8.2  Chronic and acute food insecurity

In your own community you might have become aware of households with food insecurity. There are two forms of food insecurity; chronic and acute. Chronic food insecurity is commonly described as the result of overwhelming poverty indicated by a lack of assets (means of living). Acute food insecurity is usually considered to be more of a short-term phenomenon related either to manmade or unusual natural shocks, such as drought. While the chronically food insecure population may experience food deficits relative to need in any given year, irrespective of the impact of shocks, the acutely food insecure require short term assistance to help them cope with unusual circumstances that impact temporarily on their lives and livelihoods. Both chronic and acute problems of food insecurity are widespread and severe in Ethiopia.

Table 8.1 depicts the types of households that are vulnerable to chronic and acute food insecurity in rural and urban settings within Ethiopia.

Table 8.1. Households that are vulnerable to acute and chronic food insecurity.



Resource poor households

Landless or land-scarce households

Poor pastoralists

Female-headed households

Elderly, disabled and sick

Poor non-agricultural households

Newly established settlers

Low income households employed in informal sector

Those outside the labour market

Elderly, disabled and sick

Some female-headed households

Street children


Displaced people


Resource poor households vulnerable to shocks, especially drought

Farmers and others in drought prone areas


Others vulnerable to economic shocks (eg. in low potential areas)

Urban poor vulnerable to economic shocks, especially those causing food price rises

Groups affected by temporary civil unrest

  • What segments of the population are vulnerable to chronic food insecurity?

  • You may have thought of a number of people who are particularly vulnerable to chronic food insecurity, such as those who are not in work, the elderly, sick and disabled, female-headed households, and street children. People living in low income households, with informal employment are also very vulnerable.

8.1  Household food security

8.3  Causes of household food insecurity