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Conflict, high prices, and below-average harvests are driving increased humanitarian needs

  • Food Security Outlook
  • East Africa
  • February - September 2024
Conflict, high prices, and below-average harvests are driving increased humanitarian needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • In February, several parts of East Africa continued to face atypically high humanitarian needs, driven largely by conflict, severe flooding, drought, and macroeconomic challenges. Needs remain dire in many parts of Sudan and South Sudan, with a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) identified in some areas. Despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist in the worst-affected regions of the eastern Horn. In parts of Ethiopia, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes prevail, a result of the conflict, below average meher crop production in 2023 due to the El Niño-related drought and soaring staple food prices. However, outcomes could become more extreme than currently projected if food aid is not maintained and if levels of social support decline.
    • In Sudan, humanitarian needs are reaching new highs and will steeply escalate following the early start to the lean season in March. This is driven by large cereal deficits, disruptions to the movement of food, and deterioration of household purchasing capacity amid unprecedented displacement and loss of livelihoods. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency outcomes are widespread, with Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes expected amongst households in parts of West Darfur, Khartoum, and among displaced populations. In South Sudan, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected across Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile regions, with some households expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor, Duk, Aweil East, and among returnees. This is driven by protracted intercommunal conflict, flooding, a high returnee burden, deteriorating purchasing power, and conflict-related disruptions to trade and food assistance. Further deterioration is expected in the lean season (June-September 2024), with an additional driver being an increased risk of severe flooding due to projected La Niña conditions and increasing violent conflict prior to the December 2024 elections. 
    • In Somalia, despite overall gradual improvement in food and income access since the historic 2020-2023 drought, some drought-affected pastoral areas in the central region and flood-affected riverine areas are projected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through June due to sustained below-average access to food and income, including due to below-average herd sizes and below-average deyr harvests. Many IDPs will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3), Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!), or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through September due to the cumulative impacts of livelihoods and asset losses, limited access to income, and the scale-down of food assistance. In Kenya, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in the pastoral areas as households recover from the historic drought and subsequent flooding in late 2023. However, above-average rainfall forecast for March to May 2024 is expected to enhance livestock production, leading to better access to food and income and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through September.
    • In bimodal regions of Uganda, the carry-over stocks from the 2023 harvests and stabilized food prices are expected to support normal food access until May. Moreover, the anticipated average first-season harvests in June/July and availability of income-earning opportunities will likely provide average household access to food through September, sustaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, in Karamoja, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through May, with the very poor households likely facing worse outcomes. Despite the anticipated increased production due to above-average rainfall, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely be present through September. In Burundi, average Season A and Season B harvests are improving food access through September, as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the Northern Lowlands, Eastern Lowlands, and Eastern Dry Plateaus Livelihood zones through September 2024. 

    Outlook by Country


    Key Messages

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the Northern Lowlands, Eastern Lowlands, and Eastern Dry Plateaus livelihood zones, driven by average 2024 Season A crop production and improved agricultural labor opportunities that will likely improve access to food and income through May 2024. This situation is likely to continue from June to September 2024, supported by near-average Season B crop production. However, increased food prices and below-average cross-border income-earning opportunities are likely to limit very poor households from accessing sufficient food and income sources.
    • As of January, food prices have stabilized compared to last year due to the average 2024 Season A green harvest, though prices remain 30 to 45 percent above the five-year average. High food prices are attributed to the increased cost of imported food due to elevated national inflation, increased expenses for agricultural inputs, and elevated fuel and transportation costs. Producer prices of maize have been fixed by the government at a minimum of 1,700 BIF/kg, which is around 150 percent above the price in 2021. While the higher maize prices have the positive impact of encouraging middle and better-off households to invest in agriculture and crop production, they are likely to limit access for poor and very poor households that rely on market purchases for food during the lean period of April and May 2024.
    • The 2024 Season B cultivation is expected to start on time in February, as above-average rainfall and increased availability of fertilizers, subsidized at 60 percent by the government, are expected to encourage farmers to invest in the season. However, high bean prices are expected to limit access to bean seeds, and the expected above-average rainfall is likely to negatively affect bean crops, which are vulnerable to excessive rainfall.
    • Although inflation has decreased to 10 percent below last month’s level, the trade deficit, external debt, and loans to the private sector increased more than 30 percent above last year’s level, while foreign exchange reserves are 5 percent below last year and 10 percent below the four-year average and expected to cover less than one month’s import needs. Those macroeconomic indicators at critical levels are likely to lead to instability of the Burundi Franc (BIF), with an increased official exchange rate 70 percent lower than the parallel market and 20 percent above the average of the fourth quarter of 2023, driving low import capacity and increasing the price of imported items, including fuel and food. 
    • Due to funding shortfalls, approximately 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers are receiving about 75 percent of their usual food ration. This shortage in food assistance is likely to contribute to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes among these households. Funding shortfalls are likely to persist through September 2024, forcing WFP to further reduce the size of rations. Around 10,500 people who returned after the start of the 2024 Season A in August and exhausted their food assistance return package are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes that are likely to persist until the Season B harvest period in June 2024.

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Burundi Food Security Outlook


    Key Messages

    • Ethiopia remains one of FEWS NET’s countries of highest concern as it faces a third consecutive year of rising food assistance needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in northern, central, southern, and eastern Ethiopia. The areas of highest concern are in Tigray and northeastern Amhara, followed by western Afar, where populations are increasingly dependent on food assistance and social support mechanisms amid a dearth of other food and income sources. 4.0 million people – primarily those in conflict and drought-affected areas – received food assistance from November to January, but the sheer severity of food consumption deficits and the number of people in need have outpaced the impact of the humanitarian response. Proxy acute malnutrition data remained indicative of Critical and Extremely Critical levels over the same time period. In late 2023, limited field reports suggested some occurrences of hunger-related deaths in Tigray. These reports could not be reasonably corroborated; however, concern for such outcomes does exist – not only in Tigray, but also in Amhara and Afar - as an increased risk for elevated mortality is expected when Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are sustained. The scale-up in assistance since late 2023, however, has likely mitigated the risk of increased mortality to an extent.
    • Food security conditions are expected to remain dire in the north, where households in Tigray, northeastern Amhara, and western Afar regions have seen conflict erode their livelihoods. This is compounded by significantly below-average to failed meher crop production in 2023 due to El Niño-related drought, coupled with very high food prices. In Tigray and Amhara, many poor households have already exhausted their food stocks from the 2023 harvest and migratory labor remains restricted by insecurity; in pastoral areas of Afar, livestock holdings are low to negligible. Kilocalorie deficits will widen leading up to the peak of the lean season, which occurs from July to September, and improvement is unlikely prior to the onset of the 2024 meher harvest in September. Until then, food assistance and social support will be key to mitigating hunger. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected in the most likely scenario.
    • High levels of acute food insecurity are also expected in southern and southeastern pastoral areas of Somali and Oromia regions, where the historic 2020-2023 drought decimated livestock production and the late 2023 floods hindered the pace of recovery. Of highest concern are areas of Borena, Afder, Dawa, Liban, and Shabelle zones, where livestock holdings are minimal, agricultural production is limited, and levels of displacement and destitution are high. However, a modest trajectory of improvement to more widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is anticipated from June to September, with a favorable gu/genna rainfall season in early 2024 expected to support livestock births and milk production. Nevertheless, a share of the population – mainly the destitute and displaced – will likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Without an increase in livelihood interventions, a full-scale recovery from the three-year drought will take multiple years.
    • Government and humanitarian partners plan to gradually scale-up of food assistance deliveries to reach 10.8 million people by the lean season’s peak, which will critically mitigate household kilocalorie deficits. Still, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in areas where planned levels of aid are unlikely to overcome the scale of need. In Tigray and northeastern Amhara in particular, a further scale-up is needed to reduce currently high levels of acute malnutrition. If food aid is not maintained at current levels at a minimum, and if levels of social support decline, then high levels of acute malnutrition would lead to rising hunger-related mortality, and outcomes could become more extreme than currently projected.

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Ethiopia Food Security Outlook.


    Key Messages

    • In the pastoral areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) area-level outcomes are ongoing as households recover from the historic drought and subsequent flooding in late 2023. Forage and water resources have significantly improved following the above-average 2023 October to December short rains, supporting the recovery of livestock production. Livestock sale values are above average, and household income and food access are improving, but milk production remains below average as livestock gradually recover. The forecast of above-average March to May 2024 long rains will drive further improvements as livestock birth rates increase and good livestock body conditions provide milk for sale, consumption, and income from livestock sales. Increased income will improve food access and reduce household reliance on coping strategies, supporting area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through at least September.
    • In the marginal agricultural areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist as the above average short rains harvests improved household food availability and income. Further improvements are expected in March as the near-average to above-average long rains support crop production activities that will provide income from agricultural wage labor opportunities through May. Increased household income and availability of household food stocks are expected to support households' access to food, but the high cost of living and need to repay past debts will likely hinder non-food purchases, maintaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level outcomes. 
    • The recently concluded Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) 2023 Short Rains Assessment findings indicate household access to food and income is improving following the historic drought and flooding in late 2023. The number of children aged 6 to 59 months facing the risk of acute malnutrition is declining but remains high, particularly in arid counties due to the lingering cumulative effects of the five previous consecutive failed seasons, poor child feeding practices, and high disease burden, among others. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes remain in Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Isiolo, Samburu, and Garissa due to low herd sizes, high food prices, destruction from flooding, and limited access to income. However, household access to food and income is expected to improve with the short rains harvest and the upcoming March to May long rains. 
    • National crop production in 2023 was 15 to 20 percent higher than the five-year average for maize, boosted by significantly above-average short rains, while nationally, the bean harvest was average due to waterlogging from the above-average rainfall in late 2023. Crop production in the arid and semi-arid lands was mixed with the pastoral areas, registering below-average production of maize and cowpeas. However, in the marginal agricultural areas, maize, sorghum, cowpeas, and green grams production was 16 to 68 percent above average, driven by above-average rainfall and available subsidized fertilizers.

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Kenya Food Security Outlook.


    Key Messages

    • The recent main-season deyr harvests and marginal seasonal improvements in livestock production have improved food consumption levels in many rural areas, supporting ongoing gradual recovery from the historic 2020-2023 drought despite scaled-down humanitarian food assistance. However, some pastoral areas in the central region remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to sustained below-average access to food and income from livestock production driven by reduced herd sizes. Additionally, severe flooding due to significantly above-average rainfall during the October to December 2023 deyr season caused population displacement, damaged property, and destroyed standing crops and assets. In worst-affected riverine and lowland agropastoral areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are currently anticipated at the area level.
    • In general, households in agricultural areas will experience seasonally declining availability of food and income during the ongoing jilaal dry season as deyr stocks are exhausted. Despite some social support during the holy month of Ramadan in March/April and the recessional crop harvest in some areas around the same time, humanitarian assistance needs are expected to peak in the March to May period. Following this, access to food and income from agricultural labor and livestock production will improve seasonally during the April to June gu rainy season. In July, the main season gu harvest and livestock births will further support increased access to food and income. As such, agropastoral and pastoral areas will likely see continued improvement in acute food security outcomes during the projection period. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in the areas most severely affected by recent shocks. 
    • Available forecasts indicate that cumulative rainfall during the April to June gu season will likely be close to average, with localized areas of above-average rainfall. This would be the third consecutive season of average to above-average rainfall, which is expected to support the ongoing slow recovery of agricultural livelihoods. Additionally, the economy is showing signs of gradual recovery. Notably, livestock exports in 2023 reached 5,034,798 live animals, the highest since 2016. However, riverine areas remain vulnerable to flooding given open breakages and unrepaired damage to infrastructure. Consequently, some flooding in April and May is expected to drive population displacement and disrupt main-season gu agricultural activities, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely to be sustained throughout the projection period.
    • Internally displaced people (IDPs) have lost their assets and typical livelihoods and face high competition for limited available income-earning opportunities and social support. In the coming months, further assistance scale-down is likely to drive widening food consumption gaps for many poor households, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes expected to emerge by April in settlements where populations are likely to be displaced due to flooding or where assistance will likely be scaled down. In the June to September period, some increased seasonal access to food and income—including from improved availability of labor and self-employment opportunities—alongside seasonally declining food prices will likely improve food consumption. Though area-level outcomes are expected to improve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this time, many poor IDP households will likely continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Somalia Food Security Outlook.

    South Sudan

    Key Messages

    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are present in 17 counties in South Sudan as of the start of the post-harvest period in February, mostly in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile regions, driven by protracted negative impacts of intercommunal conflict and flooding, high returnee burden, poor economic conditions, deteriorating purchasing power, and intermittent conflict-related disruptions to trade and food assistance delivery. Areas in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are expected to nearly double (to 34 counties) in the upcoming lean season between June and September 2024 amid expectations of continued high returnee burden, severe flooding under projected La Niña conditions, elevated tensions and rising violent conflict in the lead up to December 2024 elections, and likely disruptions to livelihoods, trade, and food assistance. Rubkona of Unity, Pibor of Greater Administrative Area (GPAA), Duk of Jonglei, and areas hosting high numbers of returnees including the northern counties will remain of highest concern throughout the projection period given the large proportion of population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and expectations of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor, Duk, Aweil East, and among returnees. 
    • The arrival of nearly 600,000 South Sudanese returnees and refugees from Sudan and 100,000 from Ethiopia by the end of February is worsening the severity of acute food insecurity in the northern and eastern counties of South Sudan. Most returnees are arriving with little to no assets and are heavily dependent on assistance and host households for food and income, which is contributing to atypically early depletion of food stocks and adoption of more severe coping strategies than normal. The arrival of displaced populations from Sudan are expected to continue at similar levels throughout the projection period given the likely continuation of conflict and anticipation of significantly below-average harvests. 
    • WFP continues to respond to the needs of returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and refugees and has begun scaling-up the lean season response, with plans to reach approximately 3.0 million people per month at the peak of the lean season, representing approximately one-third of FEWS NET’s projected population in need. While additional funding has been secured, WFP and humanitarian partners continue to face major funding shortfalls that will limit their ability to respond to persistently high and rising needs. Given continued concern for food, disease, and nutrition conditions in transit and collection areas, as well as areas hosting high numbers of returnees, an urgent multisector response remains critical.
    • FEWS NET has determined that a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists in the upcoming lean season (between June and September 2024) in parts of north-central Unity and Upper Nile. This is driven by the increased likelihood of above-average rainfall under the forecasted La Niña conditions during the main rainy season and the potential for severe flooding in these persistently inundated parts of the Sudd wetlands. While it is not FEWS NET’s most likely scenario, if severe flooding occurs in conjunction with periods of intense conflict and impedes households’ mobility and access to humanitarian assistance for a prolonged period, particularly in areas with a high burden of returnees unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms and already experiencing Critical levels of acute malnutrition, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur.  

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 South Sudan Food Security Outlook.


    Key Messages

    • After 11 months of conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), humanitarian needs in Sudan are reaching new highs and will steeply escalate during an atypically early start of the lean season in March through September 2024. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to be widespread, while Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is anticipated to expand significantly across Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, Khartoum, Red Sea, Kassala, and parts of the southeast. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is expected among households in parts of West Darfur, Khartoum, and among the displaced population more broadly, particularly in hard-to-reach areas of Greater Darfur. 
    • The sharp deterioration will be driven by a large national cereal availability gap, the inability to efficiently distribute available food from surplus to deficit areas, and the severe decline in household purchasing capacity amid unprecedented displacement and disruption to livelihoods. Humanitarians continue to face significant access challenges due to the inability to safely move convoys across conflict frontlines and restrictions on cross-border flows at the Chad border. Although the Al Tina border crossing with North Darfur is now open, distance and poor road conditions will pose serious challenges to the flow of aid, particularly in the rainy season. All impediments to trade and humanitarian assistance must be removed, assurances of safe passage to populations in need must be guaranteed, communication networks should be fully restored, and a ceasefire must be reached immediately to avoid further loss of life. 
    • FEWS NET estimates the cereal availability gap will be around two million metric tons, driven by below-average 2023/2024 harvests of the main cereals, severe reductions in imports, and widespread looting of private stocks. With physical and financial access to available food severely constrained, households are expected to increasingly rely on negative livelihood coping strategies, including very heavy dependence on already thinly stretched family and community support, consumption of seeds, increased sales of natural resources, near-liquidation of assets (including livestock and productive assets), and risky migration in search of available income sources such as artisanal mining, given declining access to agricultural labor.
    • In addition to the most likely scenario detailed above, FEWS NET has assessed there is a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in parts of West Darfur, Khartoum, and areas in Greater Darfur with high concentrations of protracted and often re-displaced persons. Populations in these areas already face the most severe access constraints to available food amid high levels of conflict, and the destruction of health services, poor living conditions, and increased waterborne disease incidence during the upcoming rainy season are expected to exacerbate levels of acute malnutrition. As a result, there is a credible risk that the severity of hunger, acute malnutrition, and mortality would accelerate to meet the criteria for Famine (IPC Phase 5) if actions taken by armed parties – either through deliberate isolation of households or through escalation of intense conflict – prevent households from migrating to safer areas in search of food and income for a sustained period of time.  

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Sudan Food Security Outlook.


    Key Messages

    • In rural and urban bimodal areas, above-average carryover stocks from the second season 2023 harvests and low staple food prices have supported normal food availability and access in February. Atypical off-season rainfall in January and February and an early start to the March to May first rainfall season are facilitating early demand for labor for land preparation and planting activities, increasing income generation. Anticipated on-time and average first season harvests in June and July, in conjunction with the availability of typical livelihood activities, are expected to support most households in meeting their essential food and non-food needs. While the increased volatility in the Ugandan Shilling relative to the USD is likely to result in slightly higher inflation for consumer goods and farm inputs, reduced staple food prices relative to last year will likely continue supporting favorable financial access to food for poor urban households. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected from February through September. 
    • In Karamoja, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through May, with the most vulnerable households likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Depleted carryover stocks from the meager 2023 harvests, below-average incomes from 2023 crop and livestock sales, and low purchasing power to purchase food are driving food consumption gaps and poor dietary diversity. Although, the above-average rainfall forecasted for April to September is expected to enhance agricultural labor opportunities for poor households, despite difficulty affording farm inputs. The harvest in August and September, which is anticipated to be more favorable than last year, will likely reduce the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes relative to previous drought-affected years. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will persist through September.  
    • Retail prices of staple food in bimodal areas have generally remained stable or shown declining trends. In January, staple prices were 6 to 43 percent below prices in January 2023, driven by average harvests and carryover stocks from 2023 second season bimodal harvests that coincided with atypically low regional demand from Kenya, South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. However, staple food prices remain 6 to 38 percent higher than the five-year average and are expected to increase between March and May as food stocks exhaust and ahead of the first season bimodal harvests. In July and August, the bimodal harvest will replenish household and market food stocks, seasonally reducing staple prices in bimodal areas and improving purchasing power for households that are purchase-reliant for food. 
    • In refugee settlements, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected from February to September. Low refugee household incomes are expected to sustain low purchasing power and constrain financial access to food, especially among the most vulnerable refugee households, despite the 60 percent ration from WFP and relatively stable staple food prices. Between March and May, more refugee households are expected to face consumption gaps due to seasonally increasing staple food prices, exacerbated by the atypically high refugee influx and overstretched general food assistance resources. Some households will only be able to meet their food and non-food needs by engaging in negative coping strategies. In May/June, food availability will increase with the harvest, and prices will likely decline, improving food security outcomes for households that cultivate food, although area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to persist through September, with some of the very poor refugee households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4).  

    For more information, including events that would change the most likely scenario, see the February 2024 Uganda Food Security Outlook.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    EA Seasonal Calendar
    Seasonal calendar for East Africa

    Source: FEWS NET

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. East Africa Food Security Outlook February - September 2024: Conflict, high prices, and below-average harvests are driving increased humanitarian needs, 2024.

    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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