remittances remain low as well as income from livestock and milk sales. Moreover, while some isolated areas are expected to have somewhat favorable pasture, the general poor performance of the deyr is expected to decrease livestock productivity. Market food access is expected to continue to be poor as food prices are expected to remain well-above-average due to the poor economic conditions. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist throughout the scenario period. In areas of Jijiga, Siti, Fafan, and parts of Dega Habur Zones that received favorable karen rainfall, sequentially increasing pasture, livestock body conditions, livestock productivity, which is, in turn, driving improvement of household access to food and income. Thus, these areas are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

In some northern pastoral areas of Afar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to continue due to flooding and the desert locust upsurge, which disrupted livelihoods and led to large losses of livelihood assets, including livestock and crops. Areas accessible for humanitarian assistance are expected to be in Stressed! (IPC Phase2!) in the first half of the scenario period. Many households are likely to engage in recession cultivation; however, households are likely to replant long-cycle crops, which will not be available until mid-2020. As a result, many households are expected to continue to be market reliant with below-average purchasing power. In early 2021, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge as households are expected to have difficulty meeting their food needs due to the loss of livestock and crops coupled with atypically high food prices.

In the lowlands of southern Oromia, IDP, a majority of whom live along the Somali and Oromia border, and poor households with limited assets and income, and high food prices are expected to continue limiting access to food and non-food items among these population. As a result, these areas are expected to continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Some central areas that received average rains during the first season and with fewer IDP are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Own harvest from both belg and meher seasons will help to improve household food access between October 2020 to January 2021 in most parts of SNNPR. Following the ease of COVID-19 related movement restrictions, poor households will start to move from place to place to search for labor activities and improve agricultural labor income.  The stable food prices during harvesting time will also ease the stress for market-dependent households. As a result, most areas of SNNPR are likely to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase1) or in Stressed (IPC Phase2). However, as the lean season begins, most households will exhaust own produced food, and income from labor is expected to decline. The anticipated rise in staple food prices is expected to hinder the purchasing capacity of poorer households. However, some households are likely to benefit from PSNP; the remaining will face significant income and food shortage. Flood-affected households in South Omo and in some of the surrounding areas are expected to face significant food consumption gaps due to below-average milk production and income from livestock coupled with continued high food prices. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge. However, in western parts of the country where the food supply is expected to be normal during the entire projection period, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to persist.

Areas of eastern Amhara and Tigray and areas along the Tekeze catchment and Wag Himera Zone are expected to have a moderate food consumption gap from October 2020 to January 2021 following the anticipated below-average meher production. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected during this period. As the lean season begins in early 2021, in some areas households are expected to exhaust food from their own production and will most likely experience a decline in labor income. As a result, some households are expected to have difficulty meeting their non-food needs. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to be present in this period.

In major areas of western and central surplus-producing areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to continue, except in some localized areas where high concentrations of IDP and refugees are located, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue. This is due to high staple food prices that are expected to limit the household's ability to purchase sufficient food. As some IDP are expected to return to their place of origin, they are likely to start re-engaging in their normal livelihood activities and are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

Generally, most urban areas are expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Although some poor urban households are expected to have some difficulty meeting their food and non-food needs as they have limited incomes due to the poor macroeconomic conditions and weak labor environment as well as high stable food prices. Some of the worst-affected households, with little to no savings and typically live hand to mouth, are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Other households are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as they have slightly better access to incomes.


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


Widespread civil unrest 

Livelihood activities will be disturbed, and large populations will be displaced and killed, household assets will be damaged or lost, and movement will be restricted, affecting humanitarian support and market activities, resulting in limited access to food and income. This will increase the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

Southern and Southeastern pastoral/agropastoral areas

March to May 2021 rainfall is average to above average

Areas would experience good rainy seasons in succession. This would significantly enhance food security by improving access to milk and milk products; livestock would sell at better prices, thus improving household food and income.


Widespread and severe COVID-19 outbreak both in rural and urban areas

The movement will be restricted coupled with the loss of household income from agricultural activities, the market will be affected, and a larger local and national cereal deficit and an associated rise in staple food prices, and high health-related expense, export and export activities will be disturbed, and this could result in macro-economic instability. All these issues will change the most-likely scenario in this report



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.

About Scenario Development

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.


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics