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Food security conditions beginning to stabilize

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Djibouti
  • August 2012
Food security conditions beginning to stabilize

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2012
  • Key Messages
    • In general, food security conditions have been stable since July due to the good rainfall performance, ongoing humanitarian assistance programs, and significant food donations in observance of Ramadan and the Feast of Eid. However, a succession of poor rainy seasons has severely eroded the resources of pastoralist households, which will not recover as quickly as they would under normal circumstances with this season’s rains.

    • Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) in the Ali Sabieh region are expected to continue until October, particularly given the recent heavy rains that have destroyed assets among local populations. Conditions are expected to improve in October, as environmental conditions improve and humanitarian assistance programs continue in this area.

    Updated food security outlook through December 2012

    Country-wide overview

    The Karan/Karma rains are stabilizing food security conditions in rural areas of the country. In spite of the plentiful rainfall activity in certain areas, the string of poor rainy seasons, the late start of this season’s rains, and high staple food prices have prevented what, under normal circumstances, should have been a major improvement in food security conditions. Rural populations have experienced several years of drought, which have greatly impacted livelihoods and assets.

    There have been adequate Karan/Karma rains in most parts of the country, which have improved water availability and spurred new vegetative growth. However, pasture conditions remain below-average and any further improvement will require steady rainfall for the rest of the season. With the poor physical condition of livestock and asset losses, the rains, in themselves, will not start to improve living conditions for rural populations until sometime in September.

    Crisis levels of food insecurity remain in the country’s northwestern and southeastern pastoral livelihood zones. Poor households face difficulty maintaining their food access with limited assets and the low productivity of their remaining assets. This season’s rains are directly responsible for the improvement in water availability and the condition of pasture. Households in the country’s southeastern and northwestern pastoral livelihood zones will be in Crisis until September, while households in the central part of the country will remain at Stressed levels through the end of this year. Rural households in the Ali Sabieh region of the southeastern pastoral livelihood zone will face Crisis levels (IPC Phase 3) until the end of the year.

    Prices for staple foods are stable, but poor urban and pastoralist households still have limited purchasing power. According to the Consumer Price Index, the price of meat rose 5.6 percent in the past month and 24 percent over the past year, while grain prices have decreased by -0.7 percent. Wholesale prices for wheat flour are down by 25 to 30 percent from last year. The high price of meat is a result of shortages on livestock markets due to the poor physical condition of animals (with pastoralists choosing not to ship their weakened animals to market or selling them at extremely high prices in spite of their poor condition) and of the high demand for meat for the Feast of Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan. On one hand, the rising price of livestock, driven by high demand for the month-long observance of Ramadan and the Feast of Eid (in July/August) has hurt food consumption by poor households with difficulty maintaining their access to meat. On the other hand, it has improved terms of trade, helping to strengthen the purchasing power of rural households.

    There are continuing deliveries of food aid by WFP in conjunction with the government’s food security partners, U.N. agencies, and NGOs to 67,000 recipients through general distributions of food rations to drought-affected populations and 23,500 targeted refugees in the Ali Addeh and Holl Holl camps in the Ali Sabieh region of southern Djibouti. There are also supplementary feeding centers at all operational health facilities providing ongoing assistance services to children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women. In addition, some 15,000 poor households in high-risk districts of Balbala in the Djibouti metropolitan area are being furnished with food assistance during the lean season (from July to September).

    Southeastern pastoral livelihood zone

    Years of drought have decimated livestock herds, undermining the ability of pastoral households to meet their needs due to the small share of their food supply furnished by animal production in a pastoralist environment in which households make their living from raising livestock. According to estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture, animal mortality rates in general and those of goats in particular are around 30 percent, while mortality rates for livestock are normally very low. Seasonal assessments by the Ministry of Agriculture show poor animal production. In particular, the current low levels of milk production under what are normal seasonal conditions are below-average.

    In addition, heavy rains have hurt conditions in certain areas such as the Ali Sabieh region, where there are reports of the destruction of homes, losses of livestock and other assets, and other types of damage. Even if conditions should stabilize, rural populations in the Southeast in need of immediate to short-term assistance to prevent a rapid deterioration in their living conditions and mass rural-urban migration will require close monitoring, particularly in the Ali Sabieh region. 

    Northwestern pastoral livelihood zone

    Seasonal forecasts by the ECMWF for the period between now and October are projecting average levels of rainfall, but raising concerns over the prospect of continuing rainfall deficits in the North and an earlier than usual end to the current rainy season. Though the northern part of the country could receive little or no rain, water availability is improving due to surface water development project in this area, which are helping to conserve more than 25,000 cubic meters of water through the construction of dams and reservoirs. The new dams in the Madgoul region of northern Djibouti, for example, will give local populations better access to water for the next year or so.

    Djibouti City

    At least 20 percent of the population of Djibouti City still faces Crisis levels of food insecurity, due to the high price of oil and staple foods and lack of employment opportunities. Day laborers have fewer job offers in the summer months with the slowdown in port operations and construction work at this time of year. The purchasing power of urban households is still weak at this time of year, when household costs and expenses tend to peak. Outlays for the month-long observance of Ramadan and the ensuing Feast of Eid, and, immediately thereafter, for the start of the new school year in September are weakening household resources. The food aid provided through food assistance programs or general distributions of food rations is helping to mitigate the effects of the high levels of food insecurity.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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