2021 in Review
Humanitarian situation in 2021 The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia remained difficult throughout 2021. Conflict and insecurity added to underlying vulnerability because of displacement, drought, locusts and floods. COVID-19 has been an additional stress on the economy and the health system. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance increased from 23.5 million at the end of 2020 to 29.7 million by the end of 2021, 26 per cent increase.
Climatic shocks Recurrent droughts due to failed rains in the last two years, continued to lead more people into humanitarian needs. Many southern and south-eastern pastoral areas experienced below-normal rainfall starting from late 2020 resulting in drought conditions mainly in Somali and Oromia regions affecting some 5.8 million people and expanded to other areas in the country.
These conditions were further exacerbated by below nor- mal belg (short rainy season) rains in the lowlands of Somali and Oromia regions from March to May 2021. Other parts of the country experienced erratic rainfall during the season. A third consecutive below-average season occurred from October to December, causing severe drought.
Climate change continued to be one of the major factors contributing to the displacement of people in Ethiopia. Erratic rainfall received during the belg rainy season also caused flooding with devastating humanitarian consequences. In July, the Ethiopia Dis- aster Risk Management Commission assessed that floods across the country affected up to 1.7 million people, while over 360,000 were displaced in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia, SNNP and Somali regions.
The COVID-19 pandemic, cholera and measles continued to affect thousands of vulnerable people, compounded by limited access to WASH and health services. In conflict-affected areas, several health facilities were looted, damaged or destroyed leading to additional stress on the health system.
Insecurity left many health facilities not functioning.
In 2021, COVID-19 remained the main concern in Ethiopia, with a spike in recorded cases during March and April and further in July and August, which are attributed to low vaccination rates and decreased adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures. Other diseases such as cholera, measles and yellow fever were among the top diseases in the country that affected the population during the year. The malaria mortality risk in Ethiopia was further aggravated by the high prevalence of acute malnutrition following harvest loss in drought-affected areas.
Conflict and internal displacements
Conflicts erupted and escalated in various parts of the country, with severe effects on civilians and other vulnerable groups. Fighting took place in Metekel and Kamashi zones in Benishangul Gumuz region, along the Afar-Somali border, and among Am- hara and Oromo communities in North Shewa and Oromo Special zone in Amhara region. In addition, conflict and insecurity escalated in Amhara and Afar regions due to the spillover of the Tigray conflict.
The intensification and expansion of the conflict in the north, in addition to violence and regional border disputes and recent natural hazards, have caused an increase in the number of displaced people in the country. At the end of 2021, about 5.8 million people were internally displaced in Ethiopia, including around 4.8 million displaced by conflict, 360,000 people by floods and 175,000 by drought. Out of the total number, 51 per cent were female, 34 per cent were children and 5 per cent were elderly people. They had limited access to nutritious food, protective shelter, safe water, sanitation facilities, and basic services.
The conflict in northern Ethiopia has unleashed major protection risks, including gender-based violence, family separation, land and property issues, loss of civil documentation and livelihood concerns with reported abuses and other serious human rights violations by parties to the conflict. Many of the displaced people sought shelter in urban areas, further increasing the pressure on vulnerable families in host communities, living in overcrowded settlements and continuing to face serious risks, including marginalization and exclusion, health outbreaks, economic hardships, and lack of access to basic services.
Because of conflict and the prevalence of explosive ordnances, civilians are increasingly exposed to severe risks of death and injuries. Surveying of potentially contaminated areas, marking and humanitarian clearance alongside risk education were identified as priorities to be scaled-up to prevent accidents, while assistance for victims of such accidents needed to be enhanced.
Security and access constraints
In 2021, insecurity remained the main impediment to relief operations in conflict-affected areas in the country. Humanitarian partners faced multiple limitations on movement because of security issues and restrictions by parties to the conflict. In Benishangul Gumuz, lack of access led to a sub-standard response to the needs of affected communities. In Northern Ethiopian and throughout conflict-affected areas, people continued to bear the brunt of violence, with restricted access to essential services such as health, water and sanitation, education and livelihoods.
During the year, the safety and security of aid workers was affected by the upsurge of violence in various parts of the country, including in Tigray. Since the start of the conflict in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, 23 humanitarian workers were killed. Humanitarian partners’ ability to respond to humanitarian needs was likewise hampered across the country due to the looting of vehicles, ambulances, and warehouses by parties to the conflict.
Food Insecurity and malnutrition Food insecurity and malnutrition remained widespread across Ethiopia in 2021. Droughts. locusts and floods affected pasture and cropland, which contributed to large-scale livestock death, leading to food and nutrition needs among farming and herding communities and conflict-affected people. With over 172,000 live- stock deaths reported, over two million people were at-risk and in critical need of emergency feed, water, and vaccination by the end of 2021.
The capacities of affected communities to sustain productive assets, protect livelihoods and access nutritious food has been undermined. Over the year, malnutrition was driven by persistent food insecurity, poor maternal and child feeding practices, high incidence of infectious diseases, and limited access to quality health and nutrition services. Admissions of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) cases with complications have increased due to the drought, damaged stabilization centers, and multiple displacements, mainly in Tigray, Sidama, Somali and Oromia regions.
The number of children with SAM cases admitted to therapeutic feeding programmes has increased by 18.4 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year marking the highest level of increase in the last 10 years. Additionally, a significant increase has been recorded in the number of pregnant and lactating women with acute malnutrition in the conflict-affected areas of Afar, Amhara and Tigray. The persons with disabilities, elderly, orphans and child-headed households have also been identified to be vulnerable to malnutrition and more likely to face barriers in accessing assistance and services.
The desert locust infestation has also negatively affected food security and the livelihoods of people in the early months of the year. Ethiopia experienced its worst desert locust infestation in 25 years, where close to 200,000 hectares of cropland were damaged