Ethiopia to Face High Food Insecurity in 2018

Ethiopia will continue to face significant food insecurity in 2018, according to several recent reports from FEWS Net and FAO GIEWS.

According to an East Africa regional update released by FEWS Net in early December, IPC Phase 4 (Emergency)-level food insecurity is expected to continue in the southeastern areas of Ethiopia into mid-2018. The update reports that some households in the region could face Phase 5 (Catastrophe)-level food insecurity during this time period. The December FEWS Net Food Assistance Brief also reports Phase 3 (Crisis) and Phase 4 (Emergency) levels of food insecurity in the southeastern areas of the country through June 2018. According to both reports, humanitarian and food aid remains crucial to prevent acute malnutrition.

GIEWS also recently released an updated country brief for Ethiopia. According to the brief, the main “meher” cereal harvest is underway amid generally favorable prospects. However, due to insufficient and erratic rainfall earlier in the year, production of the “belg” harvest, which began later than usual in August, was below average. In addition, Fall Armyworm infestations have impacted about 550,000 hectares of “meher” maize crops, about 27 percent of the total land planted to the crop. The pest infestation was first reported in the country in February 2017 and has mainly impacted maize and sorghum crops.

GIEWS also reports that prolonged drought continues to hurt livelihoods and drive food insecurity in the southern and southeastern pastoral areas of the country. While recent rains have been cumulatively above average, they have not been sufficient to offset the moisture deficits resulting from two previous failed rainy seasons. As a result of the prolonged dryness, livestock mortality rates remain high and milk production in the region has significantly declined for many households and stopped completely for others.

The price of maize increased sharply in 2017, according to GIEWS, nearly doubling on average in all monitored markets. While maize prices stabilized slightly in October due to favorable “meher” harvest prospects, they remain 55 percent above their year-earlier levels. Teff and wheat prices also remain well above average – 10-25 percent higher than the October 2016 levels for teff and 34 percent higher for wheat.

As a result of many of these factors, food insecurity in Ethiopia declined significantly in 2017. GIEWS reports that the number of food-insecure people rose from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 8.5 million in August 2017. The southern and southeastern areas of the country remain hardest hit, particularly the Somali region, where 42 percent of the population was deemed food-insecure as of September 2017.

In late November, FEWS Net released a global food security alert, highlighting continued high food assistance needs and concern about potential famine conditions in several countries, including Ethiopia.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Rod Waddington