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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely to persist due to below-average seasonal rainfall

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • June 2019 - January 2020
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely to persist due to below-average seasonal rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • In the Bale lowlands, East, and West Hararghe zones of Oromia, major parts of Somali region, and northeastern Afar Region, poor households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2020. The first round of food assistance for the 2019 HRP was delayed due to a targeting exercise and only one round of food assistance has been completed by WFP, JEOP and the Government of Ethiopia. Food dispatches are ongoing for the second round, which was launched on the 1st of June.  It is likely that a break in the PSNP food assistance pipeline will occur at the end of June 2019. If food aid does not resume after mid July 2019, worst affected households – though not twenty percent of the population - in areas currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will move to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and levels of acute malnutrition may rise further.

    • Following the below-average performance of the Gu/Genna rainy season, southeastern pastoral areas are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through at least November 2019 due to the poor regeneration of pasture and water resources that have negatively impacted livestock productivity and household income. The forecasted near-average 2019 Deyr rainy season is expected to lead to gradual improvements in livestock body conditions and productivity, though it may not significantly improve household food and income access.

    • The overall 2019 Belg harvests are estimated to be below average in most Belg-producing areas of the country, due to delayed, erratically distributed, and below-average cumulative rains across Belg producing areas of Oromia, Tigray, SNNPR and Amhara which will lead to a significant reduction in household food access. Delayed or failed planting of crops, particularly in lowland areas of Bale, and East and West Hararghe; and delayed planting in northeastern Amhara and Southern Tigray will lead to either no production or a one to two-month delay in the harvesting period. Poor households in northeastern Amhara, and East and West Hararghe of Oromia are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the extended June to September 2019 lean season until harvests begin.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The food security situation is deteriorating in southern and southeastern pastoral areas of Somali, Bale lowlands, parts of Guji, and East and West Hararghe zones of Oromia due to delayed, erratically distributed, and below normal cummulative Gu/Genna rainfall. This resulted in poor regeneration of pasture and water resources that have negatively impacted livestock productivity and household incomes. This is coupled with the ongoing recovery from the 2016/17 drought that resulted in high levels of livestock deaths. Areas of greatest concern where poor households are facing difficulties meeting their minimum food needs include East and West Hararghe, southeastern Oromia including the Bale lowlands and parts of Guji and Borena, northern Amhara, Somali region, and southern Tigray.

    Seasonal progress: The Gu/Genna season from March to May 2019, which is the main rainy season for southern and southeastern pastoral areas of Ethiopia, had a late onset, erratic distribution, below normal cumulative performance and extended dry spells. A large portion of the seasonal rainfall atypically fell in the second and third dekads of May 2019. Rainfall was significantly below average: 25-50 percent of normal in most parts of East and West Hararghe, the lowlands of Bale in Oromia, and Fik, Gode, and Degahabour zone of Somali;  was 50 to 80 percent of normal in most of Somali, Borana, Guji of Oromia; and was greater than 80 percent in the other parts of the country from March 1 to May 27, 2019.

    Additionally, poor 2018 Deyr/Hagaya rainfall from October to December 2018 resulted in dryer than usual ground conditions, increasing the concern for pasture and water shortages.

    The onset of the Belg rainy season from February to May 2019 was timely in northern parts of South Omo, late by 1-2 weeks in southern South Omo, East and West Hararghe, the lowlands of Bale, and was 4 weeks late in eastern Amhara, southern Tigray, and most parts of Afar. Cumulative rainfall across Belg-benefiting parts of the country was below average and characterized by long dry spells. 

    Livestock and Pasture Conditions: Due to the poor Deyr/Hagaya October to December 2018 rainy season, followed by the extended dry and hotter than average period through April 2019, rangeland was dry and degraded and water availability for livestock and human consumption was very limited. However, due to enhanced and late season Gu/Genna/Belg rains after the second dekad of May 2019, there were slight improvements in water and pasture availability in eastern and central regions.

    Despite this, pasture improvement is below average in southern and southeastern pastoral areas due to the severity of the degradation and hotter than average temperature in the dry season that affected grass germination and viability. This has led to poor livestock body conditions, and little to no milk production since livestock births are few following limited conception by both small and large ruminants in the 2018 Deyr/Hagaya season.  

    Belg agricultural season: Due to the late start, erratic distribution of rainfall, dry spells, and cumulative below-average Belg rainfall, late planting occurred in many Belg-producing areas especially in central and eastern Oromia, and some areas of eastern Amhara and southern Tigray. Not only was there late planting, but total area planted was lower than usual. The FEWS NET mid-Belg field assessment in May 2019 found that in southern Tigary the total area planted is about 50 percent of normal while total 

    area planted in East Hararghe was 28 percent, and 20 percent in West Hararghe. In Belg-harvesting areas of Amhara Region, planting levels were about 100 percent by mid-May 2019.

    Since the Belg rains improved in the second dekad of May 2019, and most Belg producing parts of the country also benefit from the Meher season, which starts in June, these areas can still replant short maturing crops if agricultural inputs are available.  

    National Belg production is expected to be below average with little to no production likely in East and West Hararghe. However, the current rainfall will be helpful for Meher land preparation and planting of long maturing Meher crops like maize and sorghum, and improvement of perennial crops like chat, coffee, enset, and fruit trees.

    Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations: FAW infestations have affected more than 1,159 hectares of maize in Benatsemay, North and South Ari of south Omo zone, 62 hectares in North Shewa zone of Kewet Woreda of Amhara and 44 hectares of land in Limo Woreda of East Wollega of Oromia. Though the area infested is relatively low compared to previous years, and both chemical and traditional control methods are being applied, there is a risk that the pest will continue to spread and increase infestation levels close to previous years.

    Market supply and prices: Both staple food and livestock prices are increasing in most local markets, but staple food prices are rising at a greater rate.  This is likely the result of: below average crop production in Meher 2018, increased cash availability in the market generated from PSNP, relief, sale of labor and other items, Ethiopian currency inflation, increased fuel and spare part cost, security related issues to transport food from surplus areas to deficit, and increased demand from both non-drought-affected and drought-affected parts of the country.

    In southern pastoral and the southeastern lowlands of the country, livestock herd sizes that were already reduced following the 2016/17 drought were impacted by the abnormally dry and hot conditions following the2018 Deyr/Hagaya rains, resulting in poorer than usual livestock body conditions. Since livestock herd sizes in the area are about 50 percent of normal there is limited supply in local markets, which has increased market demand despite poor livestock body conditions and has led to higher livestock prices – though still lower than staple cereal prices.

    Health and Nutrition: From January to April 2019 Therapeutic Feeding Program (TFP) admissions increased throughout the country. From January to February 2019 admissions were above the 2011 to 2017 average but below those of January to February 2018. However, the March 2019 report showed an increase compared to March 2018, but lower than in 2016 and 2017.

    TFP admissions in Oromia Region increased from January to March 2019, representing more than one third of all of the country’s cases, followed by Somali Region. In Amhara and SNNPR, TFP admissions also increased between January and March 2019 and compared to 2018. March 2019 TFP admissions increased by 215 percent in Gedeo, 82 percent in Sidama and 64 percent in Halaba zones compared to February 2019.

    Contributing factors for increasing malnutrition currently are associated with delayed, inadequate and irregular emergency food and TSFP assistance, the measles epidemic, waterborne illnesses, and limited household food access due to the following: increased staple food prices, below-average Meher 2018 production and depletion of stocks, and food and income from livestock deteriorated following severe dryness and poor livestock body conditions.

    According to reports from the Ministry of Health, cholera (formerly referred to as AWD) outbreaks are reported throughout the country, with greatest prevalence in Amhara and Oromia regions. So far, a total of 614 cases have been identified with at least 14 deaths.

    Refugees from South Sudan and Somalia: According to UNCHR, the total number of registered refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia was 905,831 in May 2019 - 46.6 percent from South Sudan, 28.4 percent from Somalia, 19.2 percent from Eritrea, and 4.9 percent from Sudan. Despite this, the numbers of refugees fleeing South Sudan and Somalia have fallen compared to previous months and years.

    Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): The Government of Ethiopia has begun to facilitate the return of IDP households to their homes across the country. According to NDRMC, as of May 30, 2019, over two million of the around 2.98 million IDPs in the country have been returned to their original locations. Monthly humanitarian assistance, including food and non-food items, are being provided to the displaced and returnees though there are still gaps in the response in some areas. The majority of IDP repatriations have been smooth, however, there is still some insecurity felt by returning Gedio IDPs.  

    Humanitarian Assistance: The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) estimated a total of 8.3 million people would require humanitarian assistance between January and June 2019. As part of the HRP, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC), WFP, and JEOP provided first round emergency humanitarian assistance. The three operators are planning to distribute  a standard food basket of 15 kg of cereals, 1.5 kg of pulses, and 0.45 liters of oil.  The second round was launched on the 1st of June, allowing above organizations to start food dispatches to targeted locations. According to the national cash-food integrated plan meeting held on the 6th of June, there is a significant contribution by the Government of Ethiopia to the  HRP requirements, including, 1.2 billion ETB for cash transfers. There are also expected in-kind commodities that will cover some of the projected needs in the country. It was also noted that 3.6million PSNP public works clients, are projected to be food insecure when they are not receiving the core PSNP transfer assistance, from July to December.   According to the UN-OCHA Situation Report No.22 released on May 20, 2019 there are concerns of pipeline breaks in WFP and NDRMC emergency supplies and interruptions of lifesaving operations. Delays in relief food assistance would have a cascading impact on the nutrition situation of vulnerable groups, particularly children and pregnant and lactating mothers, increasing the risk for higher morbidity and mortality.

    In Somali Region, WFP planned to provide monthly rations to nearly 1.85 million (0.71 million IDP and 1.14 million non-displaced) people, but so far they have only been able to distribute  the first round of emergency food assistance, and dispatches are ongoing for the second round. In Amhara, Dire-Dawa, Oromia, Tigray, and SNNPR, 1.8 million people in JEOP’s, including 746,000 conflict IDPs in West Guji/ Gideo zones.

    Throughout the country, humanitarian distributions in June 2019 are expected to reach at least 25 percent of area households in areas of distribution who need assistance with rations equal to 25–50 percent of their caloric needs, as is the normal trend of distribution. Often these distributions reach different populations and are somewhat irregular in their temporal distribution. As a result, although the assistance is likely improving outcomes among beneficiaries, it is expected it is not driving an improvement in the area-level IPC Classification of any area.


    The most-likely scenario from June 2019 to January 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:


    Pasture, Water, and Livestock

    • Following the below-average 2019 Gu/Gena season, pasture and water sources were not able to regenerate normally, so until the Deyr/Hagaya rains begin in late October the availability of pasture and water is expected to be below-average. Following the start of the rains, both pasture and water availability are expected to improve through the end of the scenario period.
    • Livestock body conditions and productivity are only expected to stabilize and possibly marginally and temporarily improve with enhanced late season rainfall. They will likely remain below average and deteriorate further during the dry season until the start of the Deyr/Hagaya rains in October 2019. With the anticipated average Deyr/Hagaya rains it is likely that should improve pasture conditions, livestock body conditions and productivity will also improve. Throughout the outlook period, calving, lambing, kidding, and milk production will remain below average.

    Crop Production

    • Belg production is likely to be below average in most Belg-producing areas, particularly in northeastern Amhara, southern Tigray, central and eastern Oromia, and southern SNNPR. Due to late planting caused by the delayed Belg rains, the maize harvest in Belg-producing parts of SNNPR and East and West Hararghe is expected to begin at least one month later than normal. 
    • National Meher production is likely to be below average since there has been limited moisture since the second week of March 2019 for long cycle crop planting in addition to the forecast for average, tending to below average, total cumulative Kiremt rainfall.

    Markets and Trade

    • Since Belg production represents a small portion of total annual production, the Belg harvest from June to August does not significantly affect the cereal supply in central markets like Addis Ababa but it improves supply in local markets. However, this year, the expected below-average production in Amhara and Tigray from June to August, and one month delayed harvesting in SNNPR, will affect the supply of cereals which will remain atypically low through September.
    • Prices of staple grains like teff, wheat, maize, and sorghum will likely increase between June and August because of the lean season, the below-average harvest, higher levels of inflation, and fuel costs to transport food. Following the anticipated late Belg harvest in August/September and the Meher harvest starting in October, the supply of cereals will increase, and prices will decrease to follow their normal trend for the rest of the scenario period. 
    • Livestock prices are expected to continue following seasonal trends and remain higher than last year and the five-year average across most markets because of higher levels of inflation and limited herd sizes following the 2016/17 drought.

    Income-Earning Opportunities

    • From June to January 2019, agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be normal, following planting, weeding, and harvesting in Kiremt-receiving regions of SNNPR, Amhara, Oromia, Gambela, Benshangul Gumuz, and Tigray. However, due to the expected increase in the number of people in search of labor, particularly from June to September, the wage rate will remain low and likely improve later in the year as major labor activities are required for harvesting of cotton and sesame in large farm areas beginning in October, after the Kiremt season ends.
    • In general, other household income from self-employment opportunities, like petty trading and social support of both in-kind and cash, are expected to slightly improve during the October to January 2019 period following a likely average Meher harvest and average Deyr/Hagaya rains.


    • Conflict between bordering ethnic communities within the same region is likely to increase during the transition period as forceful requests for different benefits by different ethnic groups will continue. This could result in temporary disruptions in livelihood activities including agricultural practices, delivery of humanitarian assistance, movement of people for labor activity, and trade flows.

    Safety Nets and Humanitarian Assistance

    • PSNP transfers started late and will be carried out through June, but not beyond the currently planned six-month transfers that conclude in June 2019.
    • There are concerns that securing the required amount of funding for humanitarian food and nonfood assistance by humanitarian actors will not be possible. Therefore, the amount that the government allocates, specific funding levels in the scenario period, timing of deliveries, and the number of beneficiaries that will be able to be reached will be limited. Without this confirmed information, the continuation of humanitarian assistance is uncertain and as a result, we have not included humanitarian assistance in our outlook projections.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In south and southeastern pastoral areas of the country, including most parts of Somali, and southern and southeastern Oromia, food access for poor and very poor households remains significantly constrained due to lack of pasture and water for livestock body improvement and production. Livestock productivity is below-average due to poor Deyr/Hagaya performance for small ruminant conception and births in the Gu/Genna season. The performance of the 2018 Gu/Genna was too poor for livestock conception and this affected milk production in the region. In some areas of Somali region and East and West Hararghe of Oromia livestock have started to die. On the other hand, though livestock body conditions are poor, livestock prices show an increase compared to the same period of 2018 and the five years average. However, there are still low livestock-to-cereals terms of trade since staple food prices are expected to continue to rise through September ahead of the Meher harvest.  With the forecast for average Deyr/Hagaya rains, livestock body conditions are likely to start improving by October and November as pasture and water resources begin to be replenished. This is expected to lead to a slight improvement in livestock body conditions and productivity.

    In East and West Hararghe of Oromia food security is a high concern as food and income from livestock deteriorated following severe dryness and poor livestock body condition and production, increased staple food prices, delayed, inadequate, irregular emergency food assistance and expected pipeline breaks for humanitarian food assistance, and nutrition status declining-indicating inadequate diet and thus, the area will remain in Crisis (IPC phase 3) through at least September 2019.

    Due to the high level of needs and expected pipeline break for humanitarian assistance delivery, poor households in the lowlands of Bale, parts of Guji and Borena zone of Oromia, Afder, Liben, Gode, Fike and parts of Korahe, and parts of Warder in Somali Region will likely continue to face food consumption gaps and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September 2019. Starting from October, Fefer and Shelabo woredas of Korahe, Warder woreda of Warder Zone, parts of Mustahil in Gode Zone, Bare and Dolobay wordas of Afader and Dolo odo Wordes of Liben  zone in Somali, Borena,  and parts of Guji zone in Oromia region, are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) since the rainfall deficits were not as severe during the Gu/Gena season (due to late rains in May 2019), and additionally the Deyr/Hageya rainy season is expected to bring additional improvements in these areas. However, there is still the possibility that some poor households who lost the majority of their assets during year 2016/2017 drought will still face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    In the Rift Valley of SNNPR, north eastern Afar, the lowlands of Waghimra Zone of Amhara, and Tekeze River catchments of Tigray, June to September coincides with the typical lean season. Poor households have already exhausted their stocks from the 2018 Meher and in June before the expected below-average Belg harvest begins, there will be an earlier than normal exhaustion of food stocks. Access to income from agricultural labor is expected to improve starting from July as there will be a demand for weeding labor in Meher-dependent areas; however, it is still unlikely to be sufficient to cover all household food needs. As a result, worst-affected areas, such as the  Tekeze River catchments of Tigray, the lowlands of Waghimra, northeastern Afar, and parts of SNNPR are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while other areas are likely to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between June and September. However, with expected improved access to food and income during the October 2019 to January 2020 period following the new Meher harvest, these areas are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), except for northwestern Afar which will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In Belg-dependent areas of South Tigray and South and North Wollo zones of Amhara Region, with the expected below- average Belg harvest, access to food and income is likely to be constrained between June to September, especially as staple food prices are expected to continue rise through October. As a result, Belg-producing parts of southern Tigray and northeastern Amhara are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September. However, with expected improved food access in September from the late Belg harvest, from October onwards following the 2019 Meher harvest, these areas will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, the Meher-dependent eastern half of the Tigray and Amhara regions are likely to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. From October onwards following the expected average production from the Meher season, household food and income access in these areas are projected to improve and these areas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), except in some isolated portions of the south

    In the western half of the country in western and central Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR, Gambela, and Benshangul Gumuz regions, poor households are projected to be able to maintain adequate access to food and income throughout the scenario period. Forecasted average with localized areas of above average Kirmet rainfall over the western regions is likely to lead to near-average 2019 Meher production and further improve access to pasture for livestock, which will contribute to normal milk yields and livestock prices. Additionally, beginning in June, income from agricultural labor is expected to increase from Meher-related agricultural activities. Throughout the scenario period, these areas are expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    The nutritional status of children under five, and pregnant and lactating mothers in IDP camps, in drought affected parts of the country such as East and West Hararghe of Oromia, Somali region, northeastern Amhara,  Gedeo, Sidama, Wolayita and Segen Zones of SNNPR parts of Afar and southeastern Tigray  are likely to deteriorate through September 2019 due to high market prices for staple foods, limited income, high inflation, limited availability of specialized nutritious foods and the potential humanitarian assistance pipeline break.

    If the expected food aid pipeline break occurs following the round two distribution in Somali and Oromia Regions, there will be a cascading impact on the nutrition situation of children and pregnant and lactating mothers, increasing the risk for higher morbidity and mortality in major parts of East and West Hararghe, the Bale lowlands, parts of Guji and Borena of Oromia, and major parts of Somali region.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalConflict between ethnic groupsIf conflict between different ethnic groups is sparked, more people will be displaced and the number of IDPs will increase, which will increase the need for humanitarian assistance and the number of people who will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would significantly grow


    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 Map of Current food security outcomes, June 2019: Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most of the west of Ethiopia; Stressed (IPC Phase

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2019

    Source: FEWS NET

    Map of WRSI June 2019, Dekad 2: Crop failure or no start in south central and parts of  central north Ethiopia, Average to go

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Map of March-May 2019 percent of normal rainfall: Most of east and central Ethiopia had 50 to 80 percent of normal rainfall,

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Table showing Terms of trade cereals/goats throughout Ethiopia: Most had increased terms of trade compared to the 5 year aver

    Figure 4

    Table 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/Zonal/Woreda level Food Security offices

    Graph showing National TFP admission between January to March 2019: January and February 2019 admissions are less than Januar

    Figure 5

    Figure 3.

    Source: ENCU

    Title: Ethiopia seasonal calendar Description: Western agricultural areas in Ethiopia: Planting is from mid-April until mid-J

    Figure 3

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    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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