- Total population: 94 million
- Refugees: Nearly 740,000
- Rank in Human Development Index: 174 of 188
- Started work in Ethiopia: 2000
Ethiopia crisis briefing
Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa, is experiencing its worst drought in decades, leaving more than 10 million people in need of food and aid. The IRC delivers clean water and sanitation, essential supplies, and other emergency assistance to vulnerable Ethiopians while supporting government-provided health services.
What caused the crisis in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia has suffered from drought for decades, but 2016 saw the worst in 50 years, affecting more than 10 million people. Many have been forced to walk more than 12 hours in a desperate search for water.
With 80% of the population working in agriculture, this drought has been devastating for the economy, crops and food production. The situation is made worse by weather events like El Nino, which increase the number of areas affected by drought and flooding throughout the country.
At the same time, Ethiopia is working to support a large population of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.
What are the main humanitarian challenges in Ethiopia?
While the Ethiopian government is leading the response to the drought, more support is needed to reach millions of people in need of food and emergency assistance.
As drought intensifies across East Africa in 2017, below-average rains have left 5.6 million people in Ethiopia in need of food aid while over 9 million lack access to safe drinking water. More than 300,000 children are expected to need treatment for severe acute malnutrition as the crisis continues.
Children often miss school in order to search for water. Women and girls, in particular, are in need of clean and accessible health centres and protection from abuse and exploitation.
How does the IRC help in Ethiopia?
The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.
We first began assisting people in Ethiopia in 2000, providing essential aid to over 100,000 refugees from neighbouring countries and more than 500,000 Ethiopians affected by previous droughts. Since then, the IRC has expanded to provide a wide range of assistance for refugees living in camps and for vulnerable Ethiopian communities throughout the country. In 2013, the IRC opened the largest water system for any refugee camp in the world.
As Ethiopia hosts approximately 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers, and works to recover from the effects of a devastating drought and other economic shocks, the IRC is focusing our efforts in affected communities by:
- building and maintaining safe water supply systems and sanitation facilities
- educating communities on good hygiene practices that prevent the spread of disease
- supporting government partners and community workers in primary health care clinics on preventing and treating common childhood illnesses and addressing family planning needs
- distributing basic emergency supplies such as household kitchen sets, blankets, and buckets and jerrycans, as well as supplies to meet the specific needs of women and girls;
- constructing classrooms, training teachers and ensuring access to safe, high-quality, and responsive education services
- introducing new vocational skills and job opportunities to youth and vulnerable households.
What still needs to be done?
The IRC will continue to provide a wide range of emergency assistance and long-term support for vulnerable refugee and Ethiopian communities—including at-risk groups such as unaccompanied children and people with disabilities—to help them cope with and recover from crises. This includes building the capacity of local governments and nonprofit organisations as we work with these partners to increase people’s access to quality health care and clean water and sanitation services; educate communities about ways to prevent disease; raise awareness of family planning and reproductive health services; and enhance the literacy, numeracy, social and emotional, and job-related skills of youth.
Download the IRC's Ethiopia strategy action plan to learn more about our programme priorities until 2020.
people with access to primary and reproductive health care.
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people with access to clean water and sanitation.
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children and youth with access to school and other educational opportunities.
Education is the ultimate empowerment tool: it is what enables people to drive their own health, safety and prosperity.Learn about our education work.