Extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist in northern conflict-affected areas and drought-affected pastoral areas in southern and southeastern areas of Ethiopia, and sub-national assistance needs will remain historically high in these parts of the country through at least January 2023. In much of western and central Ethiopia, however, the start of the meher harvest is improving household food availability in terms of own-produced foods, alleviating food consumption deficits. The harvest is expected to drive a seasonal decline in the total national size of the acutely food-insecure population in late 2022.
In southern and southeastern areas, the ongoing historic drought continues to lead to widespread livestock deaths, displacement, and limited access to food and income. As of late September – the peak of the local dry season – over 4.5 million livestock had died in these areas, according to regional governments, with millions more in extremely poor condition. As livestock body conditions deteriorate, milk availability is dwindling, and livestock are increasingly unsellable. In search of pasture and water, pastoralists are atypically moving their livestock to the highlands of Oromia Region and Siti and Fafan zones of the Somali Region. In addition to minimal income from livestock and milk sales, pastoralists are earning reduced income from firewood and charcoal sales and petty trading amid increased competition and falling demand.
Low household income, coupled with high food prices, continue to severely restrict financial access to food among many pastoral households in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. As many households have sustained food consumption gaps over time, acute food insecurity is visibly manifesting in rising acute malnutrition levels among children and adults. In June, admissions to Therapeutic Feeding Program centers were over 10 percent higher than in June 2021. While humanitarian assistance is helping to mitigate food consumption deficits among beneficiaries, there remains very high concern for the risk of deterioration in food security conditions beyond Emergency (IPC Phase 4) if food aid is not consistently delivered or if quantities remain inadequate.
In northern Ethiopia, the renewed and escalating conflict has led to increased population displacement and the disruption of harvesting, market, and humanitarian activities. As of late September, OCHA reported that around 23,000 people are newly displaced. Given that current conflict dynamics are fluid and information on the conflict's impacts on the harvest is limited, the magnitude of harvest losses is not yet clear. However, in areas where conflict is not active the harvest is ongoing and nearing completion in late September, with households consuming food from own production. According to the Food Cluster, humanitarians continued to distribute available supplies of assistance in September, reaching over 3.2 million people. While humanitarians are reprioritizing available supplies to recently displaced people, many recipients are receiving partial rations, and in areas where conflict is active, households are unlikely to receive assistance at all. While the meher harvest is likely to mitigate some of the most extreme outcomes for much of the population, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) will most likely persist through at least January 2023. There is a risk that more extreme outcomes could emerge if conflict significantly restricts harvest activities and people movement.
In northern pastoral areas, generally favorable June to September karma/karan rainfall reduced the extremely large rainfall deficits that emerged during the March to May diraac/sugum season. This has improved pasture and water availability, which in turn has driven improvements in livestock body conditions. Nevertheless, livestock herds are low, especially in areas adjacent to Tigray, which limits household income from both livestock and milk sales. Furthermore, the resumption of conflict has newly displaced over 107,000 people, while heavy rainfall and flooding of the Awash River displaced around 60,000 people. Given the limited ability of households to earn income due to conflict in Zones 2 and 4 of Afar, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected through at least January 2023. In the rest of southern Afar and northern Somali regions, seasonal improvement in income from livestock is expected in non-conflict affected areas, which will likely lead to improvement in food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in October.
On the national level, June to September kiremt rainfall was generally favorable across much of the country, resulting in favorable cropping conditions for meher crops, including short-cycle meher crops. However, national meher production is expected to be lower than normal due to several factors, including conflict; the poor performance of the belg rains, which led to the failure of some long-cycle meher crops; high agricultural input costs; and poor rainfall during the kiremt season in SNNP and Sidama regions, which has led to poor cropping conditions for short-cycle meher crops.
Annual inflation remains high, driven by high food and fuel prices along with poor macroeconomic conditions. According to the Central Statistics Agency, inflation stood at 32.5 percent in August, which is one percentage point lower than July’s annual inflation rate. Additionally, the ETB continues to depreciate on the formal and parallel markets, with the ETB depreciating by 14.1 percent and 19.0 percent, respectively, from August 2021 to August 2022. According to WFP, fuel prices were nearly 90 percent higher in August than at the same time last year. High fuel costs increase transportation costs for people and increase the cost of transporting goods across the country, thereby placing upward pressure on the market prices of essential goods, especially in deficit-producing areas. The high food prices and the overall high and the rising cost of living in Ethiopia limit households’ ability to purchase food and non-food items to meet their basic needs. In Adama market in Oromia, maize prices in August were over 85 percent higher than the three-year average.