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April 18, 2024

Conflict and Famine in Ethiopia


Woman in ethiopia looking at the camera

World Jewish Relief is immensely troubled by ongoing famine and a rise in violence in Ethiopia, a country which has been devastated by recent civil wars, drought and the climate crisis. More than 24.4 million people across Ethiopia are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and over 4.4 million are internally displaced (UN OCHA, 2024). World Jewish Relief is working with its local Ethiopian partner to provide support those affected, and is continuing to monitor the situation closely.  

World Jewish Relief’s local partner, Coalition Child Support Association (CcSa) said: 

The situation in Ethiopia remains highly volatile, with ongoing sporadic clashes between government forces and various militia groups in the Amhara and Oromia regions. This instability has partially hindered humanitarian efforts. CcSa, in collaboration with World Jewish Relief, is implementing active projects in the Amhara region, including a livelihoods initiative for displaced women in the Debre Birhan IDP camp and a climate resilience project in the South Gondar zone.  

However, due to the active four-month state of emergency and security concerns, movement in these areas is restricted, creating obstacles in project monitoring. To deal with these obstacles, we have employed local volunteers prior to the conflict to provide up-to-date information on the ground about these projects.Addisu Yilha, Director of CcSa


Conflict and Ethnic Violence

In April 2023, it was revealed that the Ethiopian government had a plan to demobilise and dismantle the country’s regional special forces and integrate everyone into the Ethiopian military, police force, or regional police forces. The lack of transparency around this plan was in part a catalyst for conflict, alongside Amhara peoples’ growing distrust of the Ethiopian government, as there is some perception that the government isn’t doing enough to stop the killing of Amhara people living outside the region, in places like Oromia. 

The Fano, who is an ethno-nationalist Amhara military force which rose to prominence during the Tigray War (2020-22) when they fought beside government forces, responded to the government’s demobilisation plan by clashing with the Ethiopian military in different towns throughout Amhara. The tensions escalated and in August 2023, Ethiopia was put into a state of emergency when the Fano attacked and took over several major cities in Amhara. In February 2024, the state of emergency was expanded another 4 months. 

As a result of this fighting, civilians have died, there have been unlawful drone strikes, looting, and mass arrests without due process for those suspected of supporting the government. The government accuses Fano of assassinating regional security figures. 

A major point in the conflict occurred in January 2024, when Fano tried to overtake a government building in Merawi, a town of 35,000 people in North Gojjam Zone, Amhara. Here, Fano retreated, but the Ethiopian military reportedly continued firing on civilians and looting homes in the town, executing at least 22 people who they suspected of being part of the Fano – some sources cite up to 80 were killed. 

In recent months, Ethiopian forces and Fano continue to clash in Amhara, in places where the Fano try to gain control. The impact of this is civilian deaths, and reduced access for humanitarian aid organisations, whom many civilians rely on for support. 

It’s important to note that the Ethiopian forces conflict with Fano in Amhara is happening alongside ethnic violence against Amhara people in Oromia, where local militants are attacking and killing Amharic people and causing mass displacement.   


What is World Jewish Relief doing to support people in Ethiopia?

World Jewish Relief is supporting these internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing from Oromia with livelihood support, and has historically provided several rounds of food relief. World Jewish Relief is also working with communities to build climate resilience through early warning systems, helping vulnerable communities deal with the impacts of the climate crisis. World Jewish Relief is in constant contact with CcSa, and receive frequent updates on the situation on the ground, and as the situation worsens, is assessing how it might further support those affected in Ethiopia.