• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Special Reports




Violence and insecurity in Tigray since November 2020 – and increasingly in Afar and Amhara since mid-July 2021 – have resulted in access constraints and severe humanitarian needs across northern Ethiopia. On 4 November 2020, conflict erupted between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the regional Tigrayan forces after months of increasing political tensions. Between November 2020 and June 2021, continued fighting involved the ENDF, the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), Amhara and Afar regional forces, and Tigrayan forces, as well as allied groups and militia on both sides.?

At the end of June, a shift in conflict dynamics (including the ENDF withdrawal from Tigray) dramatically changed the operational context. Access within Tigray has improved since early July, but access into Tigray has become severely restricted. There is only one viable road for humanitarian transport into Tigray through Afar, with sporadic cargo movement and limited air travel for humanitarian staff. As a result, humanitarian response in Tigray is hampered by the lack of humanitarian supplies, fuel shortages, and reduced cash availability. Telecommunication, internet, and electricity blackouts persist across the region. Commercial movement in and out of the region has not been possible since July.?

Since mid-July, Tigrayan forces have been advancing towards Amhara and Afar regions, resulting in increased access constraints and humanitarian needs. Conflict, increased food insecurity, large-scale displacement, and lack of access to essential services resulted in humanitarian needs for at least nine million people in northern Ethiopia.?Following the start of the conflict, the population in Tigray has experienced significant protection incidents, such as mass killings, human rights abuses, violence against civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, and arbitrary detention. Similar protection incidents are also reported in Amhara and Afar, especially since the spread of fighting in July.?

Latest Developments


12/01: Aid organisations were prompted to suspend operations in North West zone of Tigray region on 9 January because of drone airstrikes and insecurity. On 5 January, an airstrike hit Mai Aini refugee camp, killing three Eritrean refugees, including two children, and injuring four people.  The night of 7-8 January, more than 50 people were killed and at least 30 people injured by an airstrike on an informal site for internally displaced people in Dedebit town. People staying at the IDP site had been displaced by conflict in Western zone. On 10 January, an airstrike killed at least 17 people and injured dozens in Mai Tsebri town. Response to the needs is likely to be challenging, given the suspension of aid operations and severe shortages of fuel, cash, and medical supplies across Tigray.?

06/01: Between 19-24 December, intense airstrikes in Alamata, Korem, Maychew, Mekoni, and Milazat towns in southern Tigray reportedly killed dozens of civilians - the highest number of casualties since October. On 22 December, airstrikes targeted an electrical substation in Mekele, resulting in electricity shortages.?

05/01: Clashes in Abala (Afar region) since mid-December reportedly have displaced a few thousand people to Berhale town and Erebti woreda. They urgently need assistance, but access is hindered by insecurity. The insecurity has also prevented humanitarian convoys from entering Tigray region since 14 December, as they normally pass through Abala into Tigray.?


Intensified conflict in the Tigray region, a sustained humanitarian blockade, and the main harvest being missed for the second time result in mass starvation and deaths Latest update: 26/10/2021


Highly unlikely Somewhat likely Highly likely


Very low Moderate Major


Conflict in the Tigray region has displaced over two million people and led to a humanitarian crisis since November 2020. From the start of the conflict until June 2021, heavy fighting in the region has disrupted the 2020/2021 meher harvest season and market functionality, resulting in increased food prices?. The destruction and looting of food stocks, livestock, and farming equipment have diminished livelihood opportunities?. Insecurity, bureaucracy, and logistical issues have prevented aid from scaling up to meet the growing needs. As a result, there is widespread lack of food in Tigray, and malnutrition rates are high. At least four million people are food-insecure, and famine-like conditions and starvation are reported in some areas?.

The Government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire on 28 June and withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) from most of Tigray have not ended the conflict?. Instead, the fighting shifted from Tigray to bordering areas in Afar and Amhara regions. Various triggers could shift the conflict back to Tigray, including the end of the rainy season in September (facilitating military movements), the re-engagement of the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF), who remain in border areas and in western Tigray, or the advancement of regional forces?. Without a mutual ceasefire by the end of the 2021 farming season, an intensified conflict would prevent some farmers from harvesting the crops they sowed.

Since July, humanitarian access within Tigray has improved, but commercial and humanitarian movement into the region has effectively been blocked. The transportation of humanitarian supplies is only sporadically feasible via one road in the Afar region. With an intensification of conflict, the affected border areas likely will continue to be blocked, and the access along the Afar route will deteriorate. Fighting will continue to prevent commercial activity. Shortages and depletion of fuel and cash are already occurring and will continue to paralyse movements and the humanitarian response within Tigray, increasing the risk of famine?.


Intensified conflict and a sustained blockade will prevent food assistance from reaching people in need and result in the 2021 meher harvest being missed in conflict-affected locations. Food stocks are largely depleted. People have been adopting emergency coping strategies since the start of the lean season in May 2021?. Since the conflict began, humanitarian assistance has been insufficient to meet the population’s food needs, and the blockade that began in July has further increased this gap?. If the harvest is obstructed, over five million people in Tigray will lose a vital food source. Compounded by insufficient food assistance, that would lead to an exhaustion of coping strategies. Active fighting, the blockade, and the missed harvest would continue to disrupt trade and the importation of food into Tigray, leading to rising food prices in a place where residents have limited cash. Conflict and lack of fuel will restrict people’s movement, preventing them from obtaining food assistance.

The food shortage will result in an extreme increase in food insecurity, leading to more malnutrition and health-related complications, aggravated by the lack of WASH and health services. People across Tigray will die from starvation. Already by July, over 400,000 people were projected to be acutely food-insecure in IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe)?. Infants and children under five, pregnant and nursing women, older adults, and people with disabilities or chronic diseases face a heightened risk of starvation. People who have received no or minimal food assistance since the conflict began, including many IDPs, will also be of particular concern. Data collection challenges and political sensitivities will prevent experts from officially declaring a famine.

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Food: Severe food insecurity has resulted from displacement, movement restrictions, supply constraints, loss of harvest and livelihoods, and disrupted markets. 9.4 million people were estimated to need food assistance as at mid-November.?

Health and nutrition: Access to healthcare has drastically worsened. Health facilities have been looted and destroyed, rendering the majority non-functional. Severe acute malnutrition rates are rising. Other health concerns include the lack of treatment for chronic health issues and disease outbreaks that cannot be monitored because of lacking surveillance systems. There is also a lack of health items, especially in Tigray. ?

WASH: Around 5.2 million people in northern Ethiopia need WASH services, including safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Fuel shortages and access constraints are among the limitations preventing proper distribution of WASH NFIs and the functionality of WASH infrastructure. Lack of electricity and fuel hinders water trucking operations and water pumps. ?

Shelter: Emergency shelter and NFI needs are high because of mass displacement, particularly after the spread of the Tigray conflict into Afar and Amhara and the reopening of schools that sheltered IDPs. Response has been hindered by access constraints, including lack of fuel and electricity and communication blackouts. Supply chain disruptions are causing NFI shortages. Safe relocations and returns need to be ensured.?


  • Because of limited access and communications blackout, the extent of the needs in northern Ethiopia is hard to determine. 
  • There is a lack of recent food security data, especially in Tigray.
  • Displacement figures for Amhara and Afar are unknown because of lack of government capacity, access constraints, and multiple displacement.