Skip to main content

Food insecurity rising in parts of Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan, despite widespread improvements

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • East Africa
  • March 2013
Food insecurity rising in parts of Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan, despite widespread improvements

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • An estimated 12.9 million people in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Rwanda face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity, representing substantial improvements in household food security even compared to three months ago.

    • However, the number of people facing acute food insecurity is likely to rise from March to June, primarily due to increasing food insecurity in eastern and southern Ethiopia, in the conflict-affected Sudan-South Sudan border areas, and within South Sudan.

    • The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) consensus climate outlook for the March to May rains suggests that the eastern sector of the region could experience normal to below normal rains. If rains are below normal, deterioration in household food security could accelerate particularly in Somalia, eastern Kenya, and eastern and southern Ethiopia.


    Current Situation

    The reduction from 14.9 million to 12.9 million people facing acute food insecurity–Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels—from about three months ago is indicative of substantial improvements in food security at the end of 2012, primarily due to average to above average agricultural production and favorable pastoral conditions. Following a succession of average to above average crop harvests, a reduction in food prices, and a marked improvement in livestock productivity and prices, improvements were most notable in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. Food insecurity remains, and it is beginning to increase in several parts of the region including southern Tigray, eastern Oromia, eastern Amhara, parts of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), southern and northern Somali Region, and northern Afar in Ethiopia, parts of South Kordofan and Darfur in Sudan, parts of the Guban pastoral and Coastal Deeh pastoral livelihood zones in Somalia, conflict-affected areas in Jonglei, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap, and Unity States in South Sudan, and northwestern Djibouti. Most of these areas are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), attributed primarily to poor rains, crop and livestock diseases, above average food prices, and limited labor opportunities either because normal seasonal activities have ended or because agricultural production was below normal and demand for agricultural labor was well below the labor supplied.

    Performance of the October to December rains was near average in most parts of the region except for parts of the southern agropastoral areas in Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba and northeastern Somalia, parts of Somali region in Ethiopia, the northeastern parts of Kenya, eastern parts of Rwanda, and Kagera and Mara Regions in Tanzania. Performance of the December to January Sapie rains in SNNPR was close to average. In February and early March, the start of the February to May Belg rains in Ethiopia have been below average; many areas have yet to receive rains. 


    Projected Outlook through June 2013
    • The ICPAC climate outlook forecast indicates that there is an enhanced likelihood of normal to below normal rainfall in the eastern Horn of Africa. Below normal rainfall could lead to food security outcomes worsening in eastern and southern Ethiopia, across Somalia, in eastern and southeastern Kenya and eastern Tanzania. Recent improvements in food security were the result, at least in part, of average rains in 2012. A below average season would increase watering distances, cause early and extended livestock migrations, precipitating competition scarce resources, lowering production and incomes, for households that have not recovered sufficiently to withstand another shock.
    • However, the western sector of the region, that is also dependent on the March to May rains, including western Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and both bimodal and unimodal areas of Tanzania, should benefit from normal to above normal rains enhancing agricultural production and household incomes. Flooding could also occur along the flood-prone lowlands around Lake Victoria and in parts of Rwanda.
    • Food insecurity is projected to increase and remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in parts of Afar, Oromia, Somali, and SNNPR in Ethiopia, at least through June. East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia experienced two consecutive poor seasons including the mediocre February to May 2012 Belg rains and an early withdrawal of June to September 2012 Kiremt rains, leading to below average output for both short- and long-cycle crops from both seasons. Unusual water shortages coupled with reduced water trucking capacities have also exacerbated the food security situation in those areas.
    • An estimated 2.5 million people require humanitarian assistance in Somali, Oromia, Afar, Amhara, SNNPR, and Harari Regions in Ethiopia. Poor households in the sweet potato-growing and southern woredas of the SNNPR had poor Belg harvests in June 2012 and a poor Meher harvest in October 2012. Sowing of the main sweet potato crop was below average because of shortages of sweet potato cuttings during the November planting window. Poor households in the southern woredas of the SNNPR are anticipated to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. The ICPAC forecast suggests poor March to May rains in Afar, northern Somali, and the southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas.
    • Food insecurity is expected to worsen through June, and an increase in the number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is anticipated in Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, North Bahr El Ghazal, and Lakes States in South Sudan. Households displaced by conflict along the northern border areas, particularly in Abyei and Unity State, have higher levels of food insecurity. Cattle rustling has led to displacement and associated food insecurity in Jonglei and Warrap States. An estimated 100 people lost their lives in Akobo County in Jonglei State following livestock raids and reprisal attacks. 1,000 people were displaced in Tonj in Warrap in February. An air raid in Pariang County in Unity State in February brought the total number of displaced persons in the county in 2013 to 8,500 Displaced households have lost assets and productive capacities, and they are currently unable to produce firewood, engage in fishing, or procure inputs for planting the main season crop in June. Staple food prices have increased since February, and they are well above their five-year averages in Bor, Aweil, and Kapoeta.
    • Food prices in South Sudan are projected to rise significantly during the April to June lean season, since household food stocks were exhausted in February, particularly in the border areas. Informal trade is increasingly restricted. 70 trucks of food from Sudan going to South Sudan were stopped by the Government of Sudan (GoS) in February. High and rising prices are likely to constrain purchasing capacities, restrict investment in livelihood activities, and increase consumption gaps for poor households. Conflicts within South Sudan and increased tensions along the border are likely to lead to further population displacements in Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, North Bahr El Ghazal, and Lakes States. Cattle raids started earlier than usual this year, and they are likely to intensify between April and June. Poor households in these areas are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from April to June, while most in Abyei will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. However, on-going humanitarian assistance in Abyei has mitigated further deterioration in food security.
    • Food insecurity for households in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur, and Abyei in Sudan is being driven by:
      • population displacements resulting from conflict and insecurity
      • inability to reach security and economic agreements with South Sudan, such as the cessation of support of armed groups by both parties, the demilitarization of the border areas
      • rising cereal prices which are up to 107 percent higher than their five-year averages, with continued upward pressure due to continued high food and non-food inflation along with high demand including for exports to the Gulf States, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia
      • inability of Messeriya pastoralists from South Kordofan and Rezeighat pastoralists from East Darfur to access grazing areas in South Sudan
      • migration of desert locusts from Red Sea State, which also threatens the upcoming planting of crops
      • destruction of 30 percent of the crops in the field by rats in northern Gadaref State

    Conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Darfur, and Blue Nile will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June including IDPs and poor households hosting IDPs, due to their limited productive capacities and rapid depletion of food stocks from the October to January harvest. Increased insecurity will reduce the cultivated area to below normal and also reduce access to markets and food supplies. However, households in conflicted-affected areas that are controlled by the Government of Sudan (GoS) are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June because of better access to food stocks, markets, trade, labor opportunities, and humanitarian assistance. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity are also anticipated through June in Darfur in West and East Jebel Mara and Serief Benei Hissein localities, in particular. Conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Abdelwahid group has led to displacement of households, destruction of crops, assets, and loss of life in those localities.

    • Substantial improvements in food security in Somalia have resulted in the reduction of the population facing acute food insecurity to 1.05 million people in March 2013 down from 2.1 million in December. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity are anticipated to persist through June in northwestern, coastal pastoral areas that have had poor rains since 2010, in the coastal areas of central Somalia affected by poor grazing resources and small herd sizes, and the agropastoral areas of Lower Juba due to poor maize output in January and February following multiple dry spells and low livestock holdings as a result of distress sales. Poor April to June Gu rains could quickly increase food insecurity even in areas that just completed a productive October to December Deyr season. High malnutrition levels persist in Bakool, Hiran, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and among IDPs ranging from Serious to Critical, underlining the need for a succession of favorable seasons and continued humanitarian interventions.
    • Poor coastal rains in the Southeast Borderside livelihood zone caused severe water shortages and reduced livestock productivity. Not much relief is anticipated due to expectation of average to below average March to May Diraa/Sougum rains. Poor households are likely to remain in Crisis through June because the ongoing October to February Hays/Dadaa rains have been poor. This is continuing from similarly low rainfall performance in 2010 and 2011.
    • Significant improvements in household food security have occurred in most parts of Kenya. Most pastoral and marginal agricultural areas are anticipated to remain at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels through June, but they could worsen in the event that the April to June long rains are below average, which is a strong possibility.
    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity are anticipated to persist among poor agropastoralists in the Eastern Agropastoral and Eastern Agropastoral Semi-arid Livelihood Zones in Kayonza and Kirehe sectors in Rwanda, Eastern and Western Congo-Nile Crest Zones, the banana- and cassava-growing areas of Kagera in Tanzania, agropastoral areas of Karamoja in Uganda, and in the warm lowlands of Burundi, due to outbreaks of plant diseases including fungi, banana bacterial wilt (BBW), cassava mosaic virus disease (CMV), and cassava brown streak virus disease (CBSD) that have reduced banana, cassava, and sorghum output. In addition, recent rainy seasons were mediocre in terms of rainfall totals and poorly distributed in many of these areas. 

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top