Skip to main content

East Africa Outlook through September 2012

  • Food Security Outlook
  • East Africa
  • April - September 2012
East Africa Outlook through September 2012

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Drivers of projected food security outcomes in the East Africa region
  • Most likely food security outcomes: April – September, 2012
  • Less likely events over the next six months that could change the above scenarios
  • Key Messages
    • Despite the general delay in the start of season, dry conditions have eased significantly in many parts of the eastern Horn following the onset of rains in April in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Djibouti, and Uganda. These rains have mitigated the impacts of typical January‐March dryness on pasture and water availability. Sudan and South Sudan remain seasonably dry.   

    • However, southern parts of Sudan and Ethiopia, southern and eastern South Sudan, most of Somalia and parts of northern and eastern Kenya remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4).  

    • The ongoing recovery from the severe 2011 drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, below normal 2012 rains in parts of the eastern Horn, the impacts of conflict in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, and heightened food prices, suggest that this acute food insecurity is likely to persist throughout the April to September outlook period.  

    • The impacts on household food security of on‐going internal and cross‐country conflicts are of increasing and serious concern during the April‐September outlook period. Tensions have escalated between South Sudan and Sudan, while many parts of central and southern Somalia remain unstable and largely inaccessible. The conflicts have precipitated further population displacements, negated livelihood productivities, and exacerbated lack of access to markets, grazing resources and humanitarian assistance.   


    Drivers of projected food security outcomes in the East Africa region

    About 16 million people, including refugees in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, are at Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or Emergency levels (IPC Phase 4) of food insecurity. Although livelihoods in the East Africa region transcend national administrative boundaries, the impact of shocks on food insecurity has not been uniform because underlying drivers in the region vary between countries. While the rainfall performance remains a key determinant of food insecurity during the April to September outlook period, conflict, macroeconomic shocks, human and livestock disease, coverage and access to markets, national food stocks, and humanitarian assistance, are compounding the impacts of current and previous agroclimatic shocks.

    The most likely scenario for the April – September outlook period is based on the following assumptions:

    • Rainfall deficits will occur in the Belg and root crop dependent areas of Ethiopia, following a late onset, as well as in the northern pastoral areas of the Somali region in Ethiopia, southeastern Kenya and in the agropastoral areas of Somalia.
    • While rains will be near normal during the main June‐October rainy season in South Sudan and Sudan, constrained access to inputs, grazing resources, labor and heightened fuel prices are likely to compromise crop and livestock production in these countries.
    • The conflict between South Sudan and Sudan will likely accentuate with the involvement of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), limiting access to markets, labor opportunities, grazing resources and humanitarian assistance. 
    • Access to markets, humanitarian assistance and grazing resources will remain constrained in southern and central Somalia, as military operations by Kenyan and Ethiopian armies continue.
    • Refugee populations in Dadaab and Dollo Ado camps will remain elevated, while the inflow of refugees from South Sudan to Kakuma in northwestern Kenya and Sherkole and Tongo camps in Ethiopia; and in Unity, Upper Nile and Warrap states in South Sudan, will increase.
    • Reduced oil output in Sudan and South Sudan will compound inflationary pressures leading to heightened food and non‐food prices and also cause further devaluation of local currencies.
    • Markets will tighten considerably and prices could dramatically rise during the April‐September period because of widening national cereal deficits in South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia and during April to July in Kenya.
    • Informal trade flows from Sudan to South Sudan will decline significantly because of renewed deterrent measures that dissuade traders from participating in the trade.
    • Beneficial impacts of increased livestock prices will be undermined by heightened food and non‐food prices in the pastoral areas of southern and northeastern Ethiopia and northern and northeastern Kenya.
    • An upsurge in livestock and human disease is likely to occur, especially in the flooded areas of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Most likely food security outcomes: April – September, 2012

    The food security status of an estimated 4.7 million people in Sudan remains precarious and could worsen for populations residing in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, principally due to the impacts of on‐going conflict with the SPLM‐N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Darfur Rebels in parts of North, Central, South and East Darfur, and along the border with South Sudan. In addition, cereal prices have heightened considerably, while domestic supply is severely constrained. Food insecurity for populations in the conflict areas, especially in the areas controlled by the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Movement – North (SPLM‐N), is likely to persist and deteriorate during the April‐September outlook period. An estimated 200,000‐250,000 people in South Kordofan are in the SPLM‐N controlled areas and face Emergency‐level (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. Households in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan in particular, are anticipated to have limited access to labor, a critical source of household income, leading to severe erosion of purchasing capacities.  A further 150,000‐200,000 people are situated in the Government of Sudan (GoS) controlled areas are likely to face Stressed levels of food insecurity during the outlook period. Populations residing in the SPLM‐N areas, unlike those in the GoS controlled areas have limited access to humanitarian assistance, labor, input and output markets and grazing resources.

    Similarly, food insecurity is likely to remain at Crisis (IPC Phase 3) for an estimated 100,000‐150,000 people in SPLM‐N controlled areas and at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for about 100,000 people in the GoS controlled areas of Blue Nile State.  The intensity of fighting in Blue Nile State is lower than in South Kordofan, reducing the severity of food insecurity. Food insecurity is also anticipated to persist in the Stressed and Crisis levels through the outlook period in the conflict‐hit disputed territory of Abyei. Although deployment of the United Nations Interim Security Force has reduced hostilities and increased access to humanitarian assistance, continued displacements and inability to access farmlands will sustain heightened levels of food insecurity. In north, south and western Darfur, a halving of food aid rations will reduce household food availability during the June‐ September lean period and result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) level for 1.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs). 

    An estimated 1.2 million people hosting IDPs in North Darfur have eroded their livelihood and coping strategies after facing severe drought in the previous season. Subsequently, substantial consumption gaps are expected to persist through the outlook period, since limited access to markets is compounded by food prices which are up to 160 percent above average.

    An estimated 2.5‐3.0 million people require humanitarian assistance in South Sudan and numbers could rise through the April‐September outlook period. The main areas of concern include Upper Nile, Warrap, Bahr El Gazal, and the northern parts of Unity State.    Food insecurity has deteriorated to Crisis levels in these border areas and will persist through September. Growing conflict has displaced populations from the Blue Nile State in Sudan to the eastern flood plains of Upper Nile, tripling the population of the State without concomitant improvement in livelihood production options.  However, refugee populations have access to food assistance which is partially mitigating the decline in food security. Displaced populations from South Kordofan and Abyei are residing in the Nile‐Sobat Zone of Unity State and crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to last through the outlook period. A significant proportion of the population failed to cultivate because of a combination of insecurity and landmines. In addition, some of the previous crop was lost to flooding adding to the burden of hosting a large influx of refugees while grappling with reduced food supplies.   

    Significant consumption gaps in the Western Flood Plains Zone of Northern Bar el Gazal have resulted in Crisis levels of food insecurity which are expected to persist through the outlook period. Poor food security conditions result from a poor sorghum harvest, market cereal shortages which are compounded by trade restrictions with Sudan, and a large influx of refugees from Abyei. Crisis levels of food insecurity are also anticipated through the outlook period in the Eastern Flood Plain Zone of Jonglei State and are attributed to the impacts of tribal conflict between the Murule, Dinka and Nuer. The conflict has resulted in displacement of populations that have lost productive assets and have been unable to cultivate crops, compounding crop losses from the previous season. The disarmament exercise, though not universally acknowledged as beneficial, has mitigated further deterioration in food security outcomes by improving humanitarian access.   

    While food security outcomes have improved markedly in Somalia since the 2011 Famine, recovery has been tenuous.  An estimated 2.51 million people are currently classified in Emergency or Crisis level food insecurity. Food insecurity is expected to persist throughout the outlook period, though improvements are expected to follow the July/August Gu harvest.  Famine is not anticipated. The key areas of concern include the agropastoral livelihood zones in Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo, Bakool and Hiran; the northern and central pastoral livelihood zones in the Sool plateau, Nugal Valley and Coastal Deeh; the southeastern pastoral livelihood zone in Lower and Middle Juba regions and agropastoral areas in Bay, Shabelle Valley and Central regions.   

    Households in the agropastoral livelihood zones in Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo, Bakool are likely to remain in the Crisis phase through the outlook period.    Poor households have substantial consumption gaps and lack on‐farm food stocks.   Although cereal prices have declined in most areas of the zone and livestock prices and wage rates have improved, households remain highly indebted and are not able to fully access the minimum expenditure basket. In addition, on‐going civil insecurity in Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, Hiran Bay and Bakool has led to population displacements and limited access to markets and humanitarian assistance. Rainfall has also been erratic and could result in poor production, causing a reversal in generally low food prices, compromising purchasing capacities.  Malnutrition levels are expected to remain ‘very critical’ through the outlook period, though significant improvements have occurred since July‐August, 2011.  

    Most parts of pastoral Sool plateau, Nugal Valley and Coastal Deeh, are likely to be in Crisis through September. Oct‐Dec 2011 Deyr rains were unfavorable, unlike the southern and central parts of Somalia, and subsequent abnormal livestock migration resulted in an upsurge in livestock diseases and reduced livestock productivity. Milk output is low for all species owned by poor households and restrictions in trade and humanitarian access are likely to sustain poor food security conditions among pastoral households. Households are also heavily indebted and may not recover significantly, even if on‐going rains improve, because of limited herd sizes.

    Food security is likely to remain in the Emergency phase from April to June, improving to the Crisis phase from July to September in the southeastern pastoral livelihood zone in Lower and Middle Juba regions. Emergency levels of food insecurity are attributed to adverse impacts of two successive poor rainy seasons, namely the 2010/11 Deyr and 2011 Gu and the unprecedented decline in livestock prices and increased animal mortality which resulted in severely eroded livelihoods. Despite good 2011/12 Deyr rains which improved livestock body conditions and increased humanitarian assistance (currently reaching up to 245,000 people), the impact of losses suffered over previous seasons has not been fully mitigated.    In addition, increasing insecurity is likely to lead to reduced access for traders and humanitarian agencies. The prevalence of acute malnutrition remains at ‘very critical’ levels. June to August Hagaa rains are expected to improve availability of grazing resources and improve livestock productivity. Increased milk production, livestock births, and livestock sales are projected to improve food security to Crisis during the July‐September period.   

    Other areas of continuing concern include the agropastoral areas in Bay and the Central regions, where households are struggling to meet the minimum expenditure basket.  Limited labor opportunities, heightened conflict, indebtedness, lack of access to markets and humanitarian assistance are compromising current and future household food security.   

    An estimated 3.2 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia and in need of emergency assistance.  Poor prospects for the February to May rainy season in some parts of the southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas, the Belg‐ producing highlands in eastern Amhara, and bi‐modal parts of the eastern Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), are likely to result in continued Crisis levels of food insecurity, through the outlook period. Nearly 40 percent of this area’s cereal harvest is produced during the Belg season and it accounts for 70 to 100 of the production in the Belg‐dependant areas in eastern Amhara and southern woredas of SNNPR.  The rains were delayed by up to eight weeks in critical areas, suggesting that cereal production will decline markedly.  Reduction in the cereal harvest coupled with exhaustion of food stocks from the previous Meher harvest is likely to precipitate an upsurge in cereal and food prices beyond the purchasing capacities of poor households. Subsequently, households in these areas are anticipated to remain in the Crisis phase throughout the scenario period. Poor households in the major root crop‐dependent zones of the SNNPR are also affected by a near total failure of the root crop harvest.  

    The southern zones of the Somali Region and lowlands of Oromia and SNNPR will remain in Crisis given the continued impacts of poor rains in 2010 and 2011. Despite good Deyr/Hageya rains in 2011, severe water shortages were reported from February through April. While water availability and browse regeneration has improved, pasture recovery is expected to take a longer time and livestock productivity is still low. Limited conceptions of livestock, especially cattle, and increased distress sales have constrained purchasing capacities, since cereal prices increases have overtaken modest gains in livestock prices.  Livestock prices and milk output are expected to decline as the dry season sets in between July and September, further reducing purchasing power. Food insecurity could decline even further in the areas that also experienced poor rains in October‐December 2011 and that are also receiving poor rains in the current season. Pastoralists in northern and northeastern Afar Region will improve to Stressed food insecurity during the April‐June period, while the northern Somali region will improve to Stressed between July and September. The disparities in the levels of food insecurity between northern and southern pastoral areas result from better rains in Afar, which have impacted positively on livestock production fundamentals.  In addition, the onset of the mid‐July to mid‐September rains in northern pastoral areas should further facilitate regeneration of grazing resources, translating into improved livestock productivity and increase access to milk and income.

    An estimated 2.2 million people in Kenya face Stressed and Crisis‐level food insecurity, primarily in pastoral areas and the southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas.    The 2012 long‐rains season followed a generally favorable 2011 October–December short rains season across most pastoral areas resulting in some consolidation of the recovery process in the northern and southern pastoral areas.  However, poor rains in the southeastern pastoral and marginal agricultural areas during the short and long‐rains seasons could lead to deterioration in household food security for poor households to the Crisis phase during the July‐September period.    While pastoral households may be able to migrate to more favorable grazing areas, mitigating a precipitous decline in food insecurity, sedentary marginal agricultural farmers have limited options.  Farmers in the coastal and southeastern lowlands are likely to experience substantial consumption gaps from July through September because the most important October‐December production season performed poorly in 2011.  Farm households are still grappling with adverse impacts of the 2010/11 drought and are heavily indebted, having eroded their traditional coping strategies.  Although labor opportunities have improved in neighboring highland farms, the rise in cereal prices coupled with limited livestock holdings is expected to accentuate food insecurity for poor households during the outlook period and beyond.

    Food insecurity will deteriorate through at least July in Djibouti. An estimated 206,000 people in Djibouti will require emergency cross‐sectoral humanitarian assistance, if the current rainy season is unfavorable. Food insecurity has deepened for pastoralists more than any other livelihood group.  Worsening food insecurity is attributed to a prolonged dry season that resulted from the failure of the October to February 2012 coastal rains. Failed rains caused extensive depletion of rangeland resources which are recovering slowly because current seasonal rains started late and remain below average. Continued below normal rains will be insufficient to promote adequate regeneration of pasture, browse and recharging of water resources and could accelerate further deterioration in pastoral food security. Body conditions and productivity of livestock has been unfavorable for a sustained period while food prices are well above normal levels, limiting access to food and the income for pastoralists. The performance of April‐June 2012 rains will be the key factor determining whether pastoralist’ livelihoods will be able to bridge household consumption gaps or not.  

    Uganda is generally food secure except parts of the Karamoja region, due to incessant civil insecurity. However, food security is expected to be favorable following good rains in April. The April to June period is the typical lean season for crop producing and agropastoral parts of the country, therefore prices are typically high. Increased demand for staples from South Sudan has driven prices higher during 2012 and is expected to continue rising until the next harvest in July. The March to May 2012 rains were late throughout the country, except in southwestern areas and are likely to cease in May, which will likely result in significant yield losses, especially cereals, leading to reduced harvests in July. Subsequently, household cereal stocks may be constrained in many areas of the country through most of the outlook period.  

    The mid‐February to mid‐March Season ‘B’ is underway in Rwanda and is performing well after a delayed season onset though above normal rainfall for one month, starting from the first dekad of April, led to unusual flooding along riverbanks across the country. Damage to rice, beans as well as potatoes, is likely to reduce season B crop yields.  Most parts of the country are likely to experience No Acute Food Insecurity (IPC Phase 1), through the outlook period except the East Congo‐ Nile Highland Subsistence Farming Livelihood Zone. Poor households have small land holdings and derive a substantial proportion of their income from agricultural labor provisioned from ‘middle’ to ‘better‐off’ farm households. Labor opportunities were limited by delayed rains and are likely to decline during the lean season, compromising purchasing capacities for poorer households. Poor households in this zone are likely to be in the Stressed phase from April to May. However, food security is expected to improve to the ‘No Acute Food Insecurity’ phase, after harvests begin in June and continue through July. A good season for poor households is therefore prerequisite to returning households to the ‘No Acute food Insecurity’ status.  


    Less likely events over the next six months that could change the above scenarios
    • Humanitarian interventions are fully disrupted in key conflict areas in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia worsening food security outcomes even further.
    • Conflict upsurge in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia curtails movement of refugee populations, confining them to areas with no access to markets, humanitarian assistance or labor opportunities, causing a major deterioration in food security outcomes during the outlook period.
    • Rains end prematurely in key surplus areas of the region including Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia highlands and Western Kenya, causing major regional deficits and dramatic rises in staple prices.
    • Continued insecurity in refugee camps results in scaling down of humanitarian assistance by intervening organizations, causing a marked decline in food security for large populations that do not have self‐supporting livelihoods.
    • Current rains intensify causing renewed flooding and an upsurge in water and vector borne human and livestock diseases, reducing productivities and constraining purchasing capacities for poor households.
    • The June to September/October rains perform poorly in the northern sector of the region including in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia leading to poor access to agricultural labor during the farming season and further increase in staple prices in anticipation of the poor harvest.
    Figures Estimated food security outcomes, April 2012

    Figure 1

    Estimated food security outcomes, April 2012

    Source: Estimated food security outcomes, April 2012

    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.

    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