Ethiopia Revised humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) May–December 2020

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Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture

Ethiopia had already been confronting major vulnerabilities when COVID-19 emerged in the country. The macroeconomic and development situation was strained and unemployment was high, particularly among young people searching for opportunities in an economy with high levels of informality. Furthermore, social unrest – triggered by longstanding issues that could now be aired in a more open civic and political environment – had led to conflict, the loss of lives and property, and the internal displacement of 1.7 million people.

The agriculture sector in particular is facing (i) a major desert locust invasion affecting close to 1 million people, (ii) erratic rainfall, and (iii) outbreaks of cholera, measles and yellow fever. A significant decline in purchasing power and food access had already been experienced in April–May due to the combined effects of increased food prices, the peak of the lean season in Belg-receiving areas, as well as reduced labour wages and income opportunities due to COVID-19 restrictions. The impacts of containment measures on food security in rural areas is expected to continue over the next months.

The food security and livelihoods of vulnerable communities have been significantly impacted by the desert locust upsurge and are also likely to be further affected by the pandemic. An assessment by the Government of Ethiopia, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other technical partners found that about 1 million people in Ethiopia have been affected by the desert locust invasion and require emergency food assistance. Furthermore, the pest has damaged about 200 000 ha of cropland and resulted in a cereal loss of over 356 000 tonnes. Up to 1.3 million ha of land has been affected in total.