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Despite their late start, abundant rains help moderate acute food insecurity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Djibouti
  • August 2016
Despite their late start, abundant rains help moderate acute food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The Karan/Karma rainfall season (July to September) started a month later than normal, which prevented pastures and animal body conditions from significantly improving, particularly in the Southeast Pastoral-Border zone. However, if the abundant rains of early August hold until the end of the season, and the coastal Xays/Daada rains (October to February) start on time, the majority of poor, rural households could move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity by October 2016.

    • Acute food security outcomes will improve due to two other factors: 1) increased job opportunities as a result of the resumption of construction activities and school-related services in September, and 2) stable prices of food staples due to falling cereal prices on the world and regional markets. It is worth noting that Djibouti relies on imports to meet over 90 percent of its food needs.

    • The number of refugees in Djibouti is approximately 20,000, and all are reliant on humanitarian assistance. Of that number, more than 12,000 are Somali nationals and over 3,300 are Yemeni nationals. In addition, there are about 16,000 transit migrants and returnees. Despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not reported any new influx of refugees from that country in recent months. 




    Southeast Pastoral-Border Zone

    ·    The Karan/Karma rainfall season (July to September) started a month later than normal. Pasture and animal conditions have not yet fully recovered from the impacts of a severe rainfall shortage over the previous two years. As a result, the quantity of milk available for consumption and sale is much lower than normal in the zone. This is a key milk-producing region for the entire country.

    ·    The Karan/Karma rains are forecasted to be average to slightly above average in terms of cumulative rainfall, which should significantly restore calving and milk production levels in about six months’ time. Given recent investments in water facilities for humans as well as for animals, livestock productivity is likely to improve, especially if rains remain abundant through August and September. This would allow the livelihood zone to move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    The Karan/Karma rains started in August, instead of July. Normally accounting for about 35 percent of annual precipitation in the Southeast Pastoral-Border zone, those rains are currently abundant. This zone had not fully recovered from previous years’ rainfall deficits despite the good, yet also late, Diraac/Sugum (March to May) rains. If the current rains are sustained through September, in line with the current average to above-average forecast, full recovery of pastures, animal body conditions, kidding, and peak milk production is expected by January 2017. However, even before January, due to the significant improvements, the majority of the poor, rural households will likely move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity in October. Timely coastal Xays/Daada rains (October to February) would help maintain the latter phase into the first quarter of 2017.

    During the lean season (July to September), acute food insecurity typically worsens in Djibouti as job opportunities reduce and food prices increase. Due to recent improvements in human and animal water infrastructures, the current acute food insecurity, though difficult for poor households, is not worse than in a typical lean season, despite past successive seasonal rainfall deficits. With the mostly stable or falling cereal prices on world and regional markets, and the expected resumption of economic activities, such as construction, when the extreme temperatures subside in September, acute food security is likely to improve.

    A UNICEF report dated June 30 indicated that the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition for children under five in Djibouti is very high and estimated at 5.7 percent, which is above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of three percent. UNICEF attributes the high prevalence to successive seasonal rainfall shortages, which has made families vulnerable to food insecurity, to poor water and sanitation conditions, and to inadequate health care. UNICEF faces a funding gap of about 90 percent of its program in Djibouti, so while it has provided nutritional food to help some severely acute malnourished children, the response to date is not sufficient to cover all needs. While FEWS NET expects acute food security to improve in Djibouti, the rate of severe acute malnutrition is likely to remain high through January 2017 due to its protracted nature.

    According to UNHCR, as of August 15, there are approximately 20,000 refugees and an additional 16,000 transit migrants and returnees in Djibouti. The number of registered arrivals from Yemen has not increased since the end of March. However, due to the ongoing conflict in that country, refugee inflows are still expected.

    Acute food security outcomes are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Northwest Pastoral and in the Dikhil and Ali Sabieh regions. However, in the Southeast Pastoral-Border zone and in some poor households north of Obock, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is likely to continue through October before moving to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).  


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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