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Ethiopia in northeast Africa has a population of over 115 million people and is roughly 15 times the size of Ireland.

Much of the country is vulnerable to erratic rainfall, leading to chronic food insecurity in many parts of the country. Despite this, Ethiopia has made significant strides to reduce poverty and to promote growth over the past two decades.

Together with our key UN and NGO partners, we work to ensure poor rural households are protected and are better resourced to adapt, particularly in times of food shortages. We also support programmes to enable mothers and children to live healthier and more productive lives.‌

  • Overview
  • Background
  • Our Work
  • Results


Ethiopia at a glance


115 million

Proportion of population living on less than $1.25 a day:


Ranking on UN Human Development Index:

173 out of 189

Partner Country since:


A large political map of Ethiopia

Ireland and Ethiopia

Ireland’s Embassy in Ethiopia opened in 1994, the same year we established our official development cooperation and humanitarian programme. Since then, the Embassy has worked with the government and a variety of partner organisations including UN agencies, civil society organisations, international research institutions and aid agencies to deliver on our overall Mission objectives.

In 2014 the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins paid a visit to Ethiopia, while Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney T.D. visited in 2017. Then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. also travelled to Ethiopia in January 2019, including visiting the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. He also met with Irish NGOs, and visited a UNHCR refugee camp.

There has also been a wide range of people-to-people contact between Ethiopian and Irish citizens, through tourism, education and cultural exchanges, business links and volunteering.

The Embassy of Ireland’s overall goal in Ethiopia is to ensure that Ireland’s values and interests including its development objectives are advanced, contributing to a more equal, stable and prosperous Ethiopia and wider Horn of Africa region.

In order to achieve this goal, we work with key stakeholders including government and UN agencies and a range of NGOs to advance our political, development cooperation, cultural and trade relations. We help poor rural households cope with climate shocks, enabling them to live healthier and more secure lives. We also provide humanitarian assistance to those most in need.

Some of the major initiatives we support include the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which provides food and cash to millions of rural people living in poverty.  It also contributes to land rehabilitation and the development of infrastructure.

Irish Aid contributes to the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund, providing water, sanitation and health (WASH) services, and nutrition to those in need of emergency assistance.  We also support projects providing protection and care for women who have experienced Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and support the national health system to deliver maternal health programmes. 

We are also working to enhance trade relations between Ireland and Ethiopia and support a number of research and learning partnerships between higher education institutions in Ireland and Ethiopia.



With more than 115 million people (2020), Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria and the fastest growing economy in the Horn of Africa region. However, it is also one of the poorest, with a per capita income of $850. Ethiopia aims to reach lower-middle-income status by 2025.

Ethiopia’s economy experienced strong, broad-based growth averaging 9.8% a year from 2008/09 to 2018/19. Industry, mainly construction, and services accounted for most of the growth. Private consumption and public investment explain demand-side growth, the latter assuming an increasingly important role.

Like the rest of the world, Ethiopia has been experiencing the unprecedented social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 shock is expected to be transitory with potential recovery possible from 2021 onward, but the overall adverse economic impact on Ethiopia will be substantial.

The economic impact of COVID-19 includes the increased price of basic foods, rising unemployment, slowdown in growth, and increase in poverty. The conflict centred on northern Ethiopia is also taking a toll on the economy, including as reflected in reduced exports and rising inflation.

Market in Tigray, Ethiopia 2011


Ethiopia is ranked 173 out of 189 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Significant progress has been made in recent years in economic growth and human development, albeit that the food security situation remains fragile and the population continues to increase.

Life expectancy in Ethiopia has increased to 66 over the past few years while the proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day decreased from 44.2% in 1999 to an estimated 23%% in 2021.

While poverty rates are improving overall, the severity of poverty being experienced by some communities in certain rural areas is intensifying, relative to urban areas. While the rate of population growth is slowing, it remains high at over 2% or two million additional people per year.

Ethiopia is expected to have a population of close to 120 million in 2025, the year it aims to attain lower middle-income status.

There is a need to address gender-related health issues as these undermine overall efforts to improve child health and nutrition, productivity and economic growth in general.

Ethiopia is particularly susceptible to climate change, including as manifested in variations in rainfall patterns. It is also vulnerable to drought and other natural disasters such as floods, heavy rains, frost and heat waves, along with the recent desert locust infestation.

Our Work

Development cooperation and humanitarian assistance are a core part of our work in Ethiopia since the Embassy opened in 1994. Ireland’s overall goal in Ethiopia is to contribute to a more equal, stable and prosperous country and region.

In order to achieve this goal we work with key stakeholders including government and UN agencies and a range of NGOs to ensure poor rural households are protected and resilient against climate shocks, populations in need of humanitarian assistance receive help, and that the most vulnerable live healthier and more secure lives.

An Ethiopian farmer with his crop

Putting Women and Girls at the centre of all that we do

The gendered nature of poverty and its consequences demand that the needs of women and girls are prioritised. In Ethiopia, Ireland adopts a twin track approach, ensuring that all our political, diplomatic and development engagement advances gender equality while also supporting stand-alone programmes that specifically address barriers to women’s rights.  

We are working to amplify the voices of women and girls, especially the furthest behind, at all levels of our engagement, so that rights are fulfilled, and priorities acted upon. This work focuses on three interrelated thematic areas: Women and Leadership; Sexual and Reproductive health and rights including issues relating to GBV and Women Peace and Security, which are reflected across our diplomatic, development and humanitarian engagements in Ethiopia.

In Somali and Afar regions, for example, we are supporting a new initiative to catalyse societal and cultural change that can sustainably transform gender norms and address harmful practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage, which are negatively affecting the lives of women and girls. This innovative programme will also have the effect of improving climate-smart economic opportunities for all.

Ireland is working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to support improved sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls including equitable access to respectful and high-quality health services, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, and Gender Based Violence prevention and response services. 

We have prioritised funding to maternal and child health including accelerated training for midwives, the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and community mobilisation and the provision of essential drugs, vaccines and family planning.  We are also working to integrate gender-sensitive nutrition programming approaches across our engagements on sexual and reproductive health and rights, rural livelihoods and social protection at federal and regional levels.

In 2020 and 2021, Ireland supported the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in its response to the COVID-19 emergency through support to UNICEF and WHO. As the level of humanitarian needs have increased throughout 2021, especially in northern and eastern Ethiopia as a result of conflict and drought, we have adapted our approach to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian health services are supported.

An ethiopian farmer with her herd

Responding to Humanitarian Need

In recent years, with increasing humanitarian needs due to climate and conflict-induced shocks and leading to huge internal displacement, Ireland has scaled up its humanitarian response. In 2020/21 this has included responding to the humanitarian needs driven by the conflict in northern Ethiopia, in particular in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions, as well as the drought in Somalia and Oromia regions.

We do this through support to the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (managed through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), to other UN agencies, and a range of international and Irish NGOs complemented by an intensive and collective approach to advocacy on critical humanitarian response issues in Ethiopia and internationally.

An Ethiopian woman at a religious ceremony

Making social services available with the participation of the rural poor

Ireland supports the Ethiopia Social Accountability Programme, which seeks to ensure full accountability in the delivery of basic services at local level in areas such as health, education and HIV and AIDS services.

The resources provided through this programme have resulted in improvements in access to water, better maternal health facilities, additional classrooms, tuition for children in need and separate toilet facilities for girls in schools in rural and urban areas throughout the country.

We support civil society and local communities’ input into national government programmes, along with the advancement of good governance through engagement with local government service providers.

Ireland also funds the multi-donor Civil Society Support Programme which supports civil society to contribute to national development, poverty reduction and the advancement of good governance. With the support of NGOs, communities are now involved in identifying the needs of their own areas and making proposals for improvements.

Decisions on priorities are made in consultation between local authorities and communities and take account of the needs of all, including women and men and the most marginalised groups.

Working for Peace and Democratic Governance

Ireland is working in Ethiopia to build peace and strengthen democratic governance. At national and regional levels, we support locally led inclusive dialogue platforms to provide space for actors to build mutual consensus and trust through transformative approaches. At community level, we are working through partners– NGOS and church organisations –to promote inter-community reconciliation and understanding.

Ireland is also developing initiatives to strengthen selected governance institutions, focusing on improving the electoral process and human rights.

At the wider regional level, we engage with the African Union Peace and Security Department and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to promote peace and security, and regional climate adaptation, including in South Sudan.

In line with Ireland’s National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security and our current membership of the UN Security Council, the Embassy has a particular focus on the role and importance of women in peace and security processes and initiatives in Ethiopia and in the wider region.

Helping the poorest households feed and support their families

Food insecurity remains a challenge for Ethiopia. The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), one of the key programmes supported by Ireland, provides some of the most vulnerable households in Ethiopia, who would otherwise need food aid through emergency channels, with predictable cash or food support in return for vital work on projects such as land rehabilitation.

This is one of the largest social safety net programmes currently operating in Africa and it is making a significant contribution. Over eight million people benefitted from the programme in 2019.

Our support is focused on some of the most vulnerable households, especially those headed by women, so that they can adapt to shocks such as drought or rising food prices. In this way, they can avoid resorting to short-term coping mechanisms, including selling off their limited assets. 

All this is done with a view to supporting people to become self-sufficient and graduate from the Productive Safety Net Programme.


Impact of Ireland's contribution - how we have helped

Ireland has played its part in supporting Ethiopia in 2020/21:

  • UNHCR, with the support of €1 million from Ireland in 2021, provided basic services, food, and protection to 400,000 refugees hosted in Ethiopia.
  • Ireland’s contribution of €10.5 million to the UNOCHA-managed Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund supported the delivery of immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance to those affected by conflict, floods drought, desert locust infestations and other disasters.
  • With the support of €5.2 million from Ireland, UNICEF and UNFPA provided critical healthcare needs and also services for victims of Gender Based Violence.
  • Critical food and cash transfers were provided to 8 million people (over 50% female) through the Productive Safety Net Programme supported by Ireland.
  • Ireland contributed €2 million to support WHO and UNICEF in their delivery of the Government’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. This included integrated door-to-door COVID-19 community-based surveillance, contact tracing and public health promotion activities in high-risk communities. Ireland’s funds were also used to procure PPE and hand sanitizer for health workers during the measles vaccination campaign, enabling vaccines to reach almost 15 million children in Ethiopia, ensuring long-term health outcomes were protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ireland supported Trademark East Africa to digitise electronic trade facilitation systems used by the private sector, prioritising training for women traders and entrepreneurs. This will reduce the time and cost of exporting, increase access to trade preferences, and ensure activities are COVID-safe.