2020 IN REVIEW HUMANITARIAN CONTEXT
Humanitarian situation in 2020
In 2020, humanitarian needs soared due to a variety of shocks, including ongoing conflicts, community violence, displacement, health emergencies and climatic crises. The Mid-Year Review of the 2020 HRP more than doubled the number of people targeted for humanitarian assistance, from 7 million (at the launch of the HRP in early 2020) to 15 million, mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable people. Vulnerable people in Ethiopia also faced recurrent climatic shocks, namely floods and droughts, desert locust invasions and disease outbreaks such as cholera and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the most marginalized and at-risk population groups were affected by multiple shocks, contributing to an emerging protection crisis.
Conflict, clashes and displacement
Conflicts that began at the end of 2017 remained a significant driver of humanitarian needs and protection crises. Inter-communal clashes over resources, regional boundaries, and ethnic tensions continued to evolve, with economic pressures compounding land and resource disputes. Simmering ethnic tension, as well as violence – both inter-communal and by armed groups – continued in different regions. Of an estimated 2.7 million internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ethiopia, one million were displaced in 2020 and 1.9 million (70 per cent) were displaced by conflict.
The situation in Benishangul-Gumuz region remains highly volatile, restricting humanitarian space and preventing the urgent scale up of response. More than 180,000 people remain displaced due to escalating inter-communal conflict involving unidentified armed groups (UAGs). The long-standing conflict between Afar and Isa (Somali) communities remains concerning. Inter-communal violence has also been reported in northern, western, and central Gondar and along the Somali-Oromia administrative boundary between Jarso (Oromo) and Geri (Somali) clans. In July 2020, a conflict between Konso zone and Ale Special Woreda resulted in the death of 23 people and the displacement of 8,982 people in Konso.
Since July 2020, protests, civil unrest and ethnic violence grew in Oromia and in the capital, Addis Ababa, following the killing of prominent Oromo singer and activist Haachalu Hundessa. Cities such as Shashemene were affected by looting and by attacks, some deadly, against non-ethnic Oromos. While several arrests were made, tension prevails in parts of the region. Furthermore, tension and uncertainty remain in East Wellega, West Wellega, Kelem Wellega and Horo Gudru Wellega of Oromia due to sporadic violence and security operations against UAGs.
Meanwhile, the most recent conflict between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), which erupted on 4 November 2020, resulted in civilian suffering and casualties, internal displacement of more than 500,000 people and migration of over 60,000 people across the border into Sudan, while humanitarian corridors remain mostly blocked and essential social services disrupted.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impact worsened an already dire situation. The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 137,000 in Ethiopia at the end of 2020 with Addis Ababa and Oromia region accounting for the highest percentage. There is high uncertainly in Tigray region given that no surveillance activities have been carried out since 4 November 2020 and considering that there were hundreds of active cases when the military operation started. As a result, an increasing number of people are estimated to be living below the poverty line, with women and girls disproportionately affected, not only by the economic crisis but also by related protection concerns including gender-based violence (GBV).
Ethiopia is experiencing its worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years, which exacerbates an already alarming food se-curity and nutrition situation. The desert locust infestation has so far damaged 365,015 hectares of cropland across multiple regions, affecting livelihoods, in at least 76 districts. Desert locust invasions in Afar,
Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Sidama and SNNP regions continue to devastate crops and pastures, with a particular increase of swarm movement observed in Oromia (East Harerghe, Bale, Borena, and Arsi) and SNNP (South Omo) in late 2020.
Floods and drought
Floods continue to affect millions of people and displace thousands every year. In 2020, prolonged kiremt (June to September main rainy season) rains led to flooding and landslide incidents in six regions, with an estimated 1.1 million people affected, including 342,000 people displaced. The above-normal kiremt and karma/karan (pastoral rains in Afar and northern Somali regions) rainfall in belg areas and in northern pastoral areas, led to flash floods that submerged farmlands and livestock grazing reserves in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia, SNNP, Somali, and Tigray regions between June and September 2020, resulting in crop losses, disruption of livelihoods and increased food insecurity. Floods also left communities at higher risk of waterborne diseases like cholera (especially in West Omo and South Omo zones in SNNP and West-Guji zone in Oromia) and acute watery diarrhoea.
While many areas in Ethiopia were affected by floods, others were at risk of drought due to poor performance and localized failures of the kiremt rains. Southern Tigray, some agro-pastoral areas of Afar and the southern and south-eastern parts of the country were affected by reduced rain leading to poor crop production and food insecurity.
The cumulative effects of chronic shocks resulted in escalated humanitarian needs that are contributing to growing protection concerns. With increased vulnerability arising from the economic decline and COVID-19, social networks and family and community protection mechanisms have been disrupted and eroded, putting women and girls at heightened risk of GBV. Protection concerns related to negative coping mechanisms and neglect have increased along with humanitarian needs, particularly for marginalized and at- risk people, including displaced persons, women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly. These groups are at greater risk of being deprived of their rights and life-saving assistance.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.