Protracted conflict to drive large-scale needs and Famine risk through mid-2018
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Large populations in Yemen continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, the latter of which is associated with increased acute malnutrition and an increased risk of excess mortality. IDP populations, poor households in conflict zones, and poor households in areas with very high levels of acute malnutrition are likely facing the most severe outcomes. Protracted conflict since March 2015 has significantly disrupted the functioning of typical government services, the macro-economy, and has resulted in significant complications for implementations of humanitarian assistance.
On November 6, the Saudi-led coalition announced the closure of all seaports, airports, and land crossings into Yemen, a move that is highly concerning. In a worst-case scenario in which access to key maritime ports, particularly to Al Hudaydah and Salif, is significantly limited over a prolonged period, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is likely. Together, these ports typically represent approximately 70 percent of monthly food imports and 40-50 percent of monthly fuel imports into Yemen. A prolonged disruption of these trade flows would likely significantly limit staple food availability on many markets and result in extreme increases in staple food prices.
On November 13, the Saudi mission at the United Nations indicated the ports will be re-opened within 24 hours, although it is unclear whether this process has begun. The resumption of port operations is needed to prevent a severe deterioration in outcomes.
Meanwhile, widespread conflict events, including both airstrikes and armed clashes, continue throughout Yemen, particularly in western areas. Areas where conflict has been most severe include Ta’izz, Sa’ada, Hajjah, Marib, Sana’a, Al Jawf, and Al Bayda governorates.
The macroeconomic situation in Yemen is deteriorating, compounded by mounting internal divisions. Given the split in the management of the Central Bank of Yemen, limited government revenues and shrinking foreign reserves, the Central Bank is still not paying most government salaries or providing lines of credit and favorable exchange rates for private food and fuel importers. On August 14, the Central Bank of Yemen based in Aden announced a decision to float the country’s currency and instructed banks to use the market rate for US Dollar and foreign currencies. Soon after, the Central Bank operating in Houthi-controlled Sana’a announced its refusal to comply with the floating of the currency. Up until that point, the official exchange rate had been fixed at 250 YER/USD, while the parallel market exchange rate had ranged between 340 and 370 YER/USD. As of October, the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Yemen based in Aden was 380 YER/USD and the parallel market exchange rate across the country ranged between 380 and 400 YER/USD. The fast depreciation of the Yemeni Riyal against foreign currency is attributed to an increase in the number of unlicensed money exchange shops, an increase in speculation, and an increased demand on foreign exchange for imports of food and fuel. Traders are reportedly using the hawala system to pay for goods imported from Saudi Arabia. They are also opening exchange bureaus to collect hard currency from the market for purchasing goods from abroad. Traders also have the option to purchase foreign currency from commercial banks, but at a rate that is more expensive than on the parallel market.
Available information suggests that despite challenges related to the macroeconomy and shipping, overall cereal imports are likely near or slightly above pre-conflict levels. In a typical year, over 90 percent of food supplies and 80 percent of cereal supplies in Yemen are imported (FAOSTAT), mostly via commercial marine imports. The financial crisis within the Central Bank of Yemen, along with difficulties accessing currency and lines of credit through private sources, have made it increasingly difficult and costly for the private sector to continue food imports into the country. In addition, port-specific constraints and delays continue to be reported. For example, Human Rights Watch, Reuters, and WFP have reported that the Coalition has repeatedly diverted or severely delayed fuel tankers and vessels carrying aid and commercial goods.
Available information on the quantity of maritime imports is varied in terms of type, quality, and consistency. Using a comparison on UN Comtrade historical data between 2010-2016 and FAO-FSIS import estimates in 2014-2017, it appears that monthly wheat imports in 2017 are at least on par with those in pre-conflict years, and potentially slightly higher (Figure 1). Ship arrival information monitored by FEWS NET does not necessarily suggest the same annual trends. However, the available data does seem to suggest the number of bulk carrier arrivals in 2017 is likely to be higher than in past years. UNVIM data on discharges of food imports suggest the quantity of imports in July-September 2017 is approximately five percent higher than during the same time in 2016. Meanwhile, data from Reuters and WFP suggest that only 21 container ships have delivered goods in the port of Al Hudaydah in the first eight months of 2017 compared to 54 and 129 in the same period last year and in 2014. However, container ships may transport a greater variety of commodities and may be less representative of bulk cereal imports.
Overland imports of staple foods from Oman and Saudi Arabia continue, but likely represent a very small fraction of overall national imports. Based on data from UN Comtrade, imports of cereals from Oman and Saudi Arabia to Yemen each represented less than one percent of overall cereal imports between 2010 and 2014. Between 2014 and 2016, imports from Oman reportedly increased by a factor of seven, but were still less than four percent of overall imports. During the same time period, imports from Saudi Arabia reportedly declined. Some caution is warranted in interpreting this information, as there are occasionally gaps in UN Comtrade data, and this data may not capture all formal and informal trade of cereals. However, even in a scenario in which these data significantly under-report imports, the contribution compared to total imports is still likely to be low.
Conflict and insecurity has made road access more difficult in Yemen, with FEWS NET rapid assessments in August/September 2017 indicating some or significant disruptions on most major roads (Figure 2). The Yemen Logistics Cluster reports indicted in mid-June 2017 that major roads were closed in the southwest (Lahij and Ta’izz governorates), the northwest (Al Jawf, Amran, Hajjah and Sa’ada governorates) and central areas (Al Hudaydah, Al Mahwit, Al Marib, Sana’a and Shabwah governorates). Compared to previous reporting by the Logistics Cluster, road access has worsened in Al Jawf, Al Marib, Hajjah, and Sa’ada governorates. Nonetheless, market activity seems to be normal according to FEWS NET rapid assessments, with the exception of some disruptions reported in Al Bayda governorate (Figure 3). Traders report that while they are able to move goods to markets, challenges include higher transportation costs (relating to security measures, closed roads, high fuel prices, fees paid at checkpoints and to armed groups) and increased inspection processes.
Commodity availability on markets
The availability of basic food commodities has been improving since June in all of the markets compared to previous months, according to the WFP Market Watch Reports. In September 2017, wheat flour was rated as “available” (found available at every visit in all markets of the governorate) in most governorates in Yemen except in Al Jawf, Sa’ada, Shabwah and Ta’izz where it remained widely available (for only one visit the availability was not full). WFP attributes this improvement in availability not only to a good level of food imports and supply but also to increases
in demand from consumers, which has potentially increased due to some cash and commodity voucher interventions. FEWS NET rapid assessments in August/September 2017 indicated that wheat flour was considered available in Abyan, Aden, Al Hudaydah, Al Mahwit, Ibb, Lahij, and Ta’izz, somewhat available in Ad Dali, and somewhat scarce in Al Bayda and Sa’ada (Figure 4).
Unlike wheat flour, fuel (diesel, gasoline and cooking oil) remains “sparsely available” on almost half of the markets assessed by WFP. According to FEWS NET’s August/September rapid assessments, all three fuels (diesel, gasoline, cooking oil) were scarce or somewhat scarce in Al Bayda and Ad Dali and somewhat available in Al Hudaydah, Al Mahwit, Sa’ada and Ta’izz. Diesel and gasoline were scarce or unavailable in Abyan, but cooking gas was available in Abyan and Ibb. In Lahij, diesel and gasoline were somewhat scarce but cooking gas was somewhat available.
In line with indications of limited availability in many areas, fuel prices at most markets were either stable or on the rise between July and September 2017 and remained above pre-conflict levels. Nationally, diesel prices are on average more than 50 percent higher than pre-conflict levels, while gasoline and cooking gas prices are nearly 70 and 90 percent higher, respectively. Prices for diesel and cooking gas are reportedly highest in Raymah, and prices for gasoline are highest in Lahij. Fuel prices have been high and volatile in Yemen since March 2015 as a result of the ongoing conflict and reduced imports, and despite low global fuel prices. Increased fuel prices are likely negatively affecting typical livelihood activities, such as agriculture, and contributing to increased prices of food and non-food commodities through higher transportation, milling, irrigation, fishing, drinking water, and electricity costs.
Wheat flour prices
Wheat flour prices remain above average across the major markets in Yemen, although prices have either decreased or remained stable in most markets in recent months. In the major import and consumption markets of Al Hudaydah, Aden, and Sana’a City, wheat flour prices are 10 to 25 percent higher than in the months prior to the start of conflict in March 2015, based on WFP price data (Figure 5). In September 2017, wheat flour prices were the highest in Ta’izz and Shabwah at 200 YER/Kg, and the lowest in Al Hudaydah and Al Mahweet at 148 YER/Kg. Although there are differences in prices levels by governorate, wheat flour prices in almost all governorates continue to closely follow trends observed in the major import and consumption markets, likely reflecting a continued high degree of integration with these markets. In recent months, very high prices of wheat flour in Al Ma’effer market in Ta’izz governorate and Attaq market in Shabwah governorate have declined significantly.
Household access to agricultural income remains significantly reduced across much of Yemen, which continues to constrain household purchasing power (Table 1). According to FAO, agricultural activities employ more than 50 percent of the workforce in the country. This year’s second rainy season (July-September) started on time, and rainfall was above average across most areas. Key harvest periods in these
areas take place between July and October. According to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), vegetation conditions are above normal across most areas, but are below average in much of Al Hudaydah governorate and parts of Hajjah and eastern Lahij (Figure 6). Although cropping conditions may be close to normal for planted crops, overall planting is likely less than normal due to a lack of availability and/or access to inputs and limited access to fields in conflict zones. As a result, it is expected that labor demand and income of poor households are likely below average in 2017.
The collapse of disease control services as well as limited access to animal feed are among the major constraints facing livestock production in Yemen. In addition, the current limited availability of pasture is most likely affecting households who depend on livestock production as a source of income. The Yemen Food Security Information System (FSIS) Development Program also states that movement of the IDPs from their original villages with their livestock is further burdening the host communities and exerting huge pressure on the pastures within the hosting areas. Informal reports indicate that sales of livestock have generally decreased during the conflict, although sales increase during religious or personal festivities and periods of drought.
Household income from other sources remain below average. For example, public sector salaries and pensions are still not being paid to most people and fishing activities continue to be disrupted along the Red Sea coast. In addition, income from remittances remains constrained due to the closure of some money transfer offices, the lack of foreign currency available, and limitations placed by banks or offices on the amount of cash that can be transferred.
Between July and October 2017, UNICEF with World Bank funding distributed quarterly cash transfers to former Social Welfare Fund (SWF) beneficiaries. In the past, the SWF provided regular cash transfers to approximately 1.5 million households, or approximately 8 million people. As of late September, UNICEF distributions had taken place in 22 governorates to approximately 1.3 million households.
In Late August, FAO and the World Bank launched a $36 million three-year project, which will provide immediate assistance to 630,000 beneficiaries and strengthen the resilience of rural communities in seven governorates (Abyan, Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Lahij, Sa’ada, Shabwah, and Ta’izz). The grant will fund the distribution of seeds, chickens, and small ruminants, rehabilitation of land and water resources, and revival of activities such as honey production.
FEWS NET rapid assessments in August/September continue to indicate that market purchases using cash or credit continue to be important food sources for surveyed households, although the proportion of total food coming from cash purchases has declined since 2014. Meanwhile, humanitarian assistance and assistance from family, friends, and neighbors have emerged as more important food sources over the past year for surveyed households in many governorates. Likewise, partner reports continue to suggest that sources of food, particularly among IDPs, have changed since the start of conflict. For example, a baseline assessment of IDP hosting sites in Amran, Dhamar, Marib and Sana’a City suggests that most IDPs in these sites rely on market cash purchases of food or donations and humanitarian assistance as food sources. Approximately half of the IDPs in hosting sites in Amran, Dhamar, and Sana’a City reported eating less than three meals per day.
As of September 1, 2017, the Task Force on Population Movement (TFPM) reports there are approximately 2,014,026 conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in Yemen, with the highest number of IDPs in Hajjah (19 percent) and Ta’izz (16 percent) and over half (51 percent) residing in Hajjah, Ta’izz, Sana’a City, and Amran. Approximately 74 percent of the internally displaced originate from Ta’izz, Hajjah, Sa’ada, and Sana’a City. The largest increase in the number of conflict-related IDPs since June 1 was recorded in Ta’izz (+34,620), while the largest decreases were recorded in Lahij (-2,694), Aden (-1,758) and Ad Dali (-504).
Large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to play an important role in reducing the severity of food security outcomes within Yemen. From July to September 2017, WFP provided assistance to approximately 6-7 million people monthly. In addition to WFP, many other actors (NGOs, Middle East/Gulf countries, etc.) are running food distribution or cash transfer programs throughout the country. However, limited information on ration or transfer sizes for these programs make analysis on household-level impacts difficult. In most governorates, WFP assistance is covering greater than 20 percent of the total governorate population (Figure 7). In recent months, greater than 30 percent of the total populations has been covered in much of southern Yemen and in Hajjah and Sa’ada governorates.
As of early October 2017, OCHA reported that the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) had only received 44.8 percent (approximately $480.6 million) of its funding requirements as per the 2017 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. Other challenges faced by FSAC partners include: delays in the clearance of cargo at the Hudaydah port leading to the provision of partial food baskets and bureaucratic and security impediments, including repeated denials of movement clearance in Marib. Focus group discussions OCHA conducted with humanitarian actors suggest humanitarian access is highly difficult or there are high levels of access constraints in 12 percent of Yemen’s districts. Together, the population of these districts, which generally fall in the front-line conflict-affected governorates of Al Jawf, Hajjah, Marib, Sa’ada and Ta’izz, is approximately 1.7 million people.
WFP’S mVAM surveys
Between July and September 2017, WFP’s mobile Vulnerability and Assessment Mapping (mVAM) surveys found that, on average, more than 20 percent of households reported “poor” food consumption (according to Food Consumption Score) in 14 governorates (Al Bayda, Ad Dali, Al Hudaydah, Al Jawf, Amran, Dhamar, Hajjah, Ibb, Lahij, Marib, Raymah, Sana’a, Shabwah, Ta’izz). WFP’s mVAM reports have consistently indicated that a higher proportion of IDP respondents report poor food consumption in comparison to non-displaced populations.
In general, WFP’s mVAM data suggest food security outcomes are similar to or worse than previous months or last year’s levels in most governorates, with a few exceptions (such as in Al Mahrah and Ta’izz, where data suggest food security outcomes seem to have improved). The overall use of consumption-based coping strategies remained stable between July and September, despite a slight increase observed in August: approximately three quarters of respondents reported purchasing less expensive food and limiting portion sizes, while 60 percent reduced the number of meals and restricted adult consumption, and more than half borrowed food.
A major cholera outbreak continues in all of Yemen’s governorates except Socotra, with WHO reporting more than 860,000 suspected cases by late October 2017. The largest numbers of cases of been reported in Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Amran, and Sana’a City governorates. The ongoing conflict continues to limit access to health services and clean water in many areas, with negative implications for health and nutrition. Major constraints on healthcare and response include interrupted pay for health and sanitation workers, poor availability of imported medical supplies, poor access to safe drinking water, and irregular waste/garbage collection. These health, water, and sanitation issues have likely contributed to the cholera outbreak, which has been compounded by seasonal flooding. However, according to WHO, the national number of new cases per week has been decreasing since the last week of August. Malnourished children, pregnant women and people living with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of death; over 63 percent of total deaths are children under the age of 15 years and people aged 60 years and older.
 Please note that cell phone based surveys are likely biased towards better-off and urban populations who have access to cell phones. These biases should be kept in mind when comparing these survey results with in-person representative household surveys conducted prior to the conflict.
The most likely scenario for the October 2017 to May 2018 period is based on the following national level assumptions:
- Conflict. FEWS NET assumes that fighting and airstrikes will continue at current levels, which will maintain IDP population at high levels in current areas of displacement.
- Central Bank: The Central Bank’s current split in management will continue. The Central Bank will also not receive any major funding from external donors and will not provide credit to the private sector for food importation during the scenario period.
- Oil exports: Oil exports will not return to pre-conflict levels during the scenario period.
- Foreign reserves: Given the assumptions of significantly reduced oil exports and no additional funding from external donors, foreign reserves within the country will continue to decline compared to current levels.
- Exchange rate: Given the decline in foreign reserves, the Central Bank in Aden is not expected to re-establish an official exchange rate. Consequently, in the short run (3-6 months), the market exchange rate is expected to steadily depreciate against the USD due to a lack of reserves, although the prices of staple foods such as wheat are not expected to increase significantly as other commodities. However, in the long run (over 6 months), the foreign exchange rate could be volatile, particularly when large transactions occur in the absence of adequate reserves, resulting in increased and volatile prices.
- Liquidity constraints: In the absence of sustained and substantial forex (from international donors, increased oil exports, removal of financial sanctions, etc.), liquidity constraints at banks within Yemen will continue and probably worsen with the continued depreciation of the Yemeni rial against foreign currency. They will limit general economic activities and complicate import activities.
- Imports: Cargo will continue arriving into Al Hudaydah, Salif, Aden, and Al Mukalla ports. Cargo arriving into Al Mokha will remain limited. While large traders will continue to find alternative methods of accessing foreign currency to continue operations, import levels will likely remain volatile and transaction costs associated with these imports will increase. Informal food flows across land borders will also continue at status quo levels but their transport into the western areas of Yemen will remain difficult due to civil insecurity.
- Government salaries, pensions and the Social Welfare Fund: Similar to the current situation, many government employees will continue not to receive salaries or pensions due to the Central Banks’ lack of adequate financial resources. UNICEF/World Bank are planning to conduct a second round of transfers to at least 1.3 million former SWF households between January and March 2018.
- Internal trade flows: Active fighting, damaged transportation infrastructure, high fuel prices, and additional security and transaction costs (ex. commissions at checkpoints) will continue to complicate trade flows within the country. In the absence of additional information about the evolution of conflict, FEWS NET assumes that areas where trade flows will be particularly constrained will be the same areas where roads are currently closed, as shown by the Logistics Cluster’s most recent access constraints map.
- Market demand: In general, demand levels and household purchasing power are likely to remain low given below- average income levels and high levels of debt. However, purchasing power may improve temporarily as households receive erratic salary payments and/or cash transfers. On the other hand, the increased depreciation of the Yemeni Rial against foreign currencies could drive an increase in demand levels as households stock up on goods in anticipation of further depreciation in the exchange rates.
- Wheat flour prices: Given the improved availability of wheat flour on the market, prices are largely expected to follow historical trends except in markets where wheat flour prices have been high and volatile since the start of the conflict, such as in Ta’izz and Shabwah. In these markets, prices will likely continue to be volatile moving forward. In general, prices are expected remain above average and above pre-conflict levels due to increased transaction costs and the continued depreciation of the Yemeni Riyal against the USD.
- Fuel prices: Given a tightening of supply and increased transaction costs for fuel imports, FEWS NET anticipates that fuel prices will remain high and volatile. Fuel prices and availability on the market will mostly be affected by conflict and import levels as domestic fuel production is likely to be able to meet only a third of domestic needs.
- Agricultural production: Although the seasonality of agricultural production varies depending on the zone in Yemen, land preparation and planting activities of cereal crops may continue in the Central and Eastern Wadi zone and the Western Central Highland Coffee, Qat, Sorghum and Livestock zone until November but they will generally start elsewhere in February. In the southern upland and coastal areas, harvests will occur in October/November. Vegetable and fruit harvests will also take place in several other areas during the first quarter of 2018. The first rainy season (March to May) is expected to be average in terms of total cumulative rainfall. However, production will likely be below average due to a lack of availability and/or access to inputs and limited access to fields in conflict zones. Related agricultural labor opportunities will also be atypically low. Qat production, however, will continue to be generally average. Locusts may be present in coastal Red Sea areas and in the interior of Yemen (FAO) but will cause minimal damage, while Fall Armyworm (FAW) is not expected to pose a significant risk to agricultural production.
- Remittances: Although some remittance service offices will remain open in most urban areas, significant difficulties (ex. delays, closed offices, lack of liquidity) will limit households’ access to remittances from abroad, resulting in below-average incomes from this source.
- Fishing: Based on seasonality information provided by the World Bank/FAO, fishing activities along Red Sea coastal areas and on the Gulf of Aden coast will increase seasonally starting in March/April, but will remain well below average due to reduced fishing assets, high fuel prices, and civil insecurity.
- Livestock sales: Reduced livestock assets caused by several years of food insecurity and livestock parasites and diseases will limit household income from this source.
- Incomes from other sources: The deteriorating macroeconomic situation and conflict will disrupt household livelihoods across much of the country, resulting in below-average household incomes. The largest declines in incomes will be among IDP populations and households residing in intense conflict zones, such as Ta’izz.
- Cholera: The spread of cholera is expected to continue through the scenario period.
- Humanitarian assistance: FEWS NET assumes that WFP’s humanitarian assistance will continue providing in-kind and commodity vouchers assistance into January 2018. However, given uncertainty with regard to assistance funding after this period, no humanitarian assistance is assumed between February and May 2018.
Most likely food security outcomes
The ongoing food security emergency in western Yemen is likely to continue to drive very high assistance needs through at least May 2018. The deteriorating macroeconomic situation and the persistence of conflict will continue to disrupt household livelihoods, limiting purchasing power and access to food. While harvests during the scenario period will provide some rural households with small food stocks, these stocks are not expected to have major impacts on food security outcomes given the small-scale nature of agricultural production in Yemen and the fact that these harvests will be below average. Household food access will likely further be constrained by higher than usual food prices. Under the most likely scenario, most areas of western Yemen will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or would be at least one IPC Phase worse in the absence of planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance, and will therefore be classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!). Given that needs are significantly greater than current assistance programming, it is likely populations in some governorates will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, among whom increased levels of acute malnutrition are likely. Even in the absence of additional disruptions, populations may begin to move into Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) as worst-affected households begin to exhaust their coping capacity. Meanwhile, in Al Mahrah governorate where on-the-ground fighting and airstrikes have been less intense than in western areas and household livelihoods and food consumption have been less impacted by fighting, food security outcomes are likely to remain in line with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.
Governorates where humanitarian assistance is playing a key role in preventing worse food security outcomes (including Abyan, Ad Dali, Aden, Al Bayda, Hajjah, Lahij, Sa’ada, Sana’a, Shabwah, and Ta’izz) will likely deteriorate into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the absence of continued assistance between February and May 2018. IDP populations and poor households in conflict zones will likely continue to face the most severe food security outcomes. Given expected food consumption gaps during the scenario period, acute malnutrition is expected to rise and remain above seasonally normal levels across much of the country, and there is an increased risk of excess mortality due to both food consumption gaps and cholera. IDPs are particularly at risk due to insufficient food, lack of clean water, and poor hygiene services.
In a worst-case scenario, significant declines in commercial imports below requirement levels and conflict that cuts populations off from trade would likely drive food security outcomes in line with Famine (IPC Phase 5). The rate with which the size of the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse increases in 2017 and 2018 would also intensify. The prospect of increased conflict that could damage port facilities at Al Hudaydah and Salif ports is particularly concerning. Al Hudaydah port is the entry point of about 70% of all food imports into Yemen. Given that imports by humanitarian actors currently make up less than one quarter of total formal cereal imports into Yemen, it is very unlikely that the humanitarian community or overland imports from neighboring countries would have the capacity to fill the very large import gaps that would exist in this scenario. This would drive major shortages on local markets and likely result in steep price increases, limiting household food access. Furthermore, increased conflict could drive additional displacement and cut populations off from trade, further limiting income-earning opportunities, driving even more severe price increases in local areas, and resulting in a rapid deterioration of food security outcomes.
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About Scenario Development
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.
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