Ethiopia Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #2

December 18, 2015

GoE and partners release 2016 HRD appealing for $1.4 billion in assistance

Estimate of Ethiopians requiring food assistance increased from 4.5 million in August to 10.2 million in December

USAID announces more than $88 million in assistance for Ethiopia

Numbers At A Glance

10.2 million

People Requiring Relief Food Assistance

7.9 million

People Receiving Assistance Through the PSNP


People Displaced by Drought between July and October 2015


Priority One Hotspot Districts Requiring Nutrition Interventions


Priority One Hotspot Districts Requiring WASH Interventions


Humanitarian Funding

For the Ethiopia Response
FY 2015 - 2016

USAID/OFDA $33,563,818
USAID/FFP $319,930,448
State/PRM $81,784,119
TOTAL $435,278,385

The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and humanitarian partners released the 2016 Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for Ethiopia on December 11. The updated HRD identifies 10.2 million people in Ethiopia as requiring relief food assistance and appeals for more than $1.4 billion in assistance for food and non-food humanitarian interventions in 2016.

On December 18, USAID announced more than $88 million in additional funding to address the humanitarian needs resulting from the drought and acute food security emergency in Ethiopia. The new USAID funding includes $74 million in relief food assistance through USAID/FFP and more than $14 million in non-food assistance from USAID/OFDA. The additional funding brings total U.S. Government (USG) humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia to more than $435 million since the start of FY 2015 and will increase funding for nutrition and relief food assistance, health care programs, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions, among other activities. In 2015, the USG is the leading provider of humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia.

On December 9, the GoE and the Ethiopian Humanitarian Country Team—a strategic and operational decision-making and oversight forum, which includes members from the UN, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), donors, and other relief actors—presented findings from the meher, or primary agricultural season, harvest assessment. USAID staff joined nearly 200 donor, NGO, and UN representatives who visited communities across Ethiopia’s nine regions to conduct the meher assessment, interviewing local authorities, community leaders, and drought-affected households. The assessment found that the harvest yield fell far below expectations due to the drought; some regions lost between 50 and 90 percent of planted crops. Results from this assessment informed the new HRD—a joint needs overview and humanitarian appeal compiled by the GoE and partners covering humanitarian requirements and planned response efforts throughout 2016.

The GoE officially launched the new HRD in the capital city of Addis Ababa on December 11. The HRD states that 10.2 million Ethiopians will require food assistance during 2016, a more than 125 percent increase from August when an interagency assessment identified 4.5 million people in need of assistance. In the HRD, the GoE and humanitarian partners appeal for more than $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance: $1.1 billion of the appeal covers relief food assistance, with the remaining portion supporting activities in other humanitarian sectors, including health, nutrition, and WASH interventions. Projected humanitarian requirements in the HRD assume that normal March-to-May belg rains will improve the food security situation in 2016.

In addition to the 10.2 million people in need of assistance, 7.9 million Ethiopians receive food, cash, or a combination of the two through the GoE-led Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). The PSNP helps chronically food-insecure populations survive crisis periods and avoid depleting productive assets—USAID supports the PSNP with approximately $100 million annually.

Throughout 2015, rainfall levels in central and eastern Ethiopia were well-below sufficient, due in part to the current, strong El Niño climatic event. The February-to-May belg/diraac/sugum rains were well-below average, and the June-to-September kiremt/karam/karma rains likewise fell at below-average levels, according to the USAID-supported Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). Areas of central and eastern Ethiopia received the lowest total rainfall in more than 50 years. Further, average temperatures between March and September were the highest recorded since the 1960s, resulting in extremely dry soil and limited water. To date, the most-affected areas of the country are northern pastoral areas of Afar Region, Sitti Zone in Somali Region, eastern and central Oromiya Region, belg-producing highlands, eastern areas of Tigray Region, and northern and eastern parts of Amhara Region.

Already in October, significant portions of the population in northern Somali and southern Afar were experiencing Emergency—IPC 4—levels of food insecurity, FEWS NET reports.4 Despite the severity of the food security emergency, mortality levels related to the drought will likely be lower than those reported during the periods of food insecurity in the mid-1980s due to improved warning systems and existing support programs, including the USAID-supported PSNP.

In northern pastoral areas, water, pasture, and fodder are scarce; FEWS NET estimates that more than 200,000 head of livestock have died in southern Afar and Sitti due to the drought. In Sitti, at least 13,000 households have lost all their livestock and subsequently settled in informal camps. Conditions among surviving livestock in northern pastoral areas are poor, and animals are producing reduced amounts of milk. Livestock prices have markedly decreased. The combined effects have reduced the terms-of-trade for livestock, limiting households’ purchasing power. Some of the households experiencing Emergency levels of food insecurity are located in these worst-affected pastoral areas of Ethiopia; the situation will likely deteriorate through March 2016 as the dry season continues before the belg rains begin.

Recent assessments of agro-pastoral and agricultural areas of eastern Ethiopia found that harvest yields were 25 to 70 percent below typical years, according to FEWS NET. The most vulnerable households harvested no crops in some areas. Despite the depleted crop yield, households in eastern areas of Ethiopia have a relatively better food security situation compared to northern pastoral areas due to a meager harvest and because livestock in the east are in slightly better condition. Nevertheless, livestock conditions have deteriorated as a result of the drought, depressing prices. The most vulnerable households in eastern Ethiopia are resorting to negative coping mechanisms, selling off important assets; food consumption deficits are rising among these families. Food insecurity will likely deteriorate to Emergency levels in parts of eastern Ethiopia in the coming months.

In drought-affected areas of Amhara, eastern Tigray Region, and the lowlands of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) Region, large parts of the populations will likely experience Crisis—IPC 3—and Emergency levels of food insecurity through the beginning of 2016, FEWS NET reports.

Food security experts are concerned about a probable seed shortage in Ethiopia during the upcoming January-to-April belg planting season. The GoE Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimates that total seed demand in the country’s four main agricultural regions is about 260,000 metric tons (MT). The MoA reports that in addition to approximately 18,000 MT of seed currently available in-country, it plans to gather approximately 140,000 MT of seed from the October-to-January meher harvest, leaving a gap of 102,000 MT.

As part of the $88 million in new USAID funding announced on December 18, USAID/FFP is providing more than 116,000 MT of commodities, valued at approximately $74 million, to the Joint Emergency Operation Program (JEOP)—a consortium of relief agencies led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that provides food assistance. As part of the USG’s rapid and early response to the food security crisis in Ethiopia, USAID/FFP provided $58 million in October to the JEOP to assist an estimated 1.7 million people. Following recent assessments, the JEOP has increased the number of targeted beneficiaries to 2.6 million people through at least May 2016. As of October, the JEOP was reaching approximately 2.1 million people in 58 wordeas, or districts.

USAID/Ethiopia and USAID/OFDA are closely coordinating with UN agencies, NGO partners, and other actors on drought response efforts. In late November, USAID/Ethiopia and USAID/OFDA met with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to share and coordinate agency drought response plans. During the same period, USAID/Ethiopia and USAID/OFDA coordinated a meeting with key humanitarian WASH partners—including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), GOAL, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—to discuss WASH needs and priority interventions in the context of the drought emergency.

The number of malnourished children recorded in Ethiopia has risen every month since January, according to the UN. Current projections estimate that 435,000 children may face severe malnutrition in 2016 and that as many as 700,000 expecting and new mothers are at risk for severe malnutrition.

On December 2, the GoE released an updated list of nutrition hotspot districts—a classification of districts most at risk for malnutrition based on several factors, including food insecurity, malnutrition levels, and other vulnerabilities. The report indicates a total of 429 hotspot districts, a slight increase from the 415 districts reported in August and the highest overall number since 2009.

Nutrition hotspot categorizations are based on assessments led by the GoE Emergency Nutrition and Coordination Unit, in collaboration with UN agencies and other nutrition actors, and are typically released in February, May, and August. However, given the ongoing food security and nutrition crisis in Ethiopia, the GoE led an earlier assessment to better inform response activities.

In December, the GoE and humanitarian partners identified 186 districts as priority one nutrition hotspot districts. This figure represents a more than threefold increase from the 40 districts deemed priority one hotspots in February. The majority of the priority one hotspots are in northeastern areas of the country, clustered in Afar, Amhara, Tigray, and northern Somali; however, other areas of the country have scattered priority one hotspots as well. In several of these priority one districts, the nutrition situation has deteriorated beyond levels observed during the 2011 Horn of Africa drought, according to the UN.

Additionally, the GoE has identified 154 districts as priority two hotspot districts and 89 as priority three hotspot districts. Afar and Tigray had the most significant increases in nutrition needs, with the number of priority one districts in Tigray more than doubling from seven to 20 since August; in Afar, priority one districts increased from 17 to 32, encompassing all districts in the region.

In Afar, admissions of severely malnourished children for treatment have increased to levels 40 percent higher than the average recorded between 2011 and 2014, according to FEWS NET. Meanwhile, admissions of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to feeding programs increased by 10 percent in Amhara and by 50 percent in Oromiya compared to averages from the previous four years.

With more than $4 million in continuing FY 2015 funding from USAID/OFDA, GOAL is responding to the emergency nutrition needs of vulnerable populations across Ethiopia. GOAL identifies areas in need of nutrition support and rapidly responds through community-based interventions for managing cases of acute malnutrition. As part of its USAID/OFDA-funded work in Ethiopia, GOAL cooperates with the GoE Ministry of Health to strengthen local response capacity for treating acute cases of malnutrition.

The HRD requests humanitarian assistance for WASH interventions, estimating that nearly 6 million Ethiopians will require WASH support, including access to latrines and safe drinking water, during 2016.

Health actors have reported cases of scabies in 22 districts in East Gojjam, North and South Gonder, South Wollo, and Wag Hemra zones of Amhara, according to the UN. Scabies is a highly contagious skin parasite requiring simultaneous treatment, health education, and WASH interventions for affected populations. Treating cases of scabies is increasingly difficult due to limited water supplies. In response to the outbreak, USAID/OFDA partner UNICEF sent 300,000 packets of household water treatment chemicals to affected areas and provided $60,000 to the Amhara Regional Water Bureau to assist with immediate WASH needs.

During FY 2015, USAID/OFDA provided approximately $4.8 million to support WASH programs in Ethiopia. With more than $1.3 million in continuing FY 2015 funding, UNICEF is rehabilitating water supply infrastructure serving 200,000 people. UNICEF is also pre-positioning WASH supplies in five UNICEF-managed warehouses in Ethiopia for rapid, emergency deployment.

Between November 11 and 18, USAID/OFDA staff traveled to areas in Amhara—East Gojjam, North Wollo, South Wollo, Wag Hemra, and West Gojjam zones—to assess the impact of the drought and response efforts. Amhara is one of the areas in Ethiopia most affected by the drought. Farmers in affected communities reported selling livestock at markedly low prices—cattle prices in some areas of Ethiopia have decreased by nearly 90 percent in recent months. Farmers have also sold plowing oxen, which will affect future productive capacity. Where livestock remains, community members will exhaust fodder in the coming weeks. In districts visited by USAID/OFDA staff, water was critically scarce, with most traditional water sources dry. Women are reportedly walking long distances, sometimes up to seven hours, in search of water. Relief organizations informed USAID/OFDA staff that the prevalence of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and SAM among affected populations continues to increase every month.

From December 1 to 3, staff from USAID/OFDA and the USAID/Ethiopia Health Office traveled to Administrative Zone 3 in Afar, where they met with local health officials and representatives from the GoE’s Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector and visited health and nutrition facilities. Officials reported high numbers of livestock deaths and significantly reduced cattle prices in the area, which is heavily dependent on livestock. Under the Nutrition Rapid Response Mechanism managed by GOAL, USAID/OFDA partner Mercy Corps implements nutrition interventions in three districts of the zone. In addition to support for outpatient therapeutic feeding programs, targeted supplementary feedings (TSF), and nutrition stabilization centers, Mercy Corps provides nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, and regular screening for malnutrition among children and pregnant and lactating women. The TSF program is also supported by the UN World Food Program (WFP) with rations of 14 pounds of corn soy blend and 1 liter of oil per beneficiary per month. In Administrative Zone 3’s Awash Fentale District, Mercy Corps staff in October identified more than 500 children with MAM, more than 80 children with SAM, and nearly 700 malnourished pregnant or lactating women. Given current trends, Mercy Corps is planning for an increased caseload of malnutrition cases in Awash Fentale in January 2016.

Multiple consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall—exacerbated by the effects of El Niño—have resulted in deteriorating agricultural, livestock, food security, and nutrition conditions in northeastern and central Ethiopia. As of December 2015, the GoE estimates that 10.2 million people will require emergency food assistance and other humanitarian interventions.

While drought remains a major contributor to vulnerability in Ethiopia, negatively affecting the lives and livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists, populations also continue to confront other challenges—including seasonal flooding, localized intercommunal conflict, above-average food prices, disease outbreaks, and limited access to health and WASH services—that contribute to sustained humanitarian needs and an ongoing complex emergency in Ethiopia.

On October 7, 2015, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Peter H. Vrooman, a.i. re-declared a disaster for Ethiopia in response to the ongoing complex emergency.

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for disaster responses around the world can be found at

USAID encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

More information can be found at:
- USAID Center for International Disaster Information: or +1.202.821.1999.
- Information on relief activities of the humanitarian community can be found at

Ethiopia FY2106 Fact Sheets

Last updated: August 19, 2016

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