Health and Nutrition Fund

A Crisis of Hunger

Hunger in Ethiopia is at crisis levels. And it's expected to continue to get worse in the future. Drought, famine, and ongoing conflicts have left millions of Ethiopians in desperate need of immediate food assistance. More than 8 million Ethiopians are currently in need of food aid,1 and the World Food Programme considers Ethiopia "at risk of plunging further into crises that pose serious threats to people’s food security and livelihoods."

A Cycle and History of Hunger

Drought and Famine

Hunger and food insecurity have existed in Ethiopia for decades. In recent years, sustained periods of little to no rainfall have led to frequent and extended droughts that further contribute to food scarcity, food shortages, food insecurity and widespread child malnutrition in the country.

A person is food secure when he or she has regular access to enough safe and nutritious food to remain healthy and lead an active life.

The path from drought to hunger and malnutrition increases a person's vulnerability and susceptibility to illness, disease and death as food shortages drive up food prices or simply make food staples more difficult to obtain.

Child Malnutrition

A 2014 study published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science noted that the national baseline for chronic malnutrition was 40%, with some regions such as Affar (49%), Tigray (44%), and Amhara (42%), experiencing even higher rates of malnutrition.

When a child’s intake of calories, vitamins and minerals is less than what it needs to be for healthy early childhood development, stunting or wasting can be the result.

  • Stunting is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition that results in low height in relation to age.
  • Wasting is mostly an acute condition associated with recent and severe weight loss, such as in times of drought or food scarcity. Wasting results in a low weight in relation to height.
  • Underweight children may experience stunting and wasting, but they may not. Having low weight-for-age is considered being underweight.

under age 5 are stunted

under age 5 are underweight

under age 5 suffer from wasting

Source: World Bank

Conflict and War

While Ethiopia has made significant strides in recent years in terms of economic growth and increased GDP, conflict has plagued the country, killing and displacing people and further contributing to food shortages, food insecurity, and hunger.

Civil war raged in Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. In the midst of the war, famine ravaged the country, killing 1.2 million people dead and leaving 200,000 children as orphans and 2.5 million people internally displaced.

The fighting led to independence for current-day Eritrea and drained financial resources from both countries, leading to entrenched food insecurity and long-term damage to public health and support services.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia have created more than 3 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The camps the IDPs live in, which are similar to camps established for refugees who cross borders to escape conflict, are makeshift and meant to be temporary. They often lack basic necessities for sanitation and rely upon aid groups to provide food supplies, clean water, and medicine to the residents.

Help Hungry Children

Food insecurity and hunger are not confined to Ethiopia. Hunger is so widespread in Africa that the World Health Organization estimates 90% of African children are not meeting the criteria for a minimum acceptable diet.2

Our Health and Nutrition Fund helps feed and care for millions of hungry children living in poverty around the world. By giving to the Health and Nutrition Fund, you are providing supplemental food aid, vitamins and medical care to hungry children in Africa and malnourished and hungry children in Asia and the Americas. You are supporting our therapeutic feeding and food stability initiatives for infants and newborns, and you are helping thousands of local churches to meet the life-threatening needs of the children in their communities.

Hunger exacts a severe toll on children in poverty. The affect it has on health, development, learning, and future productivity creates a barrier that helps keep generations mired in poverty. Meeting a child’s need for proper nutrition is a simple and powerful way you can facilitate long-term wellness and help children grow into healthy, fulfilled adults capable of providing for themselves and their families.

Make a donation to Compassion's Health and Nutrition Fund today!

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1 "Agriculture and Food Security: Ethiopia." U.S. Agency for International Development, 8 July 2019,

2 ACPF (2019). For Lack of Will: Child Hunger in Africa. Addis Ababa: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).


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