Landmark Vulnerability and Adaptation assessment conducted in Ethiopia

26 July 2018

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

The impacts of climate change are devastating. Severe weather changes produce substantial harm to the health and livelihood of populations around the globe, from the destruction of traditional agrarian lifestyle to the spread of communicable disease. Ethiopia is one nation facing significant risks as a result of changing weather patterns. To appropriately respond to the worsening effects of climate change, it is essential to establish an accurate understanding of the primary challenges facing the country.

In coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ethiopian government has conducted a landmark Vulnerability and Adaptation (VA) Assessment of health to climate change in Ethiopia, the first report of its kind. The finished report establishes the indispensable scientific evidence for decision makers, outlining the scale and severity of the impacts of changing climate. This information is crucial to inform priorities and  guide the development of policies which answer to the unique challenges of Ethiopia.

The assessment evaluates current and future susceptibility of the population to harm and the health risks of climate change by following a rigorous methodology and standardised set of steps.  The process began with a desk review of the climate conditions, water resources, WASH baseline, adaptive capacity and relationship between water and health. In this step the region and health outcomes of interest were defined, and the policy context identified. Stakeholder and community workshops were then conducted alongside data collection in the field. This descriptive analysis method resulted in a final measure of vulnerability.

Findings indicate that over 50% of the country falls under the two most vulnerable classes of the measurement scale, categorized as highly vulnerable and very highly vulnerable. This is further exacerbated by the discovery that Ethiopia is becoming warmer and has experienced increasing temperature over the past century. Changes in heat contribute to the high vulnerability of the country to both drought and flood conditions. Floods are occurring more regularly, and inflicting loss to productive capital and human life. Recurring droughts, which contribute significantly to the reduction of quality and quantity of drinking water, were also found to be increasing in frequency.

Vulnerability assessment findings

From: Simane B. et al. (2017) Health Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change in Ethiopia. In: Leal Filho W., Belay S., Kalangu J., Menas W., Munishi P., Musiyiwa K. (eds) Climate Change Adaptation in Africa. Climate Change Management. Springer, Cham










The VA assessment identifies the challenges of drought and flood as the primary risks for Ethiopia. Findings of the report also recognize the growing presence of vector borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue. As weather conditions become more favourable to the carriers of disease, such as mosquitos, regions who have historically benefited from climate barriers and therefore avoided high disease burdens for vector borne illnesses will now be exposed.

Accounting for the multiple determinants of climate sensitive health outcomes, the VA assessment team then identified and outlined policies and activities which could contribute to minimising the vulnerability of Ethiopia. The report also projects future health risks and impacts under worsening climate change, identify and prioritising activities which address current and projected health risks. The final product is a list of recommendations which are unique to the key risks for Ethiopia. Of the proposed activities, establishing surveillance and data management systems to strengthen early warning systems tops the list, along with enhanced public awareness and attitudes and partnership, coordination and collaboration.

As the first report of its kind, the vulnerability and adaptation assessment provides decision makers with a systematic and scientific understanding of the challenges that the nation faces, and suggested methods of bolstering Ethiopia’s resilience in the face of these mounting challenges. The report equips Ethiopia with a foundation upon which to build a robust response to face the devastation of climate change.