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Sustained, high levels of assistance needed for millions to mitigate extreme food insecurity

  • Key Message Update
  • Ethiopia
  • March 2022
Sustained, high levels of assistance needed for millions to mitigate extreme food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following the March 24 humanitarian ceasefire, OCHA reported that a convoy of assistance including food and fuel reached Tigray, marking the first delivery of humanitarian supplies in over 100 days. While this assistance will likely mitigate large food consumption gaps among some of the population, the level of need far exceeds the convoy’s supply potential reach. Information available from OCHA suggests households in Tigray are increasingly desperate, turning to wild foods, begging, and outmigration to Amhara. An estimated 58,000 people fled Tigray for Amhara between February and March, according to the Emergency Shelter and Nonfood Cluster. The low access to food and nutrition services is reflected in high levels of acute malnutrition: according to OCHA, as of March 31 the proxy GAM rate was reported in Tigray at 30.9 percent, just above the ‘Extremely Critical’ threshold. At a minimum, widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing, with populations likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In Tigray, it is possible worse outcomes are ongoing, but information is insufficient to confirm or deny. 

    • In Amhara and Afar, food security outcomes continue to be severe, with increasing concern for conditions in Wag Himra, notably among IDPs from Tigray. In Wag Himra, economic and agricultural activities, along with humanitarian assistance delivery, is limited. Additionally, market access is limited, with minimal agricultural activities ongoing. Many poor households are likely facing extreme difficulty accessing food. Levels of acute malnutrition from a Find-and-Treat campaign in February diagnosed 39 percent of screened children under five years of age with GAM. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely here, as well as in other woredas of Amhara and Afar worst affected by conflict. 

    • As of late March, gu/genna rainfall has yet to start across southern and southeastern pastoral areas, and short-term rainfall forecasts indicate a high likelihood of minimal rainfall through mid-April. Conditions are quickly deteriorating, marked by increasing levels of destitution and displacement among households, and high distress sales of livestock and livestock deaths. According to regional and zonal governments, over 1.9 million livestock have died as of late March, nearly a million higher than the number in late February. Additionally, in areas where crop production typically takes place, low soil moisture and limited inputs and draught power are significantly limiting cropping activities. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are widespread. Although not considered the most likely scenario, if the 2022 gu/genna season fails and food assistance does not reach populations in need, food security could deteriorate to extreme levels, reflected in 'Extremely Critical' levels of acute malnutrition and high mortality.       ​

    • In belg-receiving areas of northeastern Amhara and Tigray, SNNP, Sidama, and Oromia regions, rainfall has been minimal, and the belg season has been delayed by over a month. According to a multi-agency assessment conducted in mid-March in Amhara, only 39 percent of the area planned for belg crop planting has so far been seeded, while the NDRMC reported belg planting in SNNP, Sidama, and Oromia regions was only 12.5, 4, and 2 percent, respectively, of typical late-March levels. As the window for belg planting is soon closing, 2022 belg production is anticipated to be significantly below normal. This will drive an atypically long lean season in belg-dependent areas.  

    • Food prices continued to increase in February and March, associated with high inflation and Ukraine-related disruptions. Notably, edible oil prices have increased dramatically since the onset of the war in Ukraine. In March, a liter of oil was about 110 percent higher than the same time last year. According to the Central Statistics Agency, the annual inflation rate was at 33.6 percent in February, with food inflation reaching 41.6 percent, the second-highest food inflation rate on record. 

    • Across drought and conflict-affected areas of Ethiopia, levels of acute malnutrition are extremely high. Find-and-Treat campaigns have been ongoing since late 2021, starting in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara and expanding in 2022 to additional areas of Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions. While screening is still ongoing and most screened woredas have not been fully assessed, proxy GAM rates in most areas are ‘Critical’ or ‘Extremely Critical.’ 

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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