Ethiopia + 1 more

Ethiopia: The Pre-crisis situation in Tigray - Secondary Data Review, 22 February 2021



This report provides baseline, background, and context information on the Tigray region, referring to the situation before the beginning of the conflict that erupted in November 2020. It was compiled to help inform the humanitarian response.


Population: Tigray has an estimated population of nearly 5.7 million people (5.5% of the total population of Ethiopia), predominantly rural, although recent years have seen rapid urbanisation. Tigrayans constitute the majority ethnic group. Half of the population is under 18 years old. In October 2020, Tigray was hosting over 100,000 IDPs, primarily from Amhara and Oromia regions, and over 5,500 returnee IDPs, as well as more than 95,000 refugees, predominantly from Eritrea, mostly hosted in four camps.

Politics & economy: The Tigrayan political elites have played a dominant role in Ethiopia’s politics since 1994. This is partly responsible for significant economic growth in the region, with relatively high levels of investment and strong local government capacity. However, Tigray continues to have the highest poverty rate in the country.

Humanitarian concerns: Tigray’s economy and livelihoods, centred around agriculture, are highly dependent on rainfall, with some parts of Tigray experiencing only one rainy season per year. A decrease in rainfall and increase in the occurrence of droughts due to climate change has had a significant impact on livelihoods and food security in the region. Desert locusts are an additional hazard, with a desert locust infestation in 2019/20 leading to high losses, especially in eastern Tigray. Food insecurity in Tigray is significant, with over 82,000 people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 346,000 in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in October 2020, projected to deteriorate even before the outbreak of violence. Poor WASH conditions are a key driver of malnutrition. Access to health services is difficult in remote areas.

Protection concerns: There is a high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Tigray. One in four women has experienced female genital mutilation/circumcision (FGM/C), and many women have married under the age of 18. Female literacy rates are lower than male rates. Child labour is common. Among Eritrean refugees, a high number of female heads of household and unaccompanied children implies protection needs.

COVID-19: More than 6,300 cases of COVID-19 had been registered in Tigray until October 2020, although significant underreporting is likely. Containment measures have had a significant socioeconomic impact in the region.
Access and infrastructure: Road infrastructure in Tigray is generally good, though road access is limited in remote rural areas. Road access is also difficult in mountainous areas, with dirt roads becoming impassable during rainy seasons.