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Humanitarian aid is preventing more extreme food insecurity across southern and southeastern Ethiopia

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Humanitarian aid is preventing more extreme food insecurity across southern and southeastern Ethiopia

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  • Key Messages
  • In the absence of humanitarian aid, deterioration beyond Emergency (IPC Phase 4) could occur in S/SE Ethiopia
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Widespread and severe levels of acute food security are expected across much of Ethiopia through at least mid-2023, as the ongoing drought and conflict restrict food and income access for millions of households. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in northern, central, southern, and southeastern Ethiopia through at least May 2023, even with ongoing assistance. High levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality are expected. A significant scale-up and sustained multisectoral assistance (food, nutrition, WASH) is urgently needed to save lives.  

    • The current drought, which is unprecedented on the available historical record, is expected to persist through at least mid-2023 across southern and southeastern (S/SE) pastoral areas of Ethiopia. Ongoing humanitarian assistance is mitigating more extreme food consumption deficits and destitution, resulting in Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!). Even with ongoing and planned food assistance, households are expected to face immense difficulty accessing food and income in Borena, Dawa, Liban, Afder, and neighboring areas of Shabelle zones due to limited herd sizes and minimal livestock productivity. Food aid distributions are likely to continue in these areas as humanitarians prioritize drought-affected locations; however, in the absence of aid, worse outcomes than Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be expected. 

    • In the rest of the S/SE pastoral areas of Ethiopia, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely through at least May 2023. While the drought has negatively affected poor households’ ability to access food and income, the scale of livestock deaths is not as severe as in the far southern areas. Furthermore, access to alternative income-earning activities, including charcoal and firewood sales and petty trading, are more readily available in these areas.  

    • In Tigray, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist through at least mid-2023. While the reduction in conflict will likely allow for some improvements in market and economic activity in the region, poor households are expected to continue facing extreme difficulty accessing food and income given the severe erosion of livelihood systems. Humanitarian assistance will likely mitigate the size of food consumption deficits among recipient households, but assistance will likely be outpaced by the scale and severity of food assistance needs. As a result, levels of assistance are unlikely to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. 

    •  Belg-receiving areas – which include much of SNNP, central and eastern Oromia, eastern Amhara, and southern Tigray regions – had a significantly below-average 2022 belg harvest. In most of these areas, households were able to partially compensate for belg shortfalls by planting short-maturing meher crops, which will likely mitigate the scale of food security deterioration. In southern SNNP and central and eastern Oromia, however, short-cycle meher crops were also below average. As a result, most households in the affected areas of SNNP and Oromia regions are likely to exhaust their food from their production atypically early and become market reliant in early 2023, leading to more widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in these two areas. 

    In the absence of humanitarian aid, deterioration beyond Emergency (IPC Phase 4) could occur in S/SE Ethiopia

    Widespread and severe acute food insecurity is expected across Ethiopia through at least mid-2023, and a higher number of people are in need of assistance compared to the same time last year. Southern and southeastern (S/SE) Ethiopia are of extreme concern, as a record-breaking drought is forecast to continue in this area through at least mid-2023. Some of the most severe drought conditions are observed in Borena Zone in Oromia Region and Dawa, Liban, Afder, and parts of Shabelle zones in the Somali Region. In these areas, Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are expected across the projection period, signifying that worse outcomes would be likely in the absence of current and anticipated humanitarian food assistance.

    S/SE Ethiopia, like the wider eastern Horn of Africa, is in the midst of a historic drought that has spanned more consecutive seasons than has previously been witnessed on the 41-year record. The drought has devastated local livelihoods in these areas, as most households are pastoral and rely on livestock as their primary source of food and income. Given a persistent lack of water and sufficient food for livestock, regional governments estimate 4.5 million livestock have died since October 2021. In addition to the outright loss of livestock, poor body conditions make many livestock unsalable – drastically diminishing poor households’ primary income source to purchase staple grains – and result in minimal to no milk production. Instead, many poor households are accessing income through atypical means, such as firewood/charcoal, loans, and petty trading; however, the availability of these options is insufficient to sustain the population in the absence of livestock-related income.

    While humanitarian assistance is preventing more extreme deterioration in food security conditions, the scale of assistance has not prevented high levels of hunger and associated high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality. Between April and mid-October 2022, humanitarians distributed three rounds of food assistance reaching approximately 2.5 million people per round in the Somali Region. Each round provided, on average, over 45 percent of beneficiaries’ minimum kilocalorie needs for 60 days. In Borena Zone of Oromia, the government had distributed only one round of assistance through late September, reaching nearly 350,000 people with a ration size expected to meet about 30 percent of their kilocalorie needs for one month. In October, JEOP took over food assistance distributions in Borena Zone, increasing the targeted beneficiaries and ration size. Humanitarians are expected to continue food assistance at a minimum at current levels in S/SE pastoral areas of the country through the prioritization committee and ongoing funding levels.

    Although humanitarian food assistance is playing a vital role, food insecurity remains dire. Proxy GAM rates based on data collected between June and October show that levels of acute malnutrition are within the ‘Critical’ and ‘Extremely Critical’ thresholds in S/SE pastoral areas. Additionally, observations from field visits pointed to households selling their last breeding animal, begging, and providing tea with sugar to children as a meal. Widespread hunger-related displacement is also ongoing.

    It is FEWS NET’s assessment that humanitarian food assistance is playing a vital role in mitigating food consumption deficits and destitution. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are widespread in most pastoral areas of the region, and – based on a likely continuation of humanitarian food assistance – FEWS NET expects Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes to persist. However, in the absence of multi-sectoral assistance, or should access constraints prevent the delivery to populations in need, a rapid acceleration of death and destitution would be likely. It is imperative to recognize that even at current levels of acute food insecurity, hunger-related death is ongoing. 


    Current Situation

    Concern remains high for acute food insecurity in many areas of Ethiopia due to the historic drought in southern and southeastern areas and high levels of conflict. These primary drivers, coupled with poor macroeconomic conditions and below-average meher and belg harvests, are together driving high humanitarian food assistance needs. Millions of households continue to face moderate to large food consumption deficits during the ongoing lean season.

    Rainfall: The June to September kiremt season was generally favorable across much of the country; however, in southern, central, and eastern kiremt-receiving areas, rainfall was delayed and below average, notably in the Rift Valley (Figure 2). Heavy rainfall in August in western Ethiopia and highland areas near southern Afar resulted in atypical flooding that resulted in crop losses and displacement. Conversely, the season performed relatively well in northern pastoral areas, including Afar and northern Somali, where above-average June to September karan/karma rainfall was received.

    Given the prolonged drought, most S/SE pastoral areas were atypically dry through September. The October start of 2022 deyr/hagaya rainy season in most S/SE areas was late, and while localized areas of Korahe, Nogob, and Jarar zones received a timely start of rains, the total cumulative amount received in October was well below average across regions (Figure 3).

    Conflict: Nationally, the occurrence of conflict in Ethiopia remains high, leading to the displacement of populations and disruption of market and livelihood activities (Figure 4). Prior to the peace negotiations between the Tigrayan Forces and Ethiopian government, conflict in northern Ethiopia was at high levels in October. This coincided with the harvesting period and caused disruption to typical harvesting activities, though these disruptions were predominately concentrated along major roads as Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) and Ethiopian National Defence Foreces (ENDF) troops advanced. The conflict also led to further interruptions to market activity in larger towns. In October, Tigrayan Forces left controlled areas of Amhara, specifically Wag Hamra and North Wello Zones, allowing displaced households to begin returning to their area of origin and slowly resuming livelihood activities.  

    When the Peace Agreement was signed, conflict declined, with only sporadic events reported after. Additional peace negotiations were organized in Kenya, with a focus on the development of a detailed disarmament process for TPLF forces, reintegration into the Ethiopian defense force, the establishment of an interim administration, and a resumption of humanitarian access. Overall, while the Peace agreement is allowing for increased humanitarian assistance and the re-establishment of basic services, recovery of severely eroded livelihoods in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara will not occur quickly.

    In Siti and Liban Zones, conflict between ethnic groups in October has driven market disruption and the displacement of thousands, according to the regional government. Conflict in August 2022 in Guradamole of Liban zone between Oromo and Somali ethnic groups did the same. Conflict in western Oromia; Guji, West Guji of southern Oromia; and South Omo, Derashe, and Konso special woredas of SNNP was high in October after a brief lull in September. In areas worst affected by the conflict, trade movement and humanitarian access are limited. In late October, OCHA noted concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in West Wellega, East Wellega, and  Guji Zones of Oromia Region.

    Displacement: Based on the most recent data collected in June and July from IOM, over 2.7 million people are displaced nationally, excluding those displaced in and from Tigray, as the true level of displacement is unknown. Due to operational constraints in Tigray, displacement data has not been collected in 2022. Conflict and drought are the primary drivers of displacement, with the highest levels (excluding Tigray) within the Somali, Amhara, and Oromia regions. Since this assessment, continued drought conditions and high levels of conflict, including recurrent conflict in Oromia, have likely caused further displacement.

    Displacement is occurring across large areas of S/SE pastoral Ethiopia as many people are searching for assistance. In the Somali region, the regional government estimated that over 1.0 million people are displaced in 509 sites due to drought as of September 2022. Displacement is also ongoing in pastoral areas of Oromia. In Borena Zone of Oromia, an estimated 372,000 people (approximately 30 percent of the population) were displaced between March and September of 2022. A FEWS NET field assessment in late September to Borena Zone of Oromia observed an informal IDP settlement in Dubluke woreda where many households had lost their livestock and moved in search of assistance. The woreda government officials in Borena zone are also insisting that the IDPs should return to their homes; however, the number of IDPs only continues to increase.

    According to UNHCR, over 878,000 refugees are hosted in Ethiopia as of late October, with the largest concentrations in Gambella, Somali, Benishangul Gumuz, and Addis Ababa. The majority of refugees are from South Sudan and Somalia. Refugees mainly reside in camps and engage in some crop production but predominantly rely on humanitarian assistance.

    Crop production: 2022 belg production was below average nationally due to the compounding impacts of poor rainfall, conflict, and poor macroeconomic conditions. The belg harvest began a month later than usual and ended in September, leading to a poor-to-failed harvest in much of Amhara, southern SNNP, and central and eastern Oromia. Additionally, available information suggests the belg harvest in Tigray was likely poor due to the impacts of conflict.

    Prospects for national meher production are also lower than normal, even though favorable rainfall has average to above-average meher harvest prospects in western Ethiopia. Overall, the planting of long-cycle crops from February to May was below average due to losses incurred during the failed belg season. Households then shifted to planting short-cycle meher crops with the start of kiremt rainfall, but these crops are lower yielding. Additionally, conflict drove down the level of planting activities in Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia. 

    Furthermore, poor rainfall in eastern meher-producing areas had negative impacts on some crops. In areas of SNNPR, where root and cash crop production are important, moisture stress from poor rainfall in 2022 negatively impacted coffee, enset, and root crops like sweet potato, cassava, and yam. In areas of the Rift Valley, crop development was stunted by below-average rainfall and the resultant moisture stress had negative impacts on crop development, specifically in the lowland areas of East and West Hararge. Lastly, the high cost of agricultural inputs and a general reduction in access to inputs negatively impacted poor households’ capacity to plant.

    In Tigray, rainfall was conducive for planted crops, allowing for favorable crop development. According to a partner field assessment, planting of belg and meher crops in 2022 was slightly below that of 2021. Additionally, lower yields are expected due to the atypically low use of fertilizers on planted crops. Households likely used some seeds from humanitarian organizations but primarily resorted to whatever seeds were available. While information continues to be limited on conditions in Tigray, growing crops and harvest activities were disrupted in areas near major roadways and towns where conflict erupted between August and late October. In the conflict-affected areas of Amhara region – particularly in Wag Hamra and North Wello zones – crop cultivation was also disrupted, which further impacted overall meher seasonal crop production.

    In cropping areas of S/SE pastoral areas, the extremely poor start to the deyr/hageya season, dry soils, and limited seed availability is resulting in minimal land preparation and planting activities.

    Pasture and water availability: Prior to the start of the October to December deyr/hageya season in many S/SE pastoral areas, field observations and remote sensing imagery showed pasture to be largely unavailable for livestock consumption. Since then, the few days of rain in October have allowed for some improvement in pasture conditions in the region, despite the overall poor start of the season. Still, pasture availability still remains minimal as soil moisture is extremely low for pasture regeneration. Pasture availability is slightly better in the eastern parts of the region, including in Dollo, Korahe, Jara, Nogob, and Erer zones. In these areas, shoats and camels are currently browsing on the greenery available on bushes and thorny acacia trees.

    Water is also in short supply across much of the S/SE pastoral areas, with water for livestock consumption minimally available from rivers and deep wells. Available information suggests people are accessing water from unprotected sources for household use, often walking long distances. The government and humanitarian organizations are providing water rationing to mitigate the water shortage; however, it is inadequate to meet all human and livestock needs.

    Meanwhile, the availability of pasture and water is average in most kiremt-receiving areas of Oromia, Sidama, SNNP, Amhara, and Tigray, though localized areas are reporting pasture shortages due to drought in the Rift Valley and central Oromia. Finally, in northern pastoral areas, pasture conditions improved following the karma/karan rainfall but are still below average in many areas. In areas affected by flooding, specifically Asayita, Dubti, and Afambo woredas in Zone 1, pasture is generally not available as water has covered these areas. However, water is generally available for livestock and human consumption.

    Livestock migration: In S/SE pastoral areas, pastoralists are migrating their livestock to the extent they are physically able to do so; however, there is little to no pasture to be found. Cattle owners are finding it exceedingly difficult to migrate their cattle due to their poor body conditions, and migration opportunities for camels are increasingly more and more scarce as well. Livestock migration options are slightly better in the far eastern Somali Region but these options decline moving toward the east. In northern pastoral areas, no atypical livestock migration has been reported in October.

    Livestock conditions and productivity: Livestock conditions are extremely poor across species in most S/SE pastoral areas (Figure 6). Currently, cattle are extremely emaciated and unable to walk long distances, while camels are in poor condition and with very small or no humps, which is indicative of poor nutrition and health. Sheep and goats are in somewhat better condition than camels and cattle but are still in poor condition. Livestock reproduction is minimal, with few conceptions occuring across all species since 2020, which has led to limited to no milk availability. In September, during a focus group discussion in Borena Zone of Oromia Region, households reported that daily milk yields among producing livestock are less than 0.5 liters per camel and less than 0.1 liters per goat, which is about 80 to 85 percent below the average amount at this time of year.

    Furthermore, large numbers of livestock, including breeding animals, have died since October 2021. As of September 2022,  regional governments estimate 4.5 million livestock have died due to drought (Figure 7). Livestock deaths have contributed to minimal births and motivated households to engage in excessive sales, including the sale of their last female livestock. According to regional and zonal governments, a rising number of households are reporting the complete loss of their full herd, especially in the worst drought-affected areas of Borena Zone in Oromia and Afder, Liben, and Dawa zones in Somali Region. This significantly affects food security as livestock is the most common, if not sole, source of income in S/SE pastoral areas.

    In northern areas – including Tigray, Amhara, and Afar –  livestock body conditions are near normal due to improving pasture and water availability with no atypical livestock migration being reported. However, livestock conceptions and births were low in early 2022 associated with the previous year’s drought. As a result, milk availability per animal is lower than normal. Furthermore, livestock holdings are still lower than normal across most northern pastoral areas due to livestock losses associated with past conflict and drought.

    In the remaining parts of the country, including much of Tigray and Amhara, livestock body conditions are generally favorable due to average to above average kiremt rainfall. Although, in Tigray and northern areas of Amhara, livestock herds are minimal as livestock losses were incurred during the two-year conflict.

    Macroeconomic conditions: Macroeconomic conditions remain poor, marked by high inflation and currency depreciation. The economy has been significantly affected by high global fuel and food prices associated with the war in Ukraine, low export revenue, limited availability of hard currency, and high government expenditures. Low production and export of crops (sesame and coffee) and textiles are contributing to lower government revenue. Low textile exports are due to declining demand associated with the removal of Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act. According to the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), annual inflation in October reached 31.7 percent, which is a slight increase from the 30.7 percent inflation rate recorded in September and reverses a steady decline observed since May, when inflation peaked at 37.7 percent (Figure 8). Food inflation is a large component of total headline inflation, driven by products such as imported wheat and cooking oil.

    In October, the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) was trading around 52.74 ETB/USD on the official market, according to the National Bank of Ethiopia, about 13 percent higher than the same time last year. While the ETB continues to depreciate, the rate of depreciation has declined in 2022. In 2021, the ETB depreciated on the official market by two percent on average monthly; in contrast, the ETB depreciated by less than one percentage point between April and October 2022 due to government policies put in place to slow the depreciation of the currency. Meanwhile, anecdotal information indicates that the value of the ETB on the parallel market was over 90 ETB/USD in October, which is over 70 percent higher than the official rate. The higher exchange rate on the parallel market is further aggravating hard currency shortages.   

    High fuel prices in 2022 continue to contribute to high transportation costs. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the government is slowly phasing out government subsidies on fuel. This trend, alongside high global fuel prices, is driving high domestic fuel prices. In Addis Ababa, fuel prices increased from 49 ETB/liter in August and September to nearly 60 ETB/liter in October, representing an increase of over 20 percent (Figure 9). Diesel prices are higher in areas outside of the capital. In Warder of the Somali Region, a liter of diesel in early October was about 95 ETB, 58 percent higher than the price in Addis Ababa. In conflict-affected areas of the country, fuel prices are likely much higher than on the official market due to trade disruptions and illegal trade activities.

    Market functioning and trade flows: Market food supplies are below average across the country due to below average domestic production, the meher harvest just starting in October, lower than normal food imports, and conflict disrupting trade flows. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, the supply of staple food is significantly affected by below-average national production as well as the low volume of food imports. In addition to the impact of conflict and the seasonally low supply of grain to markets in northern conflict-affected areas of the country, high transportation costs and inflation contribute to increasing staple food prices.

    While the flow of goods within the country and market activity is generally normal, conflict continues to periodically disrupt the movement of goods, particularly in northern Ethiopia despite the Peace Agreement. Furthermore, the movement of goods from western surplus-producing areas to central and eastern deficit-producing markets is seasonally low.

    Staple food prices: Nationally, staple food prices remain well above average and higher than last year. Prices of staple foods are also relatively higher in conflict- and drought-affected areas of the country. October maize prices in Addis Ababa are over 20 percent higher than the same time last year and 135 percent higher than in 2020. Similar increases relative to 2021 and 2020 were observed for maize prices in Yabello, Gode, and Sekota markets (Figure 11).  

    In Tigray and bordering areas of Amhara and Afar, food prices were at record-levels due to conflict through September/October. There are anecdotal reports that since the signing of the Peace Agreement, food prices have somewhat declined in anticipation of improved trade. According to WFP, the prices of maize, sorghum, and teff in September were over 30 percent higher than in July. In Sekota in Wag Hamra Zone of Amhara Region, maize prices in October were stable from the preceding month but were about 25 percent higher than last year and 120 percent above the two-year average.

    Livestock prices: In most central and western parts of the country, the livestock market supply is normal and prices are following seasonal trends. However, in conflict-affected northern areas and drought-affected S/SE pastoral areas, the supply of livestock on the market is high relative to the effective demand. Despite the high supply of livestock in these areas, broader poor macroeconomic conditions (and persistent inflation) are driving high livestock prices. In Sekota market of Amhara, goat prices are 20 percent higher than last year and around 185 percent higher than the two-year average. The high prices are not benefitting households in the drought-affected S/SE, however. The poor condition of livestock and low demand from traders is resulting in few sales despite households’ efforts to sell large numbers of livestock to earn cash. During FEWS NET’s field assessment to Borena Zone of Oromia, some households reportedly left their livestock at the market because they were unsalable. Furthermore, despite the inflationary pressure observed elsewhere in Ethiopia, goat prices in Gode and Yabello markets are nearly 20 percent lower than the same time last year (Figure 12).

    Terms-of-trade (ToT), which is a marker of household purchasing power, are below normal nationally, with the most stark declines observed in drought-affected S/SE areas. In Gode and Yabello markets, the ToT in October were around 40 percent lower than the same time last year and over 65 percent lower than October 2020 (Figure 13). In these markets, one goat can purchase around 35-65 kilograms of maize. If a household of seven were to consume only maize, the sale of one goat could purchase sufficient maize for about eight days in Gode and fifteen days in Yabello. This assumes, though, that the household still owns salable livestock. According to price data available from the regional government, the ToT in Gode are around 12 percent lower than the same time in 2017 and similar to that in 2011, when the last significant droughts occurred in S/SE Ethiopia.

    Agricultural and non-agricultural casual labor income: Agricultural labor demand and opportunities in most central and western parts of the country remain near normal. However, movement for labor activities from Tigray to Humera and to areas of Amhara continue to be blocked. Construction labor opportunities in most urban areas also remain lower than usual due to poor macroeconomic continues, high material costs, and security concerns in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, and Oromia regions. According to WFP data from September, in Tigray, wage rates for unskilled casual labor were similar to that of 2019 but significantly below that of 2020. For households who can access unskilled casual labor, the amount of staple cereal they can purchase with a day’s wage has significantly declined since late 2020. In Afar, income from construction and agricultural labor, sale of firewood and charcoal, and transportation services have shown some improvement in central and southern parts of the region but still remain far below average, particularly in the conflict-affected Zones 2 and 4.

    Similarly, for labor-dependent poor households in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, belg crop production failure in adjacent midland, highland, and riverine areas along the Shebelle River significantly diminished seasonal agricultural employment opportunities and overall income. Agricultural labor opportunities also dropped significantly in most crop-dependent areas of SNNPR, Oromia, Sidama, and Amhara regions due to the poor performance of the belg and/or meher seasons.  

    Income from self-employment activities: Income from self-employment, such as petty trading and sales of firewood and charcoal, also remains lower than average in many parts of the country, namely conflict- and drought-affected areas, due to the above-normal number of households that are engaged in these activities as a coping mechanism, resulting in over-supply. As a result, many poor households are earning lower income from these activities overall. Similarly, self-employment remains limited across Tigray and adjacent areas of Amhara and Afar due to the impact of recent conflict on economic activities in the region. In the rest of the country where conflict is not ongoing, income from self-employment activities remains normal.

    Remittances: Gifts and remittances that household access via their social networks remain low in many areas of the country, particularly in conflict- and drought-affected areas where assets have been eroded among many middle and better-off households, who would typically give gifts and remittances. Remittances from urban areas to rural areas also remain lower than normal as the cost of living increases. Additionally, remittances from abroad are below average due to the new government's guidance in controlling the transfer of hard currency into the country, which is discouraging the diaspora from sending remittances to Ethiopia. Finally, informal remittances are entering the Tigray region and allowing some cash income for those in northern conflict-affected areas.   

    Humanitarian assistance: As of mid-October, the distribution of rounds two and three of humanitarian assistance by WFP, JEOP, and the government are ongoing across most of the country. Humanitarian aid is being prioritized to the areas that are worst affected by drought and conflict. Over 20 million people are targeted for humanitarian food aid in each round; however, only 7 million people have been reached in round two and, as of mid-October, 6 million people were reached in round three. Each round of assistance is meant to be distributed to beneficiaries every six weeks; however, the timing between distributions across much of the country is closer to every two months or longer, leading households to stretch their rations.

    In October, humanitarians distributed 17,000 metric tons of food assistance in Tigray through rounds 1 and 2, reaching about 1.5 million people. The assistance was predominantly distributed in Northwest Zone and Mekele. The number of people reached with assistance in October declined relative to September when about 3.2 million people were reached with about 53,000 metric tons of food. About 30 percent of those reached in October only received wheat instead of the full three-commodity basket.

    In S/SE pastoral Ethiopia, assistance delivery is ongoing and humanitarians are targeting the areas and people who have been worst affected by the drought. WFP is targeting about 2.4 million people per round in the Somali Region, which is about 40 percent of the region’s population. In late October, rounds 3 and 4 of assistance delivery were ongoing. From late August to mid-October, over 2.4 million people in the Somali region received over 35,000 metric tons of food. Available information from field assessments and other data suggest that poor households are heavily reliant on food assistance as their food source. Coverage of food assistance across rounds is over 25 percent across most woredas in the Somali Region. Each beneficiary is receiving about 45 percent of their kilocalorie needs for 60 days in each round of distribution. A typical ration is meant to cover roughly 60 percent of a beneficiaries kilocalorie needs every six months. In Borena Zone of Oromia, the government distributed assistance in late August to mid-September, reaching nearly 350,000 people with slightly over 45 percent of their food needs for sixty days. In October, assistance distributions were scaled up to reach over 600,000 people. As of October, targeting was ongoing for distributions starting in November.

    Malnutrition: Conflict, drought, and flooding, coupled with disease outbreaks, are driving high and increasing levels of acute malnutrition in Ethiopia. Available data on proxy levels of acute malnutrition point to Critical (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) and Extremely Critical (GAM WHZ ≥30 percent) levels. National Therapeutic Feeding Program (TFP) admissions in July, the most recent month available, were nearly 40 percent higher than the same time in 2021 and around 75 percent higher than average. The highest admissions were in Somali and Oromia regions (Figure 14). Data from Tigray are not included in TFP admission data due to the limited access for both service delivery and data collection; however, anecdotal information indicates that levels of acute malnutrition are very high and of great concern. Similarly, find-and-treat campaigns conducted in March and October in the predominantly pastoral areas of Oromia region found proxy GAM rates within the Critical and Extremely Critical thresholds. Finally, in August, a find-and-treat campaign in Tselemti and Mai Tsebri woredas of Tigray found a proxy GAM rate of 29 percent, indicative of Critical levels of acute malnutrition.

    Ongoing measles and cholera outbreaks are further compounding the already deteriorating nutrition situation. A cholera outbreak was reported in areas of Bale Zone of Oromia region and Liban Zone of Somali Region in late October, linked to the consumption of water from unprotected or unsafe water points due to limited water access. Between mid and late October, the cholera caseload increased by 30 percent.

    Current food security outcomes

    Although food security typically improves at this time of year due to the availability of the main meher harvest, food security has been negatively affected in several areas by below-average crop production. Importantly, in many livelihood zones where livestock are the primary source of food and income, food security depends more on the performance of the bi-annual rainy season rather than the meher season. Given the extreme poor performance of these seasons over consecutive years, in particular the gu and deyr seasons,  millions of households are facing food consumption deficits. The areas of greatest concern include the southern, southeastern, northern, and central areas of the country. While assistance is ongoing, the need is far outpacing the level of distribution. An urgent scale-up of not only food assistance but also nutrition and WASH assistance is required to prevent high levels of acute malnutrition and further mortality.  

    While ongoing humanitarian aid is mitigating some of the most severe food consumption deficits, a major food security emergency continues in S/SE pastoral areas of the country. Many pastoral households have lost significant numbers of livestock, households’ ability to generate income from livestock sales is low, and milk production from livestock is minimal. Additionally, access to water is also limited. A convergence of available evidence on food security outcomes and conditions, including nutrition information, suggests Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in Erer, Jarar, Dollor, Korahe, and areas of Shabelle zones, while Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are present in Borena Zone of Oromia and Dawa, Liban, and Afder zones of Somali regions. This is amid large-scale assistance that has likely contributed to smaller consumption deficits and, as such, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) are assessed to be likely in these areas. This signifies that in Borena Zone of Oromia and Dawa, Liban, and Afder zones of Somali regions, deterioration beyond Emergency would be likely in the absence of assistance.

    In northern Ethiopia, while the peace agreement and the ongoing harvest have both led to some improvement in access to food and income, severe acute food insecurity persists given the severe erosion of household livelihoods. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely with some populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Tigray and neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar. In areas of Amhara and Afar where humanitarians have been able to access those in need, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are present.

    The poor belg harvest in the Rift Valley areas of Oromia, SNNP, and Sidama regions and lowland areas of East and West Hararge in Oromia region negatively affected poor households’ access to food from own-produced crops. Moreover, the below-average kiremt season negatively impacted crop cultivation, driving poor meher production and continued high reliance on markets even during the harvesting period. These factors, coupled with high food prices, have driven lower purchasing power amid an increased need purchase food from the market. Poor households in these areas are facing difficulty meeting their basic food needs, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist. 


    The most likely scenario from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The remainder of the October to December deyr/hageya rains in southern and southeastern pastoral areas is forecast to be below average. Based on deyr/hageya rainfall performance to date, short-term forecast models, and analog years, rainfall quantities (Figure 15) will most likely be insufficient to alleviate drought conditions given the dryness of the soil. Moreover, rainfall performance in analog years suggests an elevated likelihood of an early end to rainfall in December.   
    • The 2023 February to May belg rainfall in central and southern Ethiopia is forecast to be below average. March to May 2023 gu/genna seasonal rainfall in southern and southeastern Ethiopia and diraac/sugum rains in northeastern are also forecast to be below average. A below-average gu/genna season will be the sixth consecutive below-average season, signifying an additional historic marker in an already unprecedented drought. Based on an analysis conducted by FEWS NET’s science partners, rainfall is likely to range from 10 to 40 percent below average (Figure 16).
    • Conflict in northern Ethiopia is likely to be very low through at least January 2023, following the Tigrayan Forces and federal government’s agreement on November 2 to an immediate cessation of hostilities. While the agreement marks a positive development, not all parties took part, namely the Eritrean government and other armed groups with territorial interests in Tigray. Additionally, a ceasefire will likely be slow to implement. Regardless of the ceasefire and even with an Eritrean withdrawal, strong discord will remain between Tigrayan and Amhara forces, likely inciting ceasefire violations. A slight re-escalation of fighting can be expected between February and May 2023 as it is anticipated that substantive progress to disarm the armed wing of the TPLF will be plagued by intra-TPLF feuding, along with continued skirmishes involving the Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amhara forces during this period.
    • Violence in Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia is likely to decrease through March 2023 before the start of the rainy season, after which conflict events are likely to escalate through at least May 2023, likely surpassing levels observed in 2022 as tensions between armed actors and the government remain high. Armed conflict between armed actors and government security forces is also likely to continue in areas of south Omo, Derashe, Konso, and Alle woredas of SNNPR throughout the scenario period.
    • An increase in incursions of al-Shabaab into Ethiopia is expected through at least the first half of 2023; however, they are not likely to lead to significant displacement or conflict escalation as al-Shabaab has limited capacity to strike major population centers given the robust counterterrorism apparatus of the Ethiopian government.
    • Conflict-related displacement is likely to decline within Tigray and in neighboring Amhara and Afar following the Peace Agreement and households returning to their area of origin.  In conflict-affected areas of Oromia and SNNP, however, conflict-related displacement is likely to increase.
    • The expected extreme drought conditions that are likely to persist through at least mid-2023 in southern and southeastern pastoral areas are likely to drive large-scale displacement as households search for food and income. Displacement in these areas is likely to surpass displacement observed during the 2016/17 drought. 
    • Coffee production in western coffee-producing areas is likely to be average. In SNNPR, Sidama, and East and West Hararghe areas, however, coffee production will be below average due to the negative impact of the March to May 2022 rainfall during the first and second rounds of flowering in coffee plants. As such, national coffee production is most likely to be below average.
    • The area planted and harvested in agropastoral areas of S/SE Ethiopia is expected to be well below normal for the deyr/hageya and gu/genna seasons due to low access to seeds and expected poor rainfall.
    • The below-normal February to May belg is expected to drive lower than normal area planted in 2023.
    • Pasture and water for livestock consumption in southern and southeastern pastoral areas will be somewhat available during the deyr/hageya season in late 2022, as rainfall improves conditions. However, these resources will be quickly depleted when rainfall subsides, with little to no pasture likely available during the dry season through March. When the gu/genna rains begin, some pasture will be available; however, it will remain minimal given the below-average forecast.
    • Abnormal migration of livestock in search of water and pasture is likely throughout the scenario period in most S/SE pastoral areas, primarily to adjacent midland and highland areas of Oromia and SNNPR as well within the Somali Region.
    • Livestock body conditions are likely to remain extremely poor in S/SE pastoral areas, with livestock deaths increasing throughout the scenario period. Due to poor livestock conditions, most female animals are unlikely to conceive or give birth. As such, milk production is likely to be minimal. Furthermore, minimal births along with continued livestock deaths are expected to drive further declines in herd sizes, with more households losing their entire herd.
    • In northern pastoral areas of Afar and northern Somali regions, pasture and water availability are expected to decline through January 2023, resulting in slightly below-normal levels throughout this period. The lower-than-normal sugum/dirrac season will likely only moderately replenish pasture and water sources. Livestock body conditions are likely to remain generally normal through January, with a slow deterioration in body conditions likely through May. Milk production and the number of births remain below average due to conflict-related livestock losses and low conceptions early in 2022, predominantly in areas neighboring Tigray.
    • Pasture and water availability in the remaining part of the country is likely to be average throughout the scenario period, leading to normal livestock body conditions and productivity.
    • Although the Ethiopian economy is expected to grow by 5.7 percent in 2023, the country's weak export earning capacity is anticipated to remain the major contributing factor to the continuation of limited foreign currency. New electricity exports and the entry of foreign banks into the economy are expected to start generating hard currency; however, initial amounts earned will continue to be low. As a result, a high inflation rate is expected throughout the projection period. Until the recently signed peace deal proves permanent, current restrictions by foreign governments will continue to create uncertainty for investors, dampening the expected economic growth.
    • The government is expected to partially or completely end fuel subsidies during the projection period, which will likely drive up fuel prices and transportation costs. In turn, fuel prices are expected to remain high and increase.
    • The ETB will continue steadily depreciating on the official and parallel markets due to the continued large trade deficit, low government revenue, and a continued shortage of hard currency. Currency depreciation is expected to continue weakening the ability of the country to import food and essential non-food commodities from international markets.
    • Trade flows and market supply will be lower than normal in many areas due to atypically low trade flows from central Ethiopia to conflict-prone areas in western Oromia and southern Somali Region, to which traders refrain from traveling due to insecurity. In northern Ethiopia, the flow of goods into previously conflict-affected areas is likely to improve; however, it is not likely that the movement of goods will return to pre-conflict levels within the outlook period as it takes time to rebuilt roads and for traders to gain access.
    • Staple food prices are likely to remain significantly above average and above last year due to below-average national production, lower financial capacity to import food items, disruption of trade flows, and high transportation costs. Prices are expected to rise throughout the projection period despite the harvest in late 2022.
    • The livestock market supply is expected to be normal in much of Ethiopia throughout the scenario period. In drought-affected S/SE pastoral areas, however, market supply is expected to be atypically high as households will likely continue to attempt to engage in atypically excessive sales even though effective demand is expected to remain low. In contrast, market supply is expected to be low in conflict-affected areas.
    • Livestock prices are likely to remain high in most of the country, predominantly due to inflationary market pressures. In S/SE pastoral areas, however, livestock prices are expected to be significantly lower than pre-drought periods despite being slightly higher than the five-year average given persisting poor body conditions. . In S/SE areas, the livestock-to-cereals ToT are expected to remain low and will likely decline over the outlook period due to high and increasing staple food prices and low livestock prices. In conflict-affected areas, livestock prices are also expected to be lower than last year due to the limited movement of traders
    • In Tigray, migratory labor opportunities in late 2022 will most likely remain extremely limited due to low labor movement due to ethnic disagreements. Conversely, local migratory agricultural labor demand is expected to remain normal in western and southwestern surplus-producing areas due to average meher crop cultivation. However, the supply of labor to surplus-producing areas is likely to be low due to low labor movement from conflict-affected areas in northeastern Ethiopia. This is expected to create local labor supply shortages, particularly during the harvesting period. Finally, coffee labor demand is likely to be below normal due to anticipated below-average coffee production.
    • In conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia, urban labor opportunities will be significantly below normal due to poor economic activities due to the long-term nature of conflict and erosion of the Tigray economy and livelihoods. In other parts of the country, there is a slight decline compared to normal in the availability of urban labor attributable to the difficult macroeconomic situation, thus reducing the supply of labor.
    • Agricultural labor demand in late 2022 is expected to be significantly below normal in the north but only slightly below normal across other parts of the country, corresponding to the extent to which area planted with long-cycle crops was below average.
    • Income earned from self-employment such as petty trading, firewood/charcoal sales, and construction labor in towns is likely to remain normal in most of the country; however, in conflict- and drought-affected areas, income from these opportunities is anticipated to be below average due to high competition and poor purchasing power among households.
    • Remittances sent from abroad are likely to decline due to the increased cost of living globally and low value of the ETB. Similarly, remittance flows from urban to rural areas within Ethiopia are likely to remain lower than normal due to the anticipated, continued high cost of living nationally.
    • Humanitarian assistance is expected to continue throughout the projection period. Through early 2023, assistance is expected to continue based on planning figures for the 2022 HRP, reaching over 5.0 million people in the Somali and Oromia regions. Assistance beyond early 2023 is not yet planned; however, given the severity of food security conditions in S/SE pastoral areas and past assistance distribution trends, FEWS NET anticipates S/SE pastoral Ethiopia will be prioritized for response, particularly in Boren, Afder, Liban, Dawa, and parts of Shabelle zones. At a minimum, status quo levels of assistance will likely continue through May, even in the event of funding shortfalls. Similarly, humanitarians are also likely to prioritize assistance distributions in Northern Ethiopia.  
    • Transfers through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) in 2023 are likely to start in February and continue as planned through June/July 2023. In conflict-affected areas of Tigray and neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar, the distribution of PSNP is likely; however, implementers of the Peace Agreement face significant challenges in targeting households and restarting the program. Overall, PSNP distributions are likely, but not to levels seen prior to the conflict.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Ethiopia is expected to continue to experience one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies well into 2023 due to consecutive below-average rainy seasons in southern and southeastern pastoral areas of the country, the expected long-term nature of recovery of livelihoods in the northern conflict-affected areas, and persistent poor macroeconomic conditions nationwide. Food assistance needs are expected to continue to rise throughout the projection period, remaining well above average and higher than during the same period in 2021/22. Food consumption deficits are expected to be the most severe in southern, southeastern, and northern Ethiopia.

    Southern and southeastern pastoral areas are among the areas of highest concern in Ethiopia, as Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to be widespread. Household access to food and income is expected to be highly constrained as herd sizes and livestock productivity are very low. Limited and declining access to livestock sales and milk production is anticipated to limit households’ ability to purchase food. Rainfall from the deyr/hageya and gu/genna seasons may moderately mitigate livestock deaths, but poor households are overwhelmingly still expected to continue relying on limited self-employment activities for food purchases in the near-absence of livestock-related income. Humanitarian food assistance is still expected to be erratic in timing and quantity, but will none-the-less prevent more severe consumption deficits. As such, in Borena, Liban, Afder, Dawa, and areas of Shabelle zones, Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are likely, meaning more extreme outcomes would be anticipated in the absence of assistance. That said, levels of multi-sectoral assistance are still inadequate to prevent ongoing widespread acute malnutrition and ongoing hunger-related mortality that is associated with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    In Tigray, the peace agreement is expected to drive lower levels of conflict and permit greater humanitarian access for aid delivery. However, due to the significant erosion of livelihoods, many households are still expected to face significant difficulty accessing food and income, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes expected to be widespread through at least May. Some households are expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), including households who have been displaced for an extended period of time and have minimal access to income-earning activities and agricultural activities. While the meher harvest and some improvements in market access are likely to mitigate large numbers of people from experiencing extreme hunger, it is not expected to be sufficient to drive widespread and large-scale improvements in area-level outcomes because it will likely take humanitarians some time to fully scale up assistance and re-establish supply chains within the region. Furthermore, households are expected to deplete their meher harvest stocks by early 2023, as households in Tigray only produce enough staple foods to last for a few months, even in a normal year. At that point, many households will have large consumption deficits despite some household access to income from wage labor and livestock. During the February to May period, it is possible that PSNP resources and humanitarian assistance will likely help households mitigate some of the most severe consumption deficits; however, due to the likely timing of assistance distributions, the large scale of humanitarian need, and below-normal PSNP distributions, large consumption deficits are expected to persist. 

    In previously insecure areas of Amhara and Afar that border Tigray, earlier conflict caused severe disruption to agricultural activities that provide the key sources of household food and income. In Amhara, conflict resulted in reduced engagement in the main meher crop production season, especially in Wag Hamra and North Gondar; in these areas, households are expected to harvest fewer food stocks than usual and deplete them earlier than normal. In Afar, conflict caused significant livestock losses, reducing milk and income from livestock-related sources and leaving households to depend on alternative income-earning activities. Although relative calm is expected during the outlook period, households have few productive assets remaining for producing or purchasing food, especially among pastoral households that lost all of their herds. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist in the worst-conflict affected areas of Afar. In surrounding areas, the delivery of humanitarian assistance is expected to mitigate the size of household food consumption deficits, likely resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes.

    Below-average belg production significantly affected household’s food access in most parts of SNNP, Sidama, and central and eastern Oromia regions. The harvest from short-cycle meher crops will improve household access to food through January, but households in these areas will likely exhaust their own-produced food stocks sooner than usual due to below-average annual crop production. As a result, the majority of these areas are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October 2022 to January 2023, but food security will deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2023. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will be more widespread in southern SNNP and central and eastern Oromia, which saw the largest crop production shortfalls.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

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

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Southern and southeastern pastoral areas Average gu/genna 2023 seasonImprovement in pasture and water availability would occur, particularly during the March to May 2023 period. Although, pasture would still be below average due to the impact of previous consecutive droughts. Improvement in livestock body condition would be likely, but the number of births would remain below average, particularly for camels, as they need at least a year or more to conceive. With the subsequent continued lower milk production and lower livestock sales, poor households would still face consumption gaps, though the severity of acute food insecurity would likely be lower, in line with Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes. 
    Southern and southeastern pastoral areasFood assistance does not continue at levels assumed This scenario would occur if there is an absence of assistance distribution for multiple months and humanitarians fail to distribute assistance to those most in need. If humanitarians are unable to distribute assistance, more severe outcomes than Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be likely across either projection period. 
    Central, western, and southern OromiaConflict in these areas ends If the localized levels of conflict in Oromia come to a peaceful resolution, food security would likely improve as the supply of markets returns to average levels and access to food improves. Furthermore, displacement would likely decline, and many poor households would re-engage in their normal livelihood activities. This would likely result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, with some localized populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    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. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Ethiopia Food Security Outlook, October 2022 to May 2023: Humanitarian aid is preventing more extreme food insecurity across southern and southeastern Ethiopia, 2022.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: Somali Region Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission Office (DPPCO)

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 5

    Figure 4.

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 6

    Figure 5.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 7

    Figure 6.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 8

    Figure 7.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 9

    Figure 8.

    Source: Central Statistics Agency; National Bank of Ethiopia

    Figure 10

    Figure 9.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 11

    Figure 10.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 12

    Figure 11.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 13

    Figure 12.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 14

    Figure 13.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 15

    Figure 14.

    Source: Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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