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Persistent Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity in spite of seasonal improvements

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Djibouti
  • January - July 2013
Persistent Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity in spite of seasonal improvements

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Most households in northwestern pastoral areas (livelihood zone 1) and southeastern border areas (livelihood zone 3B) are still in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity due to the poor performance of the current season (October through February) and low levels of Heys/Dada rains. 

    • With virtually no Heys/Dada rains and the poor outlook for the Diraac/Soughoum rains (March through June), households in southeastern pastoral border areas will continue to face Crisis levels of food insecurity for the entire outlook period. Households in these areas have exhausted their livelihoods and are barely able to meet their minimum food needs.

    • With virtually no rainfall whatsoever, the Obock region is also facing high levels of food insecurity. Regional officials are reporting high rates of malnutrition and animal mortality rates, both of which make the population especially vulnerable to food insecurity. Rural areas of this region are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and could remain there throughout the outlook period.


    National Overview
    Current situation

    Close to 70,000 people are currently food-insecure. Thanks to ongoing food aid from the World Food Programme (WFP), most rural areas of the country are classified in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Northwestern pastoral areas are still feeling the effects of the good Karan/Karma rains (between July and October), which provides good access to water and pasture. The physical condition of livestock is still visibly improved. However, these effects may not last long in certain areas during the long dry season with the competition for and overuse of these resources.

    Forty percent of pastoral households in the Northwest have a poor diet consisting mainly of grain, oil, and sugar, which is affecting their nutritional situation. In addition, their ability to sustain their livelihoods and their food security has been compromised by destructive survival mechanisms such as excessive sales of livestock from their already decimated herds and abnormal migration by certain household members. The population of this area is currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Southeastern pastoral border areas are facing more severe levels of food insecurity with the poor rainy season conditions in these areas. The poor Heys/Dada coastal rains (between October and February) and the expected poor Diraac/Soughum rains (between March and June) will weaken food security conditions. Moreover, the meager available resources in certain parts of these areas are being shared with IDPs and their families, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia. IDPs from Harirad, Abdoulkader, and Jiri (in Somalia) and from Hajin and Aïchaa (in Ethiopia) continue to flood into Assamo to escape the devastating effects of the drought in cross-border areas. More than 200 such families have settled in the area, over half of which have arrived in the last four months.

    The reapportionment of food aid is reducing the ration going to each household and compromising the effectiveness of this assistance with the limited supply of provisions and the growing size of the population with the influx of IDPs and new nomads. Milk availability is limited to half a liter per day per household, compared with the basic requirement of three liters per household per day. Nutritional conditions are deteriorating, with local health centers reporting higher admissions rates than during the lean season. Local households are limiting themselves to the use of unsustainable negative coping strategies such as the sale of charcoal. Households in these southeastern border areas are currently classified as Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Households in the Northwest will continue to be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for the first half of the Outlook period thanks to remaining resources from last year’s Karan/Karma rains (July through September). However, these resources will not last through the second half of the Outlook period and, with the long dry season and rapid depletion of resources, this group of households will be facing mounting difficulties, though remaining at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels.

    With virtually no Heys/Dada rains and the poor outlook for the Diraac/Soughoum rains (March through June), households in southeastern pastoral border areas will continue to face Crisis levels of food insecurity throughout the Outlook period. Households in these areas have exhausted their livelihoods and can barely meet their minimum food needs. Food security conditions in the southeast along main roads and in central areas will remain at Stressed levels throughout the Outlook period.

    Access to drinking water is limited in rural areas of the Obock region due to the lack of rain for the last few seasons and the inadequacy of existing infrastructure such as reservoirs. The nutritional situation of households in this region is critical, due mainly to their poor diet. This group of households will continue to be classified as Crisis level (IPC Phase 3) for the entire Outlook period. 

    Poor households in Djibouti City are still coping with the effects of the large seasonal expenses that contribute to depleting their resources and putting them in debt. Thus, they will continue to face Crisis levels of food insecurity through the end of February, before returning to a Stressed level (IPC Phase 2) between March and June, once they have rebuilt their savings.

    Northwestern pastoral areas (livelihood zone 1)

    Current situation

    Most of the Northwest saw above-average Karan/Karma rains (between July and September), where rainfall levels ranged from 75 percent to 200 percent of seasonal averages. However, there are pockets of localized rainfall deficits like Dorra, with rainfall rates ranging from 50 to 75 percent of seasonal norms. The condition of vegetation in most parts of the area is close to normal. In general, there is good water access, except in a few villages like Mounkour and Daimoli, where households are traveling more than nine kilometers on foot in search of drinking water.

    Most of the local population buys its food supplies on the Eildar market, where prices remain high. A 50 kg sack of sorghum is currently selling for 6500 DJF, compared with its average price of 5000 DJF for this time of year. However, staple food prices have stabilized with the availability of food aid programs and most market prices are below-average. Terms of trade between wheat and goats have improved thanks to the good Karan/Karma rains, which strengthened the physical condition of livestock. A goat is currently selling for 9000 DJF, compared with 5000 DJF at this time last year, while the price of a sack of wheat is currently 4400 DJF, down from around 4700 DJF.

    The main source of food is still WFP food aid, which accounts for 55 percent of food supplies from all sources combined. Households are highly dependent on food aid and do not have self-sustaining livelihoods after the string of droughts and the decimation of their herds.

    Milk availability is down to a half liter per household per day, compared with an average two liters for the last eight years. In fact, milk is consumed only by children and is not produced in large enough quantity to generate any income. Normally, an adequate supply of milk to meet household needs is around three liters per day. According to the seasonal assessment by FEWS NET in December, close to 40 percent of pastoralists in the Northwest have a poor diet, lacking in milk, meat, and vegetables and consisting mainly of grain, oil, and sugar, with very limited milk consumption.

    The nutritional situation is complicated and requires a more thorough study. The deterioration in nutritional conditions is unusual and runs counter to normal favorable seasonal trends. Admissions rates at health centers in this area are higher than during the lean season, with the Dikhil center reporting a 29 percent jump in admissions between August and December and admissions to the Tadjourah center up by approximately five percent over the same period. This trend may be attributable more to poor hygiene and sanitation than to a problem with food access. However, there is definitely a connection to be made between chronic food insecurity and the current situation. Local livelihoods are barely able to meet household food needs and are no longer meeting other basic needs for health care, clothing, etc. This group of households is currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Assumptions
    • There will be continuing food aid throughout the outlook period for 60 to 70 percent of the population of northwestern pastoral areas.
    • Livestock prices will increase slightly, which will strengthen terms of trade and household purchasing power for the first half of the outlook period. The long dry season will extend through the entire first half of the outlook period (January through March).
    • Ongoing sales of salt transported by camels from the Lake Assal area to the Eildar market in Ethiopia will continue through the end of March. The salt is generally traded for sorghum.
    • The excessive use of water by a number of local communities could create water shortages.
    • There will continue to be very little milk production, which will weaken the nutritional situation of local households.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The main sources of income for households in the Northwest are day work, sales of livestock and animal products, and, to a lesser extent, sales of food aid. Income from all these sources combined will be approximately 16 percent lower than usual.

    Income from day work selling salt or charcoal, for example, will be 20 percent lower than usual due a lack of sales prospects during the outlook period with:

    • the competition from border villages in Ethiopia in the salt trade; and
    • the growing scarcity of charcoal as a result of the government ban and deforestation problems.

    Income from sales of animals and milk between January and June will be below-normal, by 10 and 20 percent, respectively. With the good Karan / Karma rains spurring fresh pasture growth and improving water availability, livestock productivity should improve for the first half of the outlook period. However, income from livestock-raising activities will still be lower than usual due to the large losses of livestock in previous years. Conditions could deteriorate during the second half of the Outlook period, which coincides with the long dry season, reducing the productivity of livestock.

    The main source of food is still food aid, which will cover approximately 60 to 70 percent of needs during the Outlook period. The assistance program for drought-stricken households will provide 55 percent of household food supplies. Market purchases are the second most important source of food. The portion of food consumed from household production (milk and meat) is approximately five percent. Livestock-raising activities will continue to contribute five percent of household food supplies for the first half of the Outlook period, with the normal contribution to household nutrition. The contribution of this food source will slightly decrease in the second half of the Outlook period. The contribution of community assistance will remain unchanged (at five percent) for the entire outlook period. With the availability of food aid, overall there will be less trading with Ethiopian markets (particularly for sorghum). Moreover, the weakened condition of livestock (camels) will increasingly prevent usual levels of travel.

    As a coping strategy, 60 to 70 percent of households are eating less desirable foods with lower nutritional value (“gaambos” and “moofos”). The reapportionment of food aid by the community to mitigate food access problems will be another coping strategy used by local villages during the Outlook period. The humanitarian assistance furnished by the food aid program could help bridge household food gaps to some extent.

    Based on current trends, the availability of animal-based food sources should have a positive effect on household food consumption. Livestock resources will be weakened by the long dry season in this area by the second half of the Outlook period. Pastoral livelihoods will mainly rely on short-term coping strategies such as food aid.

    Better access to sources of food such as animal products should slightly improve the nutritional situation in the first half of the Outlook period in spite of the chronic deterioration in nutrition reported by health centers. The availability of animal products and natural resources (water and pasture) and the good Karan / Karma rains will keep local households in Stressed level (IPC Phase 2). The nutritional situation will be more serious in the second half of the Outlook period, with limited food access. The situation of local households will deteriorate with the depletion of their livestock resources, their increasingly limited water access, and the effects of the long dry season, but continuing food aid will maintain them at Stressed levels (IPC Phase 2).

    Southeastern pastoral border areas (livelihood zone 3B)

    Current situation

    There were below-average Heys-Dadaa rains between October and the last week of December all across the Southeast (where rainfall levels ranged from 50 to 75 percent of the norm). The season got off to a slow start in December in certain areas like As-Eyla and Kabah Kabah and brought no relief whatsoever to other areas like Oboley and Guedid. The good Karan / Karma rains slightly improved water and pasture availability in areas like As-Eyla, which has good pasture resources. However, there are still serious water shortages in certain areas (Kabah Kabah), where pastoralists are traveling as much as two hours on foot in search of water for their households and herds. The condition of vegetation is poor, though still close to normal. For the time being, there are few possibilities for migration by local herds to neighboring areas.

    According to the assessment by FEWS NET during the last two weeks of December, herd size in rural areas of the North and the Northwest and in southeastern border areas had fallen off considerably in the past seven years to one tropical livestock unit, compared with the required three tropical livestock units per person to ensure a minimum level of food security in a normal household. Goat herds are currently down to less than half their size, as compared to records from 2003-2004, while the size of camel herds is down by more than 70 percent. 

    In addition to the drought, pastoralists have also been battling animal diseases for the last few months. Most are seasonal diseases transmitted by external parasites such as ticks. The weakened condition of livestock as a result of the drought is making them more susceptible to these diseases and their seasonal migration and contact with nomads from Ethiopia are helping to promote the spread of these diseases.

    More than 75 percent of households in this area are dependent on food aid, which is extremely high. Food aid remains the main source of food (accounting for 60 to 70 percent of household food supplies) and, while the volume of aid is insufficient to feed all households, there is a large amount of reapportionment within the community. Market purchases and humanitarian assistance account for 30 percent of household food supplies, with community assistance contributing another five percent. School meal programs are also an important source of food for school-age children, but meet only five percent of total household food needs due to the small numbers of children in each household actually attending school.

    Pastoralists are still selling charcoal in spite of government restrictions and deforestation problems. They are benefiting from its rising price to strengthen their purchasing power. A sack of charcoal is currently selling for 1500 DJF, compared to only around 1000 DJF back in April of last year. Proceeds from these sales represent approximately half of all household income. However, these activities are both unsustainable and unreliable. In spite of the good rainfall conditions, with the small size of livestock herds and the poor physical condition of the few remaining animals, proceeds from livestock sales are comparable to figures for last year, accounting for approximately 10 percent of total household income. The share of remittances as a source of income is relatively minor, accounting for approximately five percent of total household income.

    In general, food prices are below three-year averages, except for the price of wheat flour. Wheat flour and sorghum are selling for 120 and 100 DJF, respectively, on the Arta and Ali-Sabieh markets, below the three-year average of 133 DJF for wheat flour and 167 DJF for sorghum.

    Milk availability is limited to half a liter per day per household, compared with the basic requirement of three liters per household per day. Nutritional conditions are deteriorating and admissions rates at health centers in this area are higher than during the lean season. Admissions rates in Dikhil jumped by approximately 29 percent between August and December and rates in Ali-Sabieh and Arta shot up by approximately 28 and more than 100 percent, respectively, over the same period. However, these trends could be attributable to other factors such as health, hygiene, and sanitation, making it necessary to look at nutritional status in greater detail.

    Local households are becoming increasingly reliant on survival mechanisms to meet their needs, which is an indication of the exhaustion of their livelihood strategies. Even with the availability of food aid, they are forced to use irreversible coping mechanisms to bridge their food gaps. Households in southeastern border areas are currently classified in Crisis level (IPC Phase 3).

    Assumptions
    • Deliveries of food aid will continue throughout the Outlook period to over 75 percent of the population of these areas.
    • Food prices will remain stable thanks to government policies. 
    • The rainfall outlook for January through March of this year is for normally dry conditions. The ECMWF (European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) is predicting average to below-average Diraac/Soughoum rains between March and May.
    • Milk prices in the Ali Sabieh area are expected to be above-average, where there is virtually no milk production whatsoever.
    • There are continuing sales of charcoal in spite of the government ban. These activities are liable to be pursued throughout the Outlook period, particularly by households in border areas.
    • Extremely cold temperatures are increasing the incidence of animal diseases transmitted by external parasites like ticks, which could significantly drive up animal mortality rates (with losses of approximately 30 percent), further depleting livestock assets.
    • The high rates of drought-induced miscarriages by livestock and of animal diseases are also stripping households of their livestock assets and curtailing milk availability.
    • The below-average Heys/Dadaa and Diraac/Soughoum rains in the Southeast could heighten the effects of the drought.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Even with the good Karan/Karma rains, in general, the improvement in livestock productivity will not increase household income. With the below-average Heys/Dadaa rains, the physical condition of livestock will continue to deteriorate month after month. The share of household income from livestock sales will remain at five percent for the entire outlook period, even with the slight improvement in the availability of pasture resources in certain areas and its beneficial effects on livestock productivity. The volume of milk sales is running below-normal due to the small size of livestock herds. The main sources of income are small-scale sales of products such as wood and charcoal, which normally account for half of all household income. With its attractive market price, the sale of charcoal will serve as an important source of income for the entire outlook period in spite of the government ban.

    Remittance income will be down sharply during the outlook period, putting it 30 percent below-normal, due to the chronic poverty (fewer employment opportunities) in urban areas. Household income will be approximately three percent lower than usual. The small improvement in income from livestock-raising activities will fail to make up for livelihood losses from the string of poor seasons.

    The food aid program for drought-stricken households will continue to cover 55 percent of household food needs. This program is the main source of food for households in this area. With the availability of this food aid, overall there will be less trading with Ethiopian markets (particularly for sorghum). Moreover, their losses of camels and the poor physical condition of their remaining animals are impairing the ability of poor households to continue to engage in these trading activities.

    Supplies of animal-based food products such as milk are down to half their usual levels due to the reduced size of livestock herds. The little milk available to certain households is consumed mainly by children. Though cut back by 30 percent from their usual level by the erosion in household purchasing power, food purchases on local markets are still an important source of food. The share of community assistance as a food source is only five percent and will stay at this level throughout the Outlook period. Household food supplies will be reduced by 19 percent during the Outlook period.

    Households will continue to send family members to urban areas to look for work as a way of generating income and bridging their food gaps. They will also be increasingly forced to share their food with their livestock at the expense of their own food consumption to improve the productivity and value of their animals. Livelihood strategies will fail to sustain household food security. Households will continue to rely on family members in urban areas, even though contribution levels have decreased due to reduced purchasing power of urban households. Food aid will continue to be reapportioned by the community to help offset the lack of food access. Food assistance from the government and/or NGOs could partially bridge household food gaps during the Outlook period.

    With the continuing drought and the poor rainfall outlook, livestock resources will be increasingly limited between January and June. Poor households will continue to engage in selling charcoal during the Outlook period, but this unsustainable activity will not effectively offset livelihood deficits.

    Though better than last year, household food consumption will still be poorer than usual during the Outlook period, with minimal milk consumption and cutbacks in the number and quality of meals. There has been increasingly less consumption of animal-based foods over the last three years. Food consumption gaps in the Ali-Sabieh area are especially severe, where nearly 60 percent of the population has a poor diet.

    The household nutritional situation in this area will continue to be a source of concern, with its health centers reporting the highest admissions rates. Nutritional conditions will remain critical throughout the Outlook period. With the late start of the Heys/Dadaa rains and with the loss of their livelihoods and the exhaustion of their coping strategies heightening their vulnerability to food insecurity, local households could remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Given the poor outlook for both the Heys/Dadaa rains (for the rest of the season) and the Diraac/Soughoum rains, poor households will continue to face Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) during the second half of the Outlook period.

    Obock region

    The Obock region is marked by high rates of poverty and food insecurity. Rural areas of this region were bypassed by the Karan/Karma rains, helping to improve conditions in most other parts of the country, and its coastal areas have not gotten any Heys / Dada rains so far this season. The main source of food is still WFP food aid, which accounts for over 70 percent of all food supplies, followed by remittances from urban areas, with a share of approximately 30 percent. The high animal fatality rates in this area are attributable to the combined effects of the drought and seasonal diseases.

    The most direct causes of admissions to health centers are malnutrition and anemia. Over 80 percent of transfers to the health center in Obock City are for diseases caused by malnutrition. There is limited water access, with local residents traveling an average of four hours on foot in search of drinking water. The population of this area is currently classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). With the cold season underway and the long dry season just beginning and given their lack of assets (livestock), households in the Obock region are especially vulnerable to food insecurity and could remain in Crisis throughout the Outlook period.

    Djibouti City

    The latest study of poverty by the National Statistics Service puts the unemployment rate at 46 percent. Food-insecure households are dependent on income from day work, which according to the last food security survey released in December, is the main source of income for approximately 40 percent of this group of households. Poor urban households will neglect certain basic expenses such as health and hygiene-related costs in order to use most of their resources for food. Severely food-insecure households are earmarking approximately 73 percent of their spending to meet their food needs and are receiving family assistance to help them survive.

    Poor households are still coping with the effects of the large seasonal expenses that deplete their resources and put them in debt. Thus, they will continue to face Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) through the end of February, before returning to Stressed level (IPC Phase 2) between March and June, once they have rebuilt their savings. 


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security

    Northwestern pastoral areas (livelihood zone 1)

    A protracted cold dry season

     

    • Conditions during this season could be conducive to a high incidence of animal diseases, further weakening livestock and reducing their productivity.

    Southeastern pastoral border areas (livelihood zone 3B)

    Rise in prices

     

     

    • A rise in staple food prices could further reduce the already weakened purchasing power of poor households.

     

    Northwestern pastoral areas (livelihood zone 1)

    Sharp rise in prices in Ethiopia

     

    • A rise in prices in Ethiopia could directly affect the food consumption and resources of poor households in this area dependent on Ethiopian markets for buying food (their second most important source of food).

    Southeastern pastoral border areas (livelihood zone 3B)

    Average levels of Diraac/Soughoum rains

    • More favorable rainy season conditions could help promote new vegetative growth and improve food access.

     

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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