Assessing seismic risk in Ethiopia (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1087)



Identify data on, or ways to assess, seismic risk in Ethiopia. Where possible, identify what the data suggests about the absolute levels of risk, the relative levels of risk compared to other countries, and which populations are particularly vulnerable.


This report identifies data, literature and maps on seismic risk in Ethiopia. In this report seismic risk, as a concept, is understood to be the product of seismic hazard (the probability of harmful seismic phenomena) and seismic vulnerability (the degree of loss from seismic phenomena – human and economic).

There is limited literature available in this area. Abeye (2012) argues that an updated seismic hazard map of Africa is long overdue. In a case study analysis of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a 1999 UNIDSR report identified as challenges an absence of previous seismic risk assessment, few specialists and limited practice in seismology and earthquake engineering, low awareness of earthquake disaster risk at the political level, and limited financial resources.

Key findings include:

  • In terms of overall seismic risk, the presence of part of the East African Rift, which runs through the centre of the country, means that Ethiopia is prone to seismic activity and related natural disasters: earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (Abebe, 2010). As a landlocked country, it is not at risk from tsunamis.
  • The centre of Ethiopia faces a medium risk of earthquake hazard – more so than its neighbouring countries. Ethiopia has experienced a number of earthquakes. These have caused some deaths, and damage to buildings. According to the EM-DAT database, from 1900 to 2013 in Ethiopia this has caused a total of 93 deaths, 165 injured, 420 homeless, affecting 11,000 people, and a total estimated economic cost of more than US$7 million.
  • Ethiopia, and neighbouring countries, have a number of active volcanoes and Ethiopia has experienced some volcanic eruptions which have caused death and damage to buildings.


Herbert, S. Assessing seismic risk in Ethiopia (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1087). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 12 pp.

Assessing seismic risk in Ethiopia (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1087)

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