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Lean season accentuates food insecurity through September in the Southeast and urban areas

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Djibouti
  • July 2013
Lean season accentuates food insecurity through September in the Southeast and urban areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The impacts of a succession of poor seasons, including the Diraac/Soughoum particularly in the Southeast (Borderside) pastoral livelihood zone, in addition to tightened labor opportunities, lowered household food supply from humanitarian assistance, and limited access to livestock products, are likely to reduce poor rural and urban households’ access to food, through September.

    • Poor households in rural areas of the Southeast and Northwest livelihood groups as well as poor urban households are anticipated to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity through at least the July to August lean season. 

    • Concerning food insecurity for poor households is being exhibited through very high rates of child malnutrition that supersede the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency thresholds in all regions of the country, with the exception of Ali Sabieh. 





    • Labor opportunities reduced further in July, following a marked seasonal slow-down in business activities during Ramadan.
    • Labor opportunities will remain depressed through the lean season in August, but ease a little at the end of Ramadan’s fasting period in mid-August.

    Southeastern and Obock pastoralists


    • Poor Diraac/Soughoum rains from March to June resulted in an early start to the lean season in May.
    • However, unseasonable light rains and lowered temperatures in localized areas are expected to moderate resource depletion, in these areas only.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    The outlook for poor households in the southeast, northwest and urban areas suggests growing food insecurity through the end of September due to a combination of worsening livestock productivity, following a succession of poor seasons (Diraac/Soughoum rains in 2012 and Heys/Dadaa rains in 2013), a shortfall in humanitarian assistance, and reduced labor opportunities. However, favorable July to September Karan/Karma rains could reduce deepening food insecurity for poor pastoral households in the Northwest livelihood group, from October through December.

    In contrast, the outlook for the Southeast points to accentuated food insecurity through most of the year as the next significant rainy season, the Heys/Dadaa, is not expected until October. Water shortages are deepening and are severe in Kabah Kabah and Assamo in Ali Sabieh where households walk more than two hours to access water. As a result, livestock body conditions and productivity have declined from June through mid-July, adding to longstanding reduced livestock holdings for poor households. Although generally favorable rains improved livestock productivity for the Northwest and Central livelihood zones, livestock contributes only 15 percent to household income and is not sufficient to bridge income and food consumption gaps for poor households through the July to August lean season, as other sources of income diminish. Apart from poor seasonal rains, factors driving current acute food insecurity include shrinking labor opportunities, due to lowered production, and business activities during Ramadan (mid-July to mid-August), reduced quantities of humanitarian assistance, and limited labor opportunities as employers relocate out of Djibouti for the summer holiday.

    Results from Djibouti’s food security cluster’s (WFP, FAO, FEWS NET, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health) emergency food security assessments conducted in May exhibit concerning levels of malnutrition in the Southeast and Northwest pastoral livelihood zones. Nutrition assessments conducted demonstrated malnutrition rates that supersede WHO’s emergency thresholds, across all regions of the country including Arta, Dikhill, Obock and Tadjourah (with exception of Ali Sabieh), ostensibly due to relatively lower food aid distributions in the Southeast pastoral areas. The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence (W/H) ranges from 16.5 to 23.5 (WHO’s emergency threshold is 15 percent) and the Severe Acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence from 1.2 to 7.4 percent (WHO’s emergency threshold is 2-3 percent) in those regions. Food rations have since been increased to target 74 percent of the rural population in Arta, up from 41 percent. Overall, May 2013 rates of 12.9 percent compare unfavorably with previous GAM rates of about 7.8 according to a May 2010 SMART survey. High rates of child malnutrition manifesting just before the beginning of the lean season suggest that acute food insecurity could worsen significantly through September.

    Results from the assessments suggest that close to 27, 20 and six percent of pastoral households in Southeast, Northwest and Central livelihood groups respectively, were classified in IPC Phase 3. Overall, about 60 to 75 percent of rural households were classified in the Stressed and Crisis (IPC Phases 2 and 3) of acute food insecurity. 

    Southeast Borderside, Roadside and Obock pastoral areas  

    The July to September food security outlook for poor pastoral households in the Southeast and Obock in the northeast points to an increasingly precarious situation as the lean season intensifies. Poor nutrition outcomes, occurring as early as May, after a succession of poor rains, including the Diraac/Soughoum rains, underline the likely rapid deterioration in acute food insecurity through September. Humanitarian assistance for June and June, during the lean season is 600MT, well below the normal 1,100MT, due to resource constraints. Poor households are increasing their adoption of negative coping strategies, particularly the expansion of charcoal production. A growing number of households in the southeast are also sharing food with goats to fatten them in order to provide income for the purchase of food.

    Poor urban households, predominately in Balbala, Djibouti City

    Food insecurity is anticipated to rise through September for poor households in urban centers, particularly the densely populated Balbala, representing over 35 percent of the country’s population. The second month of the lean season (July) is always particularly difficult. Apart from the impacts of the June to August lean season, Ramadan is characterized by limited commercial activity, narrowing income sources and constraining the capacity to purchase food. Results of urban assessments by Djibouti’s food security cluster in May suggest that the very poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) at least through September.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    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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