Ethiopia emergency situation

Ethiopian women sitting on the ground in a desert thinking
Climate change and drought is affecting displaced Ethiopian families in the Somali regions. Many have lost their homes, livestock, and farmland. UNHCR and partners are assisting local authorities in meeting the critical needs of displaced Ethiopians, including shelter, core relief items, and water.   © UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

Latest updates

Global Appeal 2023

2023 population planning figures  

  • Refugees and asylum-seekers: 121,000 

  • IDPs: 5.3 million 


2023 situation overview 

The conflict in northern Ethiopia is complex, fluid and evolving. August 2022 saw the resumption of hostilities in the three northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar, leading to new displacement and restrictions on humanitarian movement and access to affected refugee and IDP populations, disrupting the delivery of protection and assistance.  

In 2023, depending on the evolution of the situation and access to affected areas, UNHCR will continue to provide essential aid to Ethiopian IDPs and Eritrean refugees affected by the hostilities. Humanitarian assistance will include shelter and core relief items as well as protection services for IDPs, including support for survivors of gender-based violence, and full multisector support for refugees as per UNHCR’s mandated responsibilities. 

The resumption of hostilities prompted UNHCR to review emergency preparedness measures in Sudan, in case of a flow of refugees into Gedaref and Kassala states. By the end of September 2022, there had been few new arrivals, but emergency preparedness measures such as border monitoring and the prepositioning of emergency relief items were complete. Efforts were underway to create additional space for new arrivals in existing camps while identifying additional sites as part of contingency planning. UNHCR declared an internal Level 1 emergency for Sudan, which will remain in force until March 2023. UNHCR will also continue its response in eastern Sudan and Blue Nile state, providing protection assistance, shelter, water, sanitation, health care, and logistics support. By the end of August 2022, some 60,000 Ethiopian refugees had crossed into Sudan. 

Global Report 2021

2021 Year-end population figures

  • Refugees (Ethiopian refugees in Sudan and Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia): 215,000
  • IDPs: 3.6 million

2021 Situation Overview

By the end of 2021, the conflict situation that began in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in November 2020 had significantly worsened with reported internal displacement and ongoing cross-border movements into Sudan. An estimated 3.6 million people were internally displaced as the conflict spread to the regions of Afar and Amhara. The establishment of a new refugee site in the Amhara region began in 2021 and was expected to host some 25,000 Eritrean refugees remaining in the camps in Tigray, as soon as voluntary relocation is possible.

A total of 57,000 Ethiopian refugees, (majority of whom arrived in 2020) were registered in Sudan by the end of 2021 where the emergency response remained focused on providing life-saving assistance and protection in the new refugee camps in Gedaref and Blue Nile states in Sudan, while ensuring preparedness in the event of a new influx.

UNHCR scaled up its response to address the humanitarian needs of IDPs for protection, shelter and core relief items in the Tigray region with the onset of the crisis. In 2021, UNHCR increased the operational footprint throughout Tigray and expanded its presence and operational response into Afar and Amhara regions as of August 2021. As UNHCR expanded its presence, UNHCR also activated and strengthened coordination leadership roles for the protection and camp coordination and camp management clusters, which are now active in all three regions. Stocks of core relief items for over 100,000 people were also put in place.

In the last quarter of 2021, over 1.2 million IDPs in northern Ethiopia were provided with protection and assistance services. UNHCR activated sub-regional protection clusters, with partnerships for protection outreach and monitoring activities in key locations, establishing a total of 65 protection desks for counselling, referrals and case management in the three regions.

In eastern Sudan, host to refugees from northern Ethiopia, UNHCR and other partner agencies worked to strengthen protection and continued to provide assistance in 2021. UNHCR operated in the refugee-hosting sites: Um Rakuba camp, Tunaydbah camp, Hamdayet transit centre, Babikri, Village 6 and Village 8 reception centre.

With anticipated new arrivals in 2022, UNHCR planned to expand the existing Tunaydbah and Um Rakuba camps for Ethiopian refugees while putting in place a contingency plan for larger arrivals at the same time. An additional site was identified for potential arrivals from the Amhara region.

UNHCR and partners made significant efforts in scaling up the protection response, with particular attention to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Some of the key areas of work included strengthening referral pathways, data sharing, awareness raising, and supporting community-based networks including additional protection desks and child friendly spaces and psychosocial support. Inter-agency training was provided to government officials, humanitarian actors and refugee volunteers.

Countries affected