Ethiopia is a landlocked country in northeastern Africa. Its national capital is Addis Ababa. Located in the Horn of Africa, the country borders Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. Ethiopia covers an area of 1,104,300 square kilometers. In 2022, the country had an estimated population of about 113.7 million people, making it the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria.
The humanitarian situation
The overall humanitarian situation in Ethiopia has improved significantly in the past year, but 20 million people will still need emergency aid in 2024. Millions of Ethiopians remain displaced by conflict, insecurity, and climate-related shocks such as drought or flooding. Ethiopia faces multiple causes of instability. Years of drought and conflict have left millions of Ethiopians without enough to eat. Many people have no water, medicine, food or shelter and fear for their lives.
Between August and November 2022, fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region escalated and had a devastating impact on civilians in an already dire humanitarian situation. According to the United Nations, indiscriminate attacks in the war zone killed civilians, damaged critical infrastructure and limited access to vital services. Hundreds of thousands of people in northern Ethiopia were forced to flee their homes since hostilities resumed, many of them for the second time.
Although peace returned to northern Ethiopia in late 2022 with the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) and better humanitarian access to Tigray and the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, needs remain high due to the two-year conflict.
Conflict in the Tigray region and surrounding areas had already displaced hundreds of thousands before. The largest increase in displacement in Africa over the year 2021 has been in Africa's second-most populous country. As a result of violence in the northern regions, some 1.9 million Ethiopians fled their homes in 2021 and 2022. Nearly 150,000 Ethiopians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
As of June 2023, more than 4.38 million people were still internally displaced in Ethiopia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the main causes of displacement were conflict (2.9 million IDPs, 66%), drought (811,000 IDPs, 18%) and social tension (324,000 IDPs, 7%). While Ethiopia's Somali region hosts the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) primarily displaced due to drought (543,000 people), Tigray region hosts the highest number of IDPs primarily displaced due to conflict (1 million people).
IOM identified an estimated 3.24 million returning IDPs during recent months. The highest number of returning IDPs were in the regions of Amhara (44%), Tigray (39%) and Afar (6%).
In addition, Ethiopia hosts nearly 1 million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Since February 2023, some 100,000 people have crossed the border from Somalia to Ethiopia’s Somali Region following the eruption of armed conflict in Laascaanood (Las Anod), Somaliland. Since April 2023, tens of thousands have crossed into Ethiopia since the onset of the war in Sudan. More than 81 percent of refugees are women and children, including a significant number of minors without parents or caregivers.
A prolonged three-year drought, the worst in the Horn of Africa region in modern history, has increased food and nutrition insecurity in eastern, northern and southern Ethiopia. About 4 million people in the drought-affected regions Afar, Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, South Ethiopia, and South West are still in need of urgent food assistance.
An assessment regarding the Meher season - the main crop season in Ethiopia - concludes that the number of critically food insecure people in Ethiopia will continue to increase over the next few months, reaching a peak of 10.8 million during the lean season between July and September 2024.
The transitional authorities in the war-torn Tigray region warned at the turn of 2023/2024 of an impending famine due to drought and the continuing effects of the devastating two-year war in the north of the country, as too little rain continues to fall in northern Ethiopia.
While the March-to-May 2023 rainy season replenished some vegetation and water sources in many parts of the country after the previous five consecutive failed rainy seasons, widespread food and nutrition insecurity will likely remain high as several seasons of favorable rains are required for robust recovery from the drought. Relief organizations anticipate high levels of humanitarian need in Ethiopia throughout 2024.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Horn of Africa is finally emerging from three years of devastating drought, with above-average rainfall predicted for the October-December 2023 rainy season. Although an encouraging prospect, there is a risk that flooding will affect local communities and their livelihoods.
While many people are still grappling with the five consecutive seasons of severe droughts, an estimated 1.5 million people have been impacted by flooding since late October 2023. More than 600,000 people have been displaced. The most affected regions include Somali - accounting for 80 percent of those affected -, South East, Gambela, Oromia, Afar and Sidama provinces.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) halted food aid to Ethiopia in June 2023 after discovering that supplies were not reaching those in need, raising fears that millions of Ethiopians in need go hungry. The diversion of life-saving food assistance and its suspension in Ethiopia threatened at-risk populations amid high levels of food insecurity following years of conflict and climatic shocks. Food distribution resumed across Ethiopia in December 2023.
The suspension of food aid countrywide, the expansion of disease outbreaks across regions - like cholera, malaria and dengue fever - and the ongoing influx of thousands of displaced people escaping from violence in neighboring Sudan and Somalia continue to strain the health and protection systems due to overlapping crises and insufficient funds and resources. Ethiopia is dealing with a large cholera outbreak in several regions, where more than 29,399 cases have been reported, including 428 cholera-related deaths (as of December 2023).
OCHA estimates that 20 million people will require humanitarian aid in 2024. In 2023, a total of 28.6 million people in Ethiopia needed humanitarian assistance and protection; nearly three-quarters of those in need were women and children. According to UNICEF, 16.5 million children alone were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The United Nations and its partner organizations are seeking US$2.88 billionto provide aid to 14 million people in 2024. The UN 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Ethiopia required US$4 billion. As of December, the HRP was only 34 percent funded.
The security situation
In November 2020, military conflict erupted between forces allied with the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Ethiopia's national military. The conflict, which lasted throughout 2021 and 2022, exacerbated ethnic violence and was largely concentrated in the regional states of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar. The conflict in northern Ethiopia triggered the dire humanitarian situation in these regions. Hundreds of thousands have reportedly died and millions are internally displaced.
Between March and August 2022, a humanitarian ceasefire and cessation of hostilities led to an improvement in the delivery of aid. The ceasefire gave hope that peace talks could lead to a resolution of the conflict and the return of displaced people to their homes and livelihoods.
However, on August 24, 2022, fighting broke out again between the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Ethiopian federal government. Both sides of the conflict blamed each other for the renewed hostilities. The violation of the five-month cease-fire in the Ethiopian civil war dashed hopes for unhindered access for humanitarian aid. Instead, the collapse of the truce led to the closing of humanitarian corridors.
On November 2, 2022, the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) announced a ceasefire after ten days of peace talks in South Africa mediated by the African Union (AU). A joint statement said the warring parties agreed to "silence the guns and end the two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia." The terms of the cease-fire agreement commit the federal government to facilitating unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray.
On November 12, 2022, military commanders representing Ethiopia’s government and the TPLF signed a deal in Nairobi establishing the modalities for the implementation of the “Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement” (COHA). If the cease-fire is fully implemented and held this time permanently, it would end a civil war that has devastated large parts of northern Ethiopia and may have killed hundreds of thousands.
In Mid-November 2022, the first aid deliveries reached Tigray since the Pretoria and Nairobi peace agreements were signed. According to humanitarian sources on the ground, improved security in Tigray, Afar and Amhara allowed humanitarian organizations to access previously inaccessible areas. After the resumption of hostilities in northern Ethiopia in August, the region had been largely cut off from humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian access to northern Ethiopia's Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions continues to improve since the signing of the COHA, enabling relief actors to scale up assistance. In the first quarter of 2023 about 10.2 million people in the Northern regions have received humanitarian assistance. The UN notes while humanitarian relief continues to reach northern Ethiopia, the aid is insufficient to meet the unmet needs of millions of people in the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions, due in part to limited funding and resources.
Despite overall access improvements, some areas along the Eritrea–Ethiopia border and northeastern Amhara Region remain difficult to reach. Insecurity and the presence of Eritrean troops continue to impede humanitarian operations and jeopardize the safety of aid workers and civilians in these areas.
In Ethiopia's Amhara region, clashes between government forces and the regional Fano militia, that fought on the government side during the conflict in the Tigray region, remain ongoing. The fighting between the federal government and the armed group were sparked in April 2023 when the government asked the militia to join the country's police or military following the peace agreement in Tigray.
Civilians in Amhara have yet to recover from two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia that has affected their lives and livelihoods. The hostilities will most likely exacerbate the plight of civilians, especially given the limited humanitarian response that has stalled as a result of insecurity.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ongoing hostilities in western Oromia continue to displace thousands of civilians and are impacting humanitarian operations. More than 1 million women, men, and children are currently internally displaced due to conflict in the region.
Tension and violence in the Oromia region have led to an alarming number of casualties and an extremely concerning overall situation. The Ethiopian government blames a rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), for the violence. However, the response of government forces has also led to the precarious situation. Fighting between the OLA and government forces has been going on for four years.
The 1.5 million Ethiopians displaced before the conflict in the northern regions are a reminder that Ethiopia faces multiple sources of instability that require constant political attention. Resource conflicts due to the drought and its consequences could increase insecurity in several regions and lead to further displacement.
Your donation for the Ethiopia emergency can help United Nations agencies, international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their local partners to rapidly provide water, food, medicine, shelter and other aid to the people who need it most.
- UN Crisis Relief: Ethiopia Emergency
- World Food Programme: Ethiopia emergency
- UNICEF Appeal: Ethiopia
- UNHCR: Ethiopia Tigray emergency
- International Rescue Committee (IRC): Ethiopia Appeal
- Save the children: Ethiopia Emergency
- Caritas Internationalis: Ethiopia Appeal
To find other organizations to which you can donate, visit: Humanitarian Crisis Relief, Refugees and IDPs, Children in Need, Hunger and Food Insecurity, Medical Humanitarian Aid, Vulnerable Groups, Faith-Based Humanitarian Organizations, and Human Rights Organizations.
- UN OCHA Situation Report Ethiopia
- ACAPS: Ethiopia complex crisis
- World Vision International: Northern Ethiopia crisis
- European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO): Ethiopia
- International Crisis Group: Ethiopia
- Human Rights Watch (HRW): World Report 2024: Ethiopia
- Amnesty International: World Report 2022/2023: Human rights in Ethiopia
Last updated: 03/02/2024