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Ethiopia Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021 (February 2021)

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Context, shocks, and impact

Ongoing conflict, desert locust invasion, recurrent climatic shocks such as floods and droughts, and socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 are the key drivers of humanitarian needs in Ethiopia. Amidst the political transition, armed conflict and community violence remains a critical concern across Ethiopia, from Benishangul Gumuz, to Oromia, to Tigray. Heightened competition over resources due to pressures from climatic shocks, COVID-19 containment measures, and desert locust infestation in certain areas, create further inter-communal tension, violence, and displacement. Of an estimated 2.7 million people currently internally displaced in Ethiopia, 1 million of which occurred in 2020, approximately 68 per cent were displaced by conflict, underlining the rapidly evolving protection crisis in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is also experiencing its worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years, which exacerbates an already alarming food security and nutrition situation. The desert locust infestation has so far damaged 365,015 hectares of cropland across multiple regions, devastating crops and livelihoods in at least 76 woredas. The 13.2 per cent increase in admissions for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) treatment reflects a rapidly deteriorating nutrition situation. Frequent flash floods and droughts, together with measles and cholera outbreaks, place people at further risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its containment measures worsened a dire humanitarian situation, with an estimated loss of up to 2.4 million jobs. As a result, 31 million people were estimated to be living below the poverty line in 2020, up from 26 million people in 2019. Women, who had comprised a large majority in the hard-hit tourism and hospitality sector, have been disproportionately affected by not only the economic crisis, but also by related protection concerns, including gender-based violence, which has seen an exponential rise since April 2020.

Evolution of Needs 2021

In the first three months of 2021, 23.5 million people are estimated to need urgent humanitarian assistance, yet another increase from 19 million at the end of 2020. The crippling socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 are expected to persist into 2021. Furthermore, while ongoing insecurity both in and beyond Tigray will continue to severely undermine the availability and access to food and other basic goods and services, the desert locust upsurge is most likely to persist into 2021 with incidences of swarms causing damage to crops and pasture despite concerted control efforts. Predicted La Niña conditions and below-average rainfall particularly in the South and South-Eastern parts of the country also threaten to exacerbate food insecurity and other humanitarian needs, in addition to increasing the concern for unrest as communities compete for even more limited water resources.

While an estimated 23.5 million people are in humanitarian need in the first quarter of 2021, risk analysis and corresponding projections of needs indicate that this number is expected to rise slightly in the second and third quarters (23.8 million) before it reduces to 21.7 million in the last quarter of 2021.

Scope of Analysis

The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview covers humanitarian needs across all 1,042 woredas in Ethiopia without geographic limitation or focus. The analysis was conducted at the woreda-level, and national, zonal and regional-level figures in the document are the aggregates of relevant woreda-level results.

The analysis in this document excludes refugees hosted in Ethiopia, whose needs and particular vulnerabilities are assessed through the Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan.

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