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Ethiopia has made important development gains over the past two decades, reducing poverty and expanding investments in basic social services. However, food insecurity and under-nutrition still hinder economic growth. In 2015 it ranked 174 out of 188 in the UNDP Human Development Report. The country is also home to the largest refugee population on the continent; it currently hosts 730,000 registered refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Kenya.

2016 was a challenging year for Ethiopia as it suffered from the worst El Niño impact in the last 50 years. The onset of El Niño combined with failed Belg (spring harvest) and Meher (main harvest) rains in 2015 left 10.2 million people in need of emergency food and nutrition assistance.

While the Government and partners averted a major humanitarian catastrophe, the drought has left a negative legacy on many families, who lost livestock and other productive assets. The residual needs from the past year have been compounded by a new and devastating drought which hit Ethiopia and other parts of the Horn of Africa in early 2017.

In  August 2017, the Government of Ethiopia released the Mid-Year Humanitarian Requirements Document which outlined the need to support 8.5 million people with emergency food, nutrition, health, water and education programmes.

WFP supports the Ethiopian Government through a range of life-saving and resilience-building activities as well as providing assistance in refugee camps. We use food, cash, nutrition assistance and innovative approaches to improve nutrition, empower women, build local capacities and enhance preparedness to climate-related shocks.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Ethiopia

Emergency response

WFP is currently providing emergency food assistance to 3.3 million people in the Somali region – the epicentre of the drought. Recipients of assistance include vulnerable pastoralist communities who have lost a significant number of livestock—their main source of income and nutrition.

Food security

WFP is a major partner in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which assists 1.6 million people in rural areas to create community assets. The programme provides food and cash to vulnerable people during the lean season in exchange for work in managing natural resources and creating basic social infrastructures such as roads, schools and clinics.

Support for smallholder farmers

Through the Purchase for Progress programme, WFP buys food for its programmes from local smallholder farmers. The initiative cut costs, gives a boost to the local economy and helps strengthen smallholder farmers’ capacities in management and marketing.


WFP provides nutrition assistance, particularly in emergency settings, to 1.6 million vulnerable people, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, children under 5 and orphans. We also work to prevent stunting through our Fresh Food Vouchers, which help children to eat a diverse and healthy diet.

Early warning tools

WFP's Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) unit has developed early warning tools to improve food security and assist the Government's shift towards proactive disaster risk management. VAM has released findings for the first Food Security Monitoring Survey for 2017.


WFP currently assists 600,000 refugees from Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. Together with ARRA (the Government’s Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs), we distribute high energy biscuits at entry points and provide a monthly food ration of cereals, pulses, Super Cereal, iodized salt and vegetable oil. We also support selected refugee households with livelihood activities such as vegetable gardening and poultry farming. Along with ARRA and UNHCR, we are implementing biometric verification to ensure that our assistance is cost-efficient and goes to those who need it the most.

Capacity building

WFP works with the Government on logistic capacity-building activities. For instance, we help Ethiopia boost its emergency logistics preparedness through establishing humanitarian staging areas, supporting the Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority to reduce port congestion, and strengthening the road transport sector in cooperation with Federal Road Transport Authority.

School meals

WFP works with the Government and local partners to improve nutrition and promote education for Ethiopian school children. By providing nutritious meals, WFP supports nearly 400,000 school children living in the Afar, Oromia, SNNPR and Somali regions of Ethiopia.

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