Press Release

Young Lives COVID-19 Phone Survey Headlines Report, Ethiopia

Listening to Young Lives at Work in Ethiopia: Fifth Call

The COVID-19 Phone Survey Headline Report: Listening to Young Lives at Work in Ethiopia – Fifth Call is released today by Young Lives Ethiopia. The report outlines the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic on education, employment, food security and mental health of the Young Lives respondents who have been followed since 2001with the younger cohort now aged 19-20 years old and the older cohort 26-27 years old.

The report summarizes the key finding from the data collected during Calls 4 and 5, conducted in August and from October to December respectively.

Young Lives Country Director Alula Pankhurst says “The early signs of recovery following the lifting of COVID-19 2020 restrictions have faltered as the country faces multiple crises. Recent political and economic events, compounded by a year-long conflict have led to falling employment, an increase in poverty and alarming numbers going hungry, especially in SNNP. Widespread vaccine hesitancy and low levels of vaccine uptake leave Ethiopia vulnerable to potential new COVID variants going forward.

Researchers found:

  • Fewer than 1 in 20 Young Lives respondents (3.4 per cent) had received a COVID-19 vaccine dose by the end of 2021; those who had received a vaccine were more likely to be from urban areas and from the wealthiest households.
  • Worryingly, our results show very high rates of vaccine hesitancy, with 29 per cent of respondents unlikely to take a vaccine due to either concerns over its safety (and possible side effects) or being against vaccines in general.
  • Overall, 24 per cent of young people believed that they would not be able to get a COVID-19 test if needed, either because they did not know where to get tested or because testing centres were too far away. Those unable to get tested were most commonly living in rural areas.
  • There have been significant increases in overall levels of perceived poverty, especially in urban areas (Addis Ababa, in particular). The proportion of households who are struggling increased from 22 per cent before the pandemic to 46 per cent by the end of 2021. Similarly, the proportion of poor or destitute households increased from 12 per cent before the pandemic to 17 per cent by October– December 2021.
  • Food insecurity has become more widespread, especially in urban areas and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) region. By October–December 2021, 47 per cent of respondents had been worried about running out of food at least once in the last 12 months, compared to 41 per cent in 2020. More than half of urban respondents (53 per cent) had experienced at least mild food insecurity, and three-quarters of those from the drought-affected Young Lives sites in SNNP (75 per cent).
  • However, severe food insecurity decreased in most regions, with the overall rate falling from 15 per cent in 2020 (Call 3) to 10 per cent in 2021 (Call 5). Alarmingly, however, more than 4 out of 10 (42 per cent) of those from the SNNP region experienced severe food insecurity, having run out of food at least once in 2021 (an increase from 26 per cent in 2020).
  • Among those 19–20 year olds who were enrolled in education since January 2020 (86 per cent of the Younger Cohort), 13 per cent had left education by October–December 2021. The majority of this group left for reasons other than completing their studies, most often to find work.
  • Employment rates were returning towards pre-pandemic levels by early 2021, only to fall again by the end of the year. By March 2021, 58 per cent of 26–27 year olds were in work (compared to 61 per cent pre-pandemic). However, the worsening conflict, combined with drought and high inflation, saw the proportion of those working fall to 54 per cent by October–December 2021.

Young Lives is planning to return to the field for the next regular round of data collection (Round 6) in 2023 (although data collection in Tigray will be conditional on the evolution of the conflict). This survey round will assess the continuing effect of the pandemic on young people’s lives three years after the corona virus outbreak.

About Young Lives


Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Vietnam since 2002.  These children, across two cohorts, the Younger Cohort born in 2001-02 and the Older Cohort born in 1994-95, are now aged 19-20 and 26-27 years respectively.  

In Ethiopia we've built a comprehensive picture of the lives of 3,000 children living in 20 sites across Addis Ababa and the other four major regions in Ethiopia – Amhara, Oromia, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), and Tigray.

The children being tracked by Young Lives are from two age groups (or cohorts): 2,000 children born in 2001-02 and 1,000 children born in 1994-95. These two groups provide insight into every phase of childhood and, in the case of the older children, into adulthood when many will become parents themselves.

Our innovative approach to poverty research is enabling us to collect a wealth of information not only about children's material and social circumstances, but also their perspectives on their lives and aspirations for their futures, set against the social and environmental realities of their communities. 


Young Lives has evolved to shed light both on the drivers and impacts of child poverty, and the determinants of a successful transition into young adulthood with particular emphasis on the labour market and education. The study aim is to generate evidence to help policymakers design programmes that make a real difference to poor children, youth and their families.

  • Call 1 was conducted between June and July 2020;
  • Call 2 was conducted between August and October 2020;
  • Call 3, was conducted between November and December 2020;
  • Call 4 was conducted between August and September 2021;
  • Call 5 was conducted between October and December 2021.


For more information contact:

Biruh Aynekullu

Communications Officer

Young Lives Ethiopia