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Levels of acute food insecurity expected to peak from June to September

  • Key Message Update
  • Ethiopia
  • May 2023
Levels of acute food insecurity expected to peak from June to September

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • June to September marks the period when food assistance needs are expected to reach an annual peak across Ethiopia. Needs are not only at historically high levels for the second consecutive year, but the depth of food consumption gaps range from large-to-extreme in northern and south/southeastern Ethiopia. While conflict in the north and drought in the south and southeast have subsided, the erosion of livelihoods during these protracted shocks have hindered the pace of recovery of food and income sources. Households in both areas face great difficulty in producing or purchasing food. In Tigray, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected; in the south and southeast, Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected. Food assistance remains vital to saving lives, and there is very high concern for worsening levels of acute food insecurity in the coming months amid the pause in assistance distributions.

    • In Tigray, where the typical start of the lean season is in June, food consumption deficits are expected to widen given household’s contracting purchasing power for buying market foods and investing in crop production for their future food needs. Households are expected to prioritize crop cultivation as much as possible; however, low access to agricultural inputs and the high likelihood of a below-average kiremt rainfall season is decreasing meher production prospects, household coping capacity, and the ability to rebuild their livelihoods. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are ongoing and likely to persist through at least September, when the harvest begins. The continued pause of assistance delivery in Tigray threatens worsening hunger and acute malnutrition, along with rising levels of destitution and the potential for hunger-related deaths.

    • Humanitarians reportedly delivered food assistance to about three million people in southern and southeastern pastoral Ethiopia between early April and mid-May. This food assistance, along with the government’s Productive Safety Net Programme, is the primary food and income source for many households with a very low asset base across the worst-drought-affected areas. Recovery from the 2020 to 2023 drought in these areas will most likely require multiple, favorable consecutive seasons accompanied by continuous humanitarian food assistance for the foreseeable future to ensure households can meet their basic food needs and rebuild their asset base. Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist through at least September, prior to the start of the next rainy season and livestock birthing season. In the protracted absence of life-saving food assistance, it is possible that acute food insecurity outcomes would be worse than currently mapped.

    • The February to May belg rainfall season was among the wettest belg seasons on the historical record, which generally facilitated positive development of belg crops and land preparation and planting of long-cycle meher crops in advance of the kiremt rains. However, conflict in some areas, such as portions of Oromia and Amhara, reduced access to inputs and levels of planting, while flooding in some areas, such as areas of SNNP, Oromia, and Somali regions, disrupted crop growth. The negative impacts on national-level crop production prospects were not significant, however, and the belg harvest beginning in June is expected to be average.

    • The June to September kiremt rains are anticipated to be below average across much of the country. Forecasts models show increasing concern for the potential of meteorological drought, notably in central, northern, and southwestern crop-producing areas of the country. Conflict, reduced access to agricultural inputs, and below-average rainfall are expected to result in below-average national meher production. In Tigray, some areas of Oromia, and many other conflict-affected cropping areas, land preparation for short-cycle meher crops is slow to start and below average to date due to a shortage of agricultural inputs amid high prices and a lack of draft power for plowing. While agricultural labor demand is seasonally elevated, income from this source remains below average due to the high labor supply. Although, in conflict-affected areas and Tigray, income from this source is sharply diminished as conflict and insecurity due to the combination of limited labor demand, high labor supply, and an inability to migrate to other areas.  

    • Macroeconomic factors continue to put pressure on staple food markets. Additionally, the further reduction of fuel subsidies in May led to more than a 10 percent increase in fuel prices compared to previous months, further increasing transportation costs. Staple food prices remain high and are expected to increase further in the coming months due to normal seasonal declines in market supplies and the continuously high transportation costs. In Sekota town in Amhara Region, sorghum prices in May were nearly 20 percent higher than in April and over 110 percent higher than the five-year average. In Yabello in Borena Zone, May maize prices are over 24 percent higher than the same time last year and nearly 85 percent higher than the three-year average.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. ETHIOPIA Key Message Update, May 2023: Levels of acute food insecurity expected to peak from June to September, 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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