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Rainfall deficits drive crop production concerns in the center, north, and south

  • Key Message Update
  • Ethiopia
  • July 2023
Rainfall deficits drive crop production concerns in the center, north, and south

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), persist in the aftermath of drought in the south and conflict in the north. Parts of the Somali, Oromia, and Tigray regions are of highest concern, as households in these areas have yet to recover their livelihood assets and continue to face severe difficulty earning income from typical agricultural methods. As the ongoing lean season approaches its peak in August, households are relying on atypical, severe coping strategies to access food, including heavy reliance on community support. Amid the pause of US government (USG) assistance, food aid deliveries remain minimal. Millions of people face large food consumption deficits and high levels of acute malnutrition. 
    • In the pastoral south and southeast, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to be sustained through at least January, as many destitute and displaced households have limited livestock holdings. Although seasonal livestock births and milk production are expected starting in September, there is a credible risk of more extreme levels of acute food insecurity if anticipated income sources and increases in livestock production do not materialize to the degree that is currently anticipated. In most of Tigray, household food consumption gaps are expected to remain large until the meher harvest begins in September; furthermore, there is a credible risk of more extreme outcomes if household income-earning from labor and off-farm sources do not materialize as anticipated. Outcomes are expected to improve from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) once the harvest begins in September, as households will be able to access food from own production and through sharing. 
    • Rainfall deficits, coupled with shortages of agricultural inputs, will most likely drive below-normal national meher crop production during the harvest, which starts in September/October. While the favorable start of the June to September kiremt rainfall season has supported generally favorable crop development across much of the country, large rainfall deficits emerged in July across areas of eastern Tigray, eastern Amhara, and the Rift Valley. Rainfall deficits as of late July are over 25 percent of average and, in some localized areas, over 40 percent.   Meanwhile, in some areas of SNNPR, the current rainfall deficits render it the driest season on record. With the likelihood of continued below-average rainfall in August and September, crop development is of high concern in eastern Tigray, eastern Amhara, areas along the Rift Valley of Oromia, and SNNPR. In August and September, most crops are expected to reach the flowering and seed-setting stages when water requirements are at their highest, which will likely have negative impacts on yields. 
    • In July and August, staple food prices across local markets remained significantly higher than in recent months and years due to the impacts of drought and conflict on atypically low market supply and poor economic conditions. Maize prices in July were, on average, over 100 percent higher than the national three-year average. Notably, in Tigray, maize prices in Mekele in August are 36 percent higher than in April, 9 percent higher than last month, and 286 percent higher than during the pre-conflict period. Staple food prices will likely peak in September but remain high throughout the projection period. Thereafter, staple food prices are expected to seasonally decline with the meher harvest. The anticipated high staple food prices will continue to drive low purchasing power among poor households, especially livestock holders and unskilled laborers. The maize-to-goat terms of trade, for example, remain lower than in previous years. In Yabello market, in June, the terms of trade were nearly 50 percent lower than the three-year average.
    • Malnutrition continues to be a concern in most northern, eastern, central, and southern parts of the country. In May, the total number of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admitted for treatment in therapeutic feeding program (TFP) sites reached 63,052 nationally, a figure that is nearly double the five-year average. Most cases originated in Oromia, Somali, and Amhara regions. A Rapid Nutrition Assessment (RNA) conducted by the Afar Regional Disaster Risk Management Commission (DRMC/R-ENCU) in late June/July in Mille and Asayita woredas of Afar – an area affected by flooding in April/May – found proxy GAM rates of 26 and 12.7 percent, respectively. Similarly, routine nutrition screening results for Afder, Libin, Shabelle, Dollo, and Korahe Zones of the Somali Region show that the proxy GAM rates continue to suggest Critical (15-29.9 percent) to Extremely Critical (≥30 percent) levels of malnutrition. 
    • The cholera outbreak continues in Oromia and Somali Regions. According to the Ministry of Health and WHO, between August 2022 and late June 2023, 6,560 cases and 79 associated deaths were reported in Guji, West Guji, West Arsi, Borana, Bale, East Bale, and East Shewa zones of the Oromia Region. Similarly, there were 1,029 cholera cases reported from the Liben and Afdher zones of the Somali Region, with 21 deaths across the five woredas in these two zones. Cholera is expected to remain a health risk due to inadequate access to clean water, poor sanitation and hygiene, and lack of a response plan across all the affected areas. In some locations, the cases have declined as of July due to WHO interventions in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and partners. Still, there are reports of new cases where the vaccine and treatment are unavailable. Notably, the cholera outbreak not only contributes to elevated malnutrition levels, but also directly affects household food and income access by reducing trade movement, increasing household expenses for health, and driving declines in the agricultural labor force, especially during the peak agricultural season. The situation is worse in areas with weak health facilities and IDP camps.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Ethiopia Key Message Update July 2023: Rainfall deficits drive crop production concerns in the center, north, and south, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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