Photo: WFP/Michael Tewelde



people in need of food assistance


food-insecure people are being assisted by WFP

The Situation

As the second most populous country in Africa, Ethiopia has made impressive strides over the last 20 years in reducing poverty and expanding investments in basic social services. The number of people in absolute poverty fell from 48 percent in 1990 to an estimated 25 percent in 2013 and 2014. At the same time, the proportion of undernourished people fell from 75 percent between 1990 and 1992 to 32 percent in 2014 and 2015.

Despite strong economic gains and a comprehensive development framework, the distribution of developmental gains remains uneven. Moreover, climate shocks are a major cause of humanitarian crises in Ethiopia. Since 2003, the country has faced five serious droughts affecting millions of people, the most recent of which unfolded over the course of 2015 and was compounded by the global El Niño event.

Ethiopia is also host to the largest refugee population on the continent. More than 730,000 officially registered refugees from Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan now reside in 26 camps located in the five regional states of Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Somali and Tigray.

WFP's Work

WFP has been present in Ethiopia since 1968. At times of acute crisis, WFP supports the Ethiopian government in saving lives. The U.N. agency also supports programs that use food assistance to empower women, transform areas affected by climate change and keep children in school.

  • WFP is a major partner in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), through which it assists 1.6 million rural dwellers in generating community assets. Launched in 2005, PSNP provides food or cash or a combination of both to help vulnerable people bridge lean seasons and to ensure they do not have to sell their assets to meet basic food needs. In exchange, they participate in public works such as natural resource management and the development of basic social infrastructures like rural feeder roads, schools or clinics.
  • Through its school meals program, WFP is providing hot meals to more than 600,000 Ethiopian schoolchildren in 2016, aiming to increase enrollment and attendance and reduce dropout rates in food-insecure areas. In the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region and Oromia, more than 65,000 children in 105 schools have received hot meals made with locally grown food, purchased from cooperative unions supported by WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative. WFP is also building the government’s capacity to provide the meals itself and plans to hand over this responsibility to a nationally-owned program over the next five years.
  • Purchase for Progress aims to strengthen the management and marketing capacities of smallholder farmers. This year, WFP is purchasing 40,000 metric tons of maize from smallholder farmers through cooperative unions. WFP will use that food in various programs, cutting the cost of importing food while boosting the local economy.
  • WFP offers specialized nutritional supplements to about 2.2 million of the most vulnerable Ethiopians, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, children under age five and people living with HIV/AIDS. WFP continues to expand the way it delivers assistance through both cash- and voucher-based assistance.
  • WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping unit has developed early warning tools to strengthen Ethiopia’s fight against food insecurity and assist the government’s shift toward proactive disaster risk management.
  • Food assistance for refugees—from nearby Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan—reaches some 600,000 people. Ten percent receive a combination of both cash and food assistance in 11 camps.

Recent social unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions is having an adverse impact on WFP operations with significant delays in the dispatch and distribution of specialized nutritious food.