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Conflict and production deficits to drive deterioration in food security through at least May

  • Food Security Outlook
  • East Africa
  • March 2019
Conflict and production deficits to drive deterioration in food security through at least May

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • More than 7 million and an estimated 17 million people in conflict-affected South Sudan and Yemen, respectively, are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September 2019. In addition, while many areas are expected to be in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) in the presence of food assistance. The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists, should there be sustained lack of access to livelihoods, markets, and humanitarian assistance, for isolated populations in parts of Jonglei, Lakes, and Upper Nile states. Famine (IPC Phase 5) would also be likely in Hajjah and Sa’ada governorates should trade disruptions in Al Hudaydah port occur, where populations are already facing extreme household food deficits and are cut off from humanitarian assistance.

    • At least 7.1 million poor households are expected to experience food gaps or deplete livelihood assets in pastoral and agropastoral areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia that experienced drought conditions and production deficits during the October to December rainy season. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Ethiopia and Somalia and an elevated number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are likely in Kenya. In the absence of funded assistance from June to September, Guban Pastoral livelihood would deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Conflict-affected populations in Sudan are also likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September, as access to humanitarian assistance and livelihoods remains constrained.

    • At the time of publication, outlooks were based on seasonal forecast assumptions of average to above-average March to May rainfall. However, delayed and below-average rainfall in March in the greater Horn of Africa has resulted in a revised seasonal forecast of below-average to average rainfall. Two consecutive below-average production seasons would lead to rapid deterioration in food security for poor households and an early start to the next lean season. Should expected outcomes change, revised mapping will be available in April.  

    • About 12 million people were internally displaced in Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen by mid-March 2019. An additional 5.3 million refugees from these countries are in camps in Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania. Most refugees are Stressed! (IPC 2!), supported by humanitarian food assistance.  However, potential pipeline breaks would likely lead to refugees falling into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  Internally displaced populations have limited capacities to access food and income and many are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    For more information, see the Ethiopia Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    • Due to the positive impacts of the preceding above-average 2018 long rains season that persist nationwide, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes prevail in Kenya despite mixed 2018 short rains performance. Carryover long rains stocks and favorable terms of trade are maintaining household food availability and food access. Forecast average March to May 2019 long rains in eastern Kenya and above-average long rains in western, unimodal areas is expected to result in normal crop and livestock production, improving more areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September.
    • In marginal agricultural areas, short rains maize production was 55 to 65 percent below the five-year average, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Due to the availability of carryover stocks combined with short rains production, however, household maize stocks are only 21 percent below the five-year average in the southeast and 22 percent above average along the coast. Given likely average agricultural labor demand and average long rains harvests in 2019, most marginal agricultural livelihood zones are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September. However, in areas where the long rains harvest is more minimal, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to be sustained.
    • In pastoral Kenya, livestock body conditions and milk production are declining but generally remain better than normal for the dry season, while above-average goat-to-maize terms of trade in most reference markets is sustaining household purchasing power. The expected average long rains are expected to lead to seasonal improvements in livestock productivity, permitting most households to meet their minimum food needs through the peak of lean season in September. As a result, most livelihood zones are expected to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, though some households in eastern, northern, and northwestern pastoral areas are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    For more information, see the Kenya Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    • Drought conditions in the 2018/19 Deyr season have led to an increase in the total food insecure population since October. However, the impact of humanitarian food assistance resulted in an 11 percent decline in the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) compared to the post-Gu. In the presence of food assistance, most northern pastoral livelihood zones and nearly half of IDP settlements are currently Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!), while Guban Pastoral is in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). Crisis (IPC Phase 3) persists in Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone and most remaining IDP settlements.
    • National Deyr cereal production was 25 percent below average, but production shortfalls in low potential agropastoral areas ranged from 60 percent below average to failed. Poor households are expected to deplete their food stocks by March or earlier. In northern and central pastoral areas, declining livestock body conditions, limited livestock saleability, and rising food prices are expected to constrain household food access. Needs will be highest in April and May, at the peak of the pastoral lean season and start of the agricultural lean season.
    • Due to funding shortfalls that may prevent full implementation of planned food assistance, deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in many pastoral and agropastoral areas through May. In Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, In other areas, seasonal improvements driven by anticipated average Gu rainfall are likely to restore Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes from June onward.

    For more information, see the Somalia Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    South Sudan
    • Extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist across South Sudan during the 2018/19 post-harvest period. Based on the January 2019 IPC analysis, 6.17 million people were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse in January. This estimate was in the presence of humanitarian food assistance and included roughly 30,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
    • Conflict has declined somewhat since mid-2018, and staple food prices have declined slightly in several areas. Despite these improvements, conflict and very poor macroeconomic conditions still exist and are expected to persist throughout the projection period.  Furthermore, many households still face extreme difficulty meeting their basic food needs as the protracted conflict has significantly disrupted livelihoods and eroded households’ coping capacity.
    • Food security is expected to deteriorate through the July/August peak of the lean season. Although humanitarian food assistance is anticipated to scale up during the lean season and will likely prevent more catastrophic outcomes, past trends indicate that the severity of food insecurity still increases during the lean season relative to the harvest period despite the increase in humanitarian food assistance. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are anticipated, and some households are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Jonglei, Lakes, and Upper Nile States are of greatest concern, though concern still remains high for Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Greater Kapoeta. The total population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is expected to increase to an estimated 7.7 million people between May and July/August, in the absence of humanitarian food assistance. 
    • A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist in South Sudan. Past trends indicate that food security can deteriorate sharply when conflict shifts and severely limits household movement and humanitarian access. Should this worst-case scenario occur, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely. In order to sustain long-term food security improvements and end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan, full implementation of the September 2018 peace deal and an end to the conflict by all parties is needed.

    For more information, see the South Sudan Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    • Food security has seasonally improved with increased cereal availability following the November to February harvest. However, the macroeconomic situation remains very poor and is expected to further deteriorate throughout the projection period, and this will drive continued extremely high food and non-food prices. The negative impacts of high food prices will be somewhat mitigated by the fact that livestock prices and wage labor are also increasing, though overall purchasing power will remain below average. A higher number of households than is typical will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes through September.
    • Between June and September, the lean season in Sudan, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in parts of Red Sea, Kassala, Al Gadarif, Blue Nile, West Kordofan, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, and Greater Darfur. Of highest concern are the IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and SPLA-AW controlled areas of Jebel Marra, who have been inaccessible for both assessments and food assistance deliveries. IDPs in these areas are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the August-September peak of the lean season.  
    • The June to September 2019 rainy season is forecasted to be above average. This is anticipated to lead to flooding in mid-2019 and increase the prevalence of waterborne disease. Similar to 2018, it is anticipated that the above-average rainfall will lead to favorable crop yields, though ongoing macroeconomic issues likely continue to limit households’ capacity to cultivate and harvest at normal levels. Overall, 2019/20 production will likely be average, though more reliable harvest projections will be possible once planting is underway in June/July.

    For more information, see the Sudan Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    • Anticipated above-average March to May rainfall in bimodal areas is expected to result in average crop and livestock production and related labor opportunities, though areas prone to flooding and landslides would see localized production shortfalls. Consecutive seasons of near-average bimodal production is expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through September.
    • In Karamoja, household food gaps are expected to widen, particularly in Kotido and Kaabong. Declining wage rates and rising food prices are limiting purchasing power, thereby constraining household food access and increasing the use of negative coping strategies. 2019 production is anticipated to be slightly below-average, driven by reduced area planted as most farmers were unable to save seeds from failed 2018 harvests. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to intensify until July, when availability of the harvests will support recovery to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    • In bimodal Uganda, low staple food prices driven by surplus market supply are enhancing food access. Retail prices of maize, sorghum, and cassava in January were below both the five-year and previous year averages by two to 38 percent, and prices are expected to remain low to near-average throughout the scenario period. However, sorghum prices in northern Karamoja are highly dynamic due to increased household demand and poorer market supply flows. Although prices stabilized in January compared to the five-year average, prices are currently 11 and 50 percent above the five-year average in Nakapiripirit and Kotido markets.
    • In refugee settlements, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to be maintained, driven by humanitarian food assistance and own production. Assistance is planned through September and at least partially funded through May. However, food security outcomes would deteriorate to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) in the event of significant ration cuts.

    For more information, see the Uganda Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.


    • FEWS NET estimates that approximately 17 million people in Yemen would be in need of urgent action (IPC Phase 3 or higher) in the absence of ongoing humanitarian food assistance. Sa’ada and Hajjah governorates are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), which is associated with large food consumption gaps and/or extreme depletion of livelihood assets. Of the remaining governorates in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), six would be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the absence of ongoing assistance.
    • Conflict continues in Al Hudaydah governorate, although at lower levels than prior to the Stockholm Agreement reached in mid-December 2018. Meanwhile, hostilities have escalated in Hajjah and Sa’ada governorates. The potential for conflict to significantly disrupt imports and trade through Al Hudaydah City remains a high concern, and in a worst-case scenario could lead to Famine (IPC Phase 5).
    • Large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to play an important role in reducing the severity of acute food insecurity outcomes in Yemen. In January 2019, WFP distributed in-kind and voucher assistance to approximately 9.1 million people. At current funding and assistance levels, WFP expects to continue providing assistance through April 2019, and to scale up its assistance to reach 12 million people each month. 

    For more information, see the Yemen Food Security Outlook from February to September 2019.

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1] Burundi
    • Total Season 2019A production of maize, beans, and semi-perennials is likely to be above average at the national level. However, localized areas across the country, particularly in Busoni, Bugabira and Kirundo Communes in Kirundo Province, have significant maize and bean production shortfalls due to a dry spell at critical growth stages.  Affected households are currently receiving humanitarian food assistance, which is enabling Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes, but they would likely experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of assistance at the peak of lean season in April. Although most other areas are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), at least 20 percent of the population is likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the leans season until the Season B harvests are well underway. Season B planting is expected to be completed on time in March and forecast average March to May rains are likely to lead to average June-August harvests.
    • Household food access remains generally stable or has improved, except in areas that experienced severe production shortfalls. According to key informants in Busoni and Bugabira communes, staple food prices remained generally stable from November 2018 to January 2019. From February to March, however, cereal and bean prices increased by about 10 percent. The price of banana and roots and tubers remained stable or declined. Demand for unskilled labor has remained relatively stable, leading to a slight increase in wages compared to one year ago.
    • Humanitarian food assistance and livelihoods programs continue to enable Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes for vulnerable IDP, Congolese refugee, and Burundian returnee populations. No major change in the numbers of IDPs and Congolese refugees is anticipated; however, the number of returnees is likely to increase in coming months as nearly 20,000 refugees in Tanzania have registered for voluntary return and are expected to come back home within 2019. Current population figures are estimated to be 142,000 IDPs, 43,000 refugees in camps, and 52,000 returnees. In the absence of assistance, many of these households would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    For more information, see the Burundi Remote Monitoring Report for February 2019.

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected throughout Rwanda through September 2019, supported by above-average crop production and anticipated below-average food prices. However, localized areas may be severely affected by flooding and landslides due to above-average rainfall currently forecast for the March-May period. Those areas may temporarily face Stressed (IPC Phase 2 food security outcomes before receiving assistance. The northern and western parts of Rwanda are particularly vulnerable to those natural disasters.
    • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), staple food prices decreased by 0.7 percent in rural areas and remained unchanged in urban areas between December and January, a time that is typically the peak of the lean season. Food prices are likely to stay below average in most areas throughout the projection period, supporting favorable food access from markets.
    • An estimated 145,000 people are refugees in Rwanda. Many are increasingly seeking jobs across the country or engaging in petty trade. Various organizations have also started to implement programs that assist refugees integrate into national health, educational, and safety nets systems. Most refugees in Rwanda face no acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1!), though some are likely Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

    For more information, see the Rwanda Remote Monitoring Report for February 2019.

    [1] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to countries in which FEWS NET has a local office, remote monitoring reports may offer less detail.


    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes


    Prolonged disruptions to provision of emergency food assistance coupled with disruptions of land routes to the Red Sea ports

    Severe reduction in commercial food imports coupled with trade disruptions as a result of conflict would likely result in limited access to food at the household level, leading to extreme food gaps. The consumption gaps would manifest in extremely high malnutrition prevalence and high excess mortality, likely leading to Famine (IPC Phase 5). In addition, should humanitarian food assistance fail to materialize in 2019, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would increase, and the number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse would also increase markedly.

    South Sudan

    Full implementation and adherence to the negotiated September 2018 peace agreement ending hostilities among warring parties

    Implementation of the peace deal would improve the security situation in most parts of South Sudan, allowing access to farms, opening of trade routes, and expanding labor options, while allowing wider movement of pastoralists across the rangelands. Subsequently, access to food and income sources would improve toward the end of 2018, mitigating the risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    Horn of Africa (south and southeastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, southern Somalia)

    Significantly below-average to failed March to May 2019 rains

    Significantly below-average March to May rains could cause rapid decline in food security, following below-average October to December rains in most of these areas.  Unseasonable livestock migration would begin earlier than usual, leading to secondary depletion in rangeland resources in dry-season grazing areas.  Clustering of livestock in few areas that retain water, pasture, and browse would likely lead to an upsurge in conflict and disease proliferation. Poor households have low livestock holdings and the impacts of atypical dryness would likely lead to increased livestock mortalities. Poor households would likely have large food consumption gaps as purchasing capacities erode, leading to widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity outcomes.


    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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