Conflict Watch: Climate Change Shocks Ethiopia

Millions of people stuck in the Horn of Africa have been trapped in a constant climate-change crisis, forcing people to flee their homes and abandon already fragile livelihoods.

Climate change has recently had a profound and severe impact on several regions and countries across the world. The Eastern African region has experienced several climate change shocks, resulting in increased conflict, instability, and violence within such countries and regions. Recently, Ethiopia has faced dramatic climate change shocks such as droughts and severe long-standing heat waves, exacerbating past and ongoing conflict over limited resources and land. The impacts of climate change such as droughts, flooding, long-standing temperature changes, disease, and climate-change-related problems have intensified ongoing conflict and sparked new conflict over scarce resources and opportunities.

Climate change-related conflict has had a complex impact on the country, including the main issues of displacement, infrastructure damage, lack of development, agricultural and labor damage, and humanitarian aid. Given the country’s historical conflicts of poverty, they are more vulnerable and dependent on the crucial factors of agriculture, water, and forestry, which have all ultimately been severely impacted and damaged by climate change.


Millions of people stuck in the Horn of Africa have been trapped in a constant climate-change crisis, forcing people to flee their homes and abandon already fragile livelihoods. The ongoing long-standing temperature increase, and drought have significantly shocked Ethiopia, undermining the resilience and progress of several communities, particularly in the southern regions. Intense droughts have become far more common in the region since the 1970s, leading to crop failure, food shortages, high mortality of livestock, an increase in hunger, and water scarcity. As a result of limited and scarce resources, communities and citizens are forced into competing for such dwindling resources, or to flee and seek sanctuary, further exacerbating the conflict, ultimately leading to a continuous cycle of climate change conflict Ethiopia has reached the highest number of climate-change refugees, displaced by the current violence and chaos. In the last three years, 930,000, with another 426,000 have been displaced by droughts and floods.

Infrastructure Damage: Drought & Flooding

In the past years, Ethiopia has experienced severe droughts which have devastated the arid pastoral areas and residing communities. With the frequency of droughts, the expectation of an increase in droughts is highly likely, further stressing the country’s already fragile food production system. Addis Ababa, the metropolitan city has experienced extreme droughts for more than three months a year for the past two decades. The city is expected to experience an additional 1.6 months of extreme drought annually, coming to a 53% increase in comparison to the years 2000-2020. With the rising frequency of droughts, and the rapidly growing city’s population, the water insecurity has been intensified, affecting not only the city’s health, but their energy production and urban agriculture. With such rapid urbanization and the expansion of settlements across the area, the city’s vulnerability to flooding is higher due to the decline of accessible “green spaces”. The lack of green spaces alone has contributed to 40% of flooding and landslides in Addis. The effects of flooding pose a significant environmental tax risk for this Addis Ababa city, due to the development around the three primary rivers in the region. Currently, 67% of the population in Addis lives in flood-prone areas. The parts of the city that are most at risk include central Addis, which has the greatest density of impervious surfaces like tarmac and concrete. These contribute to flood risk because water can’t seep into the ground.

Damage to Public Health:

In addition to the consequences of flooding on infrastructure, public health has been severely negatively impacted through the contamination of fresh produce and crops. Public health has declined due to increasing temperatures, resulting in a larger risk of malaria transmission. Older adults and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. The elderly are more sensitive to heat and pollution due to existing health conditions, limited mobility, and compromised immune systems. Pregnant women face risks from thermal variations and mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and Zika.

Possible Ethiopian Government Solution

The government of Ethiopia is also struggling to cope with the impact of climate change, as it puts additional strain on already limited resources and infrastructure. The government’s ability to respond effectively to climate-related shocks is further hampered by internal conflicts and political instability, which have been exacerbated by the worsening climate crisis. In the face of these challenges, the government must prioritize climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts to build resilience and reduce the risk of conflict within the country.

A crucial mean in which Ethiopia can address the cycle of conflict caused by climate change is through improved resource management and conflict resolution mechanisms. By promoting sustainable farming practices, conserving water resources, and investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, the country can reduce the likelihood of resource-based conflicts and build resilience to future climate-related shocks.

Additionally, investing in conflict resolution mechanisms and promoting dialogue between different communities can help to address underlying tensions and grievances that fuel conflicts in times of crisis.

International Support

International cooperation and support are also crucial in addressing the impact of climate change in Ethiopia and preventing the escalation of conflicts within the country. By providing financial assistance, technical support, and capacity-building programs, the international community can help Ethiopia build resilience to climate-related shocks and reduce the risk of conflict. Furthermore, global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change can help to prevent further environmental degradation and reduce the frequency and severity of climate-related shocks in the future.


Due to climate change, countries are facing detrimental droughts and flooding, resulting in damage to the agricultural production and sector, leading to high unemployment rates and resource scarcity, resulting in poverty and an increase in hunger/food insecurity. To limit the detrimental effects of climate change and create effective policies, governments and food aid organizations can create anti. With the constant rise of grievances faced by many of the civilians in these crises-ridden countries, civilians resort to violence as a means of retaliation or protesting their exhaustion of concern and demand for their grievances to be accounted for. As such, peace-building program initiatives can benefit such conflict-ridden countries, reducing the possible risk of violence and conflict outbreaks as a result of a lack of resources. With peace-building initiatives, the risk of terrorist organizations and the country’s corruption are lessened, weakening the possible effect both factors may have on the hunger and food insecurity crisis.  Lastly, by creating developmental programs in impoverished and conflict-ridden countries, civilians and citizens who have been facing economic decline and political instability are met with possible reformative suggestions and alternatives to lessen the impact and shock made by the hunger and food insecurity crisis. By implementing these three significant and effective programs into the food aid system, countries that are currently facing the dramatic effects of global food insecurity and hunger can work towards finding and implementing solutions, as well as fighting the issue.

Mariamme Latif Estafan
Mariamme Latif Estafan
Undergraduate Student at George Mason University, double majoring in government & international politics, as well as conflict resolution and analysis. Passionate about human rights, international law, and advocacy. Showcasing her passions through her work and commitment to foster change and improve overall society.