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Food insecurity remains precarious in Obock, parts of Dikhill, and Arta following poor seasonal rains, compounded by reduced humanitarian assistance

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Djibouti
  • June 2014
Food insecurity remains precarious in Obock, parts of Dikhill, and Arta following poor seasonal rains, compounded by reduced humanitarian assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Projected Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity have persisted among poor pastoralists in the Obock, Northwestern, and Southeastern Pastoral livelihood zones in Dikhill, and the Southeastern Pastoral Borderside Zone in the Arta Region. An early end to the March to May Diraac/Sugum rains, reductions in humanitarian assistance, lowered labor opportunities, and limited access to northern Obock, has reduced household access to food and income.
    • The outlook through the July to August lean season points to worsening household food security, attributed to reduced livestock productivity due to early erosion of key grazing resources, reduced labor opportunities, lowered access to humanitarian assistance, exacerbated by an extended lean season.

    Current Situation
    • The March to May Diraac/Sugum rains ended one month early and were below normal in many parts of the country.  Sporadic rainfall was experienced in parts of southern Djibouti, in Ali Sabieh, and in localized areas in Tadjourah and central Dikhill regions during May and early June, while other parts of the country remained uncharacteristically dry.  Figure 2 is an illustration of well below-normal cumulative rains in northern Obock, during the Diraac/Sugum, following below-average October to February Xays/Dadaa rains.
    • Little regeneration of vegetation occurred in Obock, Northwestern, and Southeastern Pastoral livelihood zones in Dikhill, and the Southeastern Pastoral Borderside Zone in the Arta Region, as a result of overall poor seasonal rains. Serious water shortages have also been reported in these areas, exacerbated by continued higher-than-normal atmospheric temperatures during May and early June.
    • Prices of key food commodities including sorghum, rice belem, and wheat flour have remained stable in nearly all markets across the country during May through the second week of June, as compared to April.  However, the May retail price of sorghum flour is 28 percent higher than the 5-year average in Ali Sabieh  market, primarily due to the reduction in rail transport subsidies from the source market (Dire Dawa, Ethiopia), to Ali Sabieh over the past couple of months.  Seemingly stable prices mask the imperfect market structure in Djibouti that is controlled by few traders who often set market prices above equilibrium levels, smoothing underlying fluctuations.
    • The World Food Program (WFP) has reduced the number of beneficiaries for food assistance, halved the ration level, and re-targeted humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable households. There were an estimated 22,000 beneficiaries targeted for general food distribution in June. Similarly, less than 10 percent of the projected 60,000 people targeted for the Food For Assets program have received assistance due to pipeline shortfalls, underlining overall constrained household access to food.
    • A national food security analysis conducted in May by the food security cluster, comprising FAO, WFP, UNICEF, key government ministries, and NGOs, indicates that food insecurity is highly precarious in Obock and especially northern Obock, in part due to insecurity, motivated by political instability. Limited access to Obock has reduced access to humanitarian assistance and labor opportunities, while lowering productive capacities. In addition, successive poor seasons have also contributed to lowered household livestock holdings which declined to one tropical livestock units (TLUs) in February 2014, from 5 in 2012. Subsequently, terms of trade for pastoral households have eroded substantially, reducing household capacity to purchase food.
    • According to the analysis, up to 85 percent of Obock’s population has poor food consumption, and a greater proportion of households employ coping strategies in Obock compared to the average for other rural areas in the country, as defined by the coping strategy index (CPI). In rural areas, roughly 18 percent of households employ coping strategies on average, whereas 41 percent of households employ coping strategies in Obock. The food security cluster is currently working with nutrition partners to conduct detailed nutrition assessments in the Obock region. However, results from similar assessments in December 2013 indicated that global acute malnutrition rates in Obock were up to 40 percent higher than rural averages.
    • It is suggested that acute food security for poor households in northern Obock could deteriorate (or might have already deteriorated) to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  However, lack of access to northern Obock has limited FEWS NET and partners’ capacity to conclude with certainty. More detailed analysis of this region will be available once results from the on-going Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) are finalized in July.
    • Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) have persisted in the Northwestern Pastoral and Southeastern Pastoral livelihoods zones in Dikhill and the Southeastern Pastoral Border Livelihood Zone in Arta, outside the areas bordering Somalia.  Poor seasonal rains have resulted in declining milk output limiting quantities available for household consumption.  An estimated 80 to 90 percent of household income is allocated to food purchases while up to 40 percent of households are selling reproductive animals, to expand household income.  However, households near the Somali border have relatively better access to labor opportunities, which has resulted in higher household incomes and food access.  These households face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.
    • Favorable seasonal rains through 2013 and average rains in 2014, have upheld food security for pastoral households in northern and central pastoral areas situated in Tadjourah, Ali Sabieh, and central Dikhill regions.  Household livestock holdings increased in these three areas. The highest increase was reported in Tadjourah, from three TLUs in May 2013 to 4 TLUs in May 2014.  However, up to 80 percent of household income is allocated to food purchases, leading to households increased sale of small livestock, to finance non-food expenditures.  Current improvements in food security have occurred within the context of high rates (40 percent) of chronic malnutrition, underlining fragility of current improvements.

    Projected Outlook through September 2014

    Poor pastoralists in the Obock region, Northwestern, and Southeastern Pastoral livelihood zones in Dikhill, and the Southeastern Pastoral Borderside Zone in the Arta Region are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through August, at least. Although the upcoming July-September Karan/Karma rains are expected to be near normal to below normal, improvements in the food pipeline are uncertain. However, increased labor opportunities after the July to August lean period, food transfers/remittances during Ramadan in July and August, and increased crop and livestock production during the Karan/Karma season could mitigate severe deterioration in food security. Underlying current improvements in Tadjourah and most parts of Dikhill are high levels of chronic food insecurity and fragile livelihoods, suggesting that below-normal rainfall could result in a significant deterioration in food security in these areas.

    Figures Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Figure 1

    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Pluviométrie cumulée dans le nord de l’Obock en 2014, par rapport à la moyenne historique

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Pluviométrie cumulée dans le nord de l’Obock en 2014, par rapport à la moyenne historique

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

    Figure 3

    Source:

    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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