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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely in much of Somali Region, and parts of eastern Oromia and SNNPR

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • February - September 2017
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely in much of Somali Region, and parts of eastern Oromia and SNNPR

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Many poor households in southeastern Ethiopia will face food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between February and September 2017, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, following very poor performance of the October to December 2016 Deyr/Hageya season and resulting negative impacts on pasture and water resources, livestock productivity and livestock-to-cereal terms of trade. Some worst-affected households in Warder and Korahe Zones in Somali Region are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and face increased acute malnutrition in the absence of assistance between June and September 2017.

    • Meher 2016/17 harvests are estimated to be near average in most western areas of Ethiopia. However, in parts of eastern and central Oromia, northeastern SNNPR, and eastern Amhara, well below-average Meher harvests will lead to significantly reduced household food access and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between February and September 2017. 

    • The 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document released by the Government of Ethiopia estimates 5.6 million people will require emergency food assistance through June 2017, with funding requirements of approximately $948 million USD. According to the HRD, the number of people in need of emergency assistance are expected to be highest in Oromia Region, followed by Somali and SNNP Regions.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress. In southern and southeastern Ethiopia, October to December Deyr/Hagaya rainfall was late by three to six weeks, very infrequent, and well below average in terms of cumulative amounts. Rainfall performance was worst in eastern and northern Somali Region, but was also below average in southern and central Rift Valley areas of Oromia (Bale, Guji, Borena, and parts of Arsi), and South Omo in SNNPR. In some areas, very poor performance of the Deyr/Hagaya 2016 rains followed below-average rainfall during the March to May 2016 Gu/Genna rains. As a result, soil moisture between July and December 2016 was among the lowest since 1982 in many areas (Figure 1). However, additional rain has fallen in southern, southwestern, and northeastern parts of the country during mid-to-late February 2017. Although this rainfall is typical in some central areas of the country, the rainfall that occurred in Afar Region and Borena Zone of Oromia was out of season.

    Pasture, water, and livestock. In southern and southeastern areas, which are largely pastoral in terms of livelihood systems, consecutively poor rainy seasons in 2016 and the dry season in between has resulted in below-average regeneration of water and pasture, which is becoming exhausted several months earlier than normal or is already exhausted in worst-affected areas. Since late 2016, large numbers of pastoral households in these areas have been migrating their livestock further than normal and to atypical areas in search of pasture and water, with large numbers of livestock concentrated around ponds and traditional wells, which has put additional pressure on these resources. Due to a lack of pasture and water, livestock body conditions – particularly for cattle and goats – are poorer than usual and deaths of cattle and some goats have been reported. In addition, there are reports of a significant number of aborted pregnancies for cows, while pastoralists in some areas are slaughtering newborn calves in order to save the life of the breeding cows. Recent rainfall in February is helping to regenerate water sources and improve water access particularly in Borena and Afar areas and is likely to help stabilize or improve livestock body conditions in these areas. Additional seasonal rainfall between March and May is needed to significantly improve body conditions and result in increases in conceptions and improved livestock prices.

    Meanwhile, in Afar and Sitti Zone of Somali Region (where seasonality is different than in southern pastoral areas), consecutively near to above average seasons in 2016 have contributed to improved livestock productivity and conceptions. In southern Afar and Sitti Zone of Somali Region (where seasonality is different than in southeastern pastoral areas) poor households’ livestock holdings remain lower than normal as herd sizes have not fully recovered following significant losses as a result of El Niño-related drought in 2015. Access to food and income from the sale of livestock remains below average, while income from other sources (below-average income from charcoal production, for example) continues to constrain household food access.

    2016/17 agricultural production. Cereal production in most Meher-producing areas of western Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, and western areas of SNNP regions is estimated at average or above average levels, following mostly favorable performance of the June to September Kiremt 2016 rainy season. Maize and sorghum are the major cereals planted and harvested in western Amhara, SNNPR, Oromia, and Tigray. According to data from the Meher seasonal assessments, Meher 2016 cereal production in Tigray Region was significantly higher than in 2015 and 4 percent lower than the recent five-year average. In Amhara Region, Meher 2016 production is estimated to be 19 percent higher than in 2015 and 12 percent higher the recent five-year average. 

    However, in lowland areas of eastern and central Oromia, lowland parts of Waghimra Zone in Amhara Region, localized areas in the Tekeze River catchments in Tigray Region, and some kebeles bordering the Abay River catchment in East Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region, Meher 2016 was below average. In these areas, rainfall was below average, poorly distributed over time and space, and in some cases ended earlier than usual. Moreover, in some areas colder than usual temperatures between November and January caused frost that damaged late harvested Meher annual and perennial crops. Chat in East and West Hararghe zone of Oromia, enset in Sidama and Gedio Zone of SNNPR and other irrigated periodic, annual and perennial crops, vegetables, and fruits were among the most affected in highlands and midlands. For example, reports from Sidama, Enset, and West Hararghe zones disclosed more than 18,000, 4,857 and 14,958 hectares of land covered with chat and other perennials severely affected by the frost, respectively.

    Market supply and prices. Prices for major staple foods (sorghum, maize, and wheat grain) remained stable or declined slightly across most markets between December 2016 and January 2017, in line with seasonal trends as harvests contribute to increased market supply and household demand is seasonally low. Wholesale prices for white sorghum and wheat grain are generally 10 to 20 percent below their January 2016 levels and near the recent five-year average in most major markets. Wholesale prices for white maize are also generally similar to those observed in January 2016 and the recent five-year average. In the southern lowlands and central Rift Valley areas of Oromia, and southern SNNPR, northeastern Amhara and southern Tigray where Meher crop production was below average, limited availability of supplies caused an increase in staple food prices. For instance, the January 2017 maize price in Burkadimtu, Yabelo, and Hosaena markets increased 20, 7 and 6.6 percent since December 2016, and was 25, 11 and 7 percent higher, respectively, than recent five-year average.

    Livestock prices are generally stable or showing slight increases in Addis Ababa and northwestern parts of the country. However, livestock prices in southern and southeastern areas of the country continue to decline and are below average, due to poorer than usual body conditions that have reduced market demand for these animals, as well as greater than usual supply on local markets as households have started to sell more livestock than usual in order to generate additional income and in order to reduce the need for expenditures on feed and water in order to sustain livestock herd sizes. These decreases in livestock prices are reducing livestock-to-cereals terms-of-trade to the disadvantage of pastoralists.

    Refugees from South Sudan and Somalia. Between December 23, 2016 and February 6, 2017, approximately 4,500 South Sudanese refugees entered Ethiopia, nearly all of them in Gambella Region. This brings the total number of refugees to approximately 343,000 who have entered Ethiopia since December 2013. In October 2016 and January 2017, increased numbers of refugees fleeing Somalia have been reported in Dollo Ado, as food security conditions continue to deteriorate in parts of Somalia. Exact data on the number of new refugees arriving into Dollo Ado camp is not currently available.

    Humanitarian Requirements Document. The 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document estimates a total of 5.6 million people will require humanitarian assistance between January and June 2017. The first round of food assistance is starting to be distributed in some areas.


    The most-likely scenario from February 2017 to September 2017 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Seasonal forecasts. According to the National Meteorological Agency (NMA) climate outlook, March to May 2017 Genna/Gu/Dadaa rains are likely to be below average in most parts of SNNP, Somali, southern and southeastern Oromia and Afar regions. Belg 2017 rains are expected to be average to below average in most areas, but will be near average in western areas of the country. Belg planting and production is expected to be mostly near normal, except in areas where Belg rainfall is typically lowest, where reductions in rainfall are likely to limit crop growth and yields. Kiremt rains between June and September 2017 are likely to be average to below average in most Meher-producing parts of the country.
    • Pasture, browse, and water availability for livestock are expected to improve with the onset of seasonal rainfall in March in many parts of the country. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, anticipated below-average Gu/Genna rainfall between March and May is likely to lead to less pasture and water regeneration than normal, which is likely to be exhausted earlier than normal during the dry season between June and September.
    • Livestock body conditions are expected to remain normal in most of the country due thanks to the availability of crop residue and expected increases in pasture and water with increases in seasonal rainfall between March and September. However, in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, improvements in livestock body conditions following the March to May rains are likely to be temporary. As pasture and browse are exhausted earlier than normal, body conditions are likely to deteriorate further, particularly for cattle and sheep. Livestock deaths and abortions as a result of lack of pasture and water availability are likely to be higher than normal through September 2017. Conceptions are also likely to remain low, with improvements only in camel milk production improving following increases in water and pasture availability with the March to May rains.
    • Agricultural production and household food stocks. Agricultural and agropastoral households in most of the country will depend on own-produced food stocks as long as is usual or slightly longer, thanks to average to above-average production in most agriculturally productive areas of the country. However, in lowland woredas along the Tekeze catchment areas of Amhara and Tigray regions, and in eastern and Rift Valley agropastoral areas of Oromia, and riverine agricultural areas of Somali Region, households are likely to exhaust their food stocks several months earlier than normal, depending on the area. Access to own-produced crops is likely to improve somewhat in Belg-producing areas starting in June, but these improvements are likely to be shorter than usual due to anticipated below-average Belg 2017 production.
    • Agricultural labor opportunities between February and June 2017 are likely to be normal but due to the anticipated high number of people in search of labor might cause the wage rate to remain low in Belg-producing areas of SNNPR, Amhara, central and Eastern Oromia. However, in most parts of Amhara, Tigray and central Oromia, labor availability expected to show seasonal improvement from June to December 2017 thanks to land preparation, planting, weeding and harvest labor associated with cultivation of Meher season crops. In general, household other income sources that normally obtained from seasonal agricultural activities, self-employment and social support expected to slightly reduced during between March to May 2017 due to below-average production during the Meher 2016 season.
    • Market supply and prices. Supplies of staple cereals on markets are expected to remain at seasonally normal levels in most parts of Amhara, Tigray, and Oromia following the normal Meher 2016 harvests in most major cereal-producing areas of the country. Staple cereals market price will seasonally increase in June to September 2017 as market supply diminishes prior to the start of Meher harvests in October 2017. Livestock prices are expected to be normal to above normal in many areas but remain below average in southern and southeastern pastoral areas.
    • In southern SNNPR, eastern, southern and Rift Valley areas of Oromia, agropastoral areas of Afar and northern Somali below-average production in 2016 will increase the amount of grain supply required from major surplus-producing areas. Prices are expected to follow typical seasonal trends but will remain above average in these areas. Supply of locally produced products will begin to increase in some Belg-producing areas starting in May/June 2017, but cereal prices will remain at seasonally high levels until harvests of Meher crops in November/December Meher.
    • PSNP resources are planned funded and likely to be transferred to about 8 million chronically food insecure people in eight regions of the country for six months between January and June 2017 on a regular basis.
    • Humanitarian assistance is planned for approximately 5.6 million people between January and June 2016. Although most assistance programming is not yet funded, the JEOP currently has resources to provide assistance through September 2017.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In south and southeastern pastoral areas of the country (most parts of Somali, Southern Oromia and Southern SNNPR), food access for poor and very poor households is currently constrained as poor livestock body conditions have led to reductions in livestock to cereals terms of trade, while access to milk is lower than usual due to low milk productivity, particularly for cattle and goats, and as livestock have been migrated away from the homestead in search of pasture and water. Admissions into therapeutic feeding programs are significantly higher than normal in this zone. In Somali Region overall, TFP admissions in October 2016 reached more than 4,000, which is 54 percent higher than in October 2015. As a result of below-average household access to food and income, households will likely face livelihoods protection deficits and some food consumption gaps between February and May 2017 and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). With forecasts for below-average March to May 2017 Genna/Gu rains and poorer than usual improvements in pastoral conditions, livestock body conditions, productivity, and prices will remain below average, further constraining household access to food and income until the end of the dry season in September 2017. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, large parts of these areas are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between June and September 2017. Some worst-affected households in Warder and parts of Korahe Zone in Somali Region will face large food consumption gaps leading to increases in acute malnutrition and and will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) between June and September 2017.

    In the lowlands of central and eastern Oromia, the Rift Valley of SNNPR, the lowlands of Waghimra & Abay river catchment of East Gojam zone of Amhara, and Tekeze river catchments of Tigray, own production from Meher 2016 harvests is below average and likely to be exhausted several months earlier than normal. The earlier than normal exhaustion of food stocks, significantly lower than normal access to income from harvest labor, and prolonged periods during which households will need to access food from markets will constrain household access to staple foods, particularly toward the lean season. Worst-affected areas such as West and East Hararghe in Oromia Region are facing a second consecutive year of very poor to near-failure of crop production in 2016 following the El Niño-related drought in 2015 that resulted in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes during the peak of the lean season in 2016. As a result, these areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and September 2017, while other areas are likely to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In Belg-dependent areas of South and North Wollo Zones of Amhara Region, below-average Meher 2016 production is resulting in an earlier than normal exhaustion of household food stocks, increasing household expenditures on staple foods. Thus, these parts of the country are likely be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to September 2017. During the lean season households increasingly rely on markets to access staple foods, however there is no anticipation of an increase in staple food prices as it was in the past because of near to above average sorghum production in the neighboring woredas. With the expected near-average Belg rain and harvest, access to food is highly likely to improve from October onwards.

    Most households in the western half of the country in western and central Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR as well as Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz regions are likely to maintain adequate access to food, thanks to the normal levels of household food stocks following harvests of Meher 2016 crops. Meher production byproducts and the upcoming near average Belg rain are expected to further improve access to pasture for livestock which will contribute to normal milk yields and livestock prices. Additionally, income from agricultural labor will increase as labor opportunities increase with Belg and Meher season agricultural activities. Therefore, these areas are likely to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between February and September 2017.

    In Afar and Sitti Zone of Somali Region, consecutively near to above-average seasons in 2016 have improved overall livestock conceptions and births compared to the drought-affected 2015 year, though recent dryness and depletion of pasture has resulted in lower than normal milk productivity of cows and camels. Household herd sizes are expected to remain low due somewhat limited livestock births, deaths, and excess sale due to the impact of El Niño-induced drought in 2015, while livestock prices remain lower than usual. Income earned from other sources such as causal labor, seasonal agricultural activities, salt mining and self-employment remains low due to low labor demand. Thus, food security for poor and very poor household in central and northern parts of Afar region will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September 2017. Southern Afar and Sitti zone and Awbere and Harshen woredas of Fafan zone of Somali region will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February to June 2017 and then move into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) because of the expected improvement in livestock holding following near-average Sugum and Karma 2017 rains. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Current food security outcomes, February 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, February 2017

    Source: FEWS NET/WFP

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Soil moisture ranking, July to December 2016, compared to 1982-2016 record

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Soil moisture ranking, July to December 2016, compared to 1982-2016 record

    Source: FEWS NET/NASA

    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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