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High food assistance needs persist, but food security in the Horn is likely to improve in 2020

  • Food Security Outlook
  • East Africa
  • November 2019
High food assistance needs persist, but food security in the Horn is likely to improve in 2020

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Recovery from prior drought and recent flooding, coupled with poor macroeconomic conditions and protracted conflict and displacement, continue to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and high food assistance needs across East Africa.

    • In Yemen, ongoing conflict continues to restrict food access for displaced and conflict-affected populations in western and central Yemen, particularly in Abyan, Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Saada’h, and Shabwah. Recent flooding has also led to an increase in displacement. Famine (IPC Phase 5) is possible in a worst-case scenario in which conflict cuts off the food supply or disrupts port operations for a prolonged period of time, leading to extreme household food gaps.

    • In South Sudan, the severity of food insecurity and number of food-insecure households is likely higher than previously anticipated, due flood-induced displacement, crop losses, and disruptions to humanitarian food assistance delivery and trade in recently flood-affected areas. However, the ongoing harvest has relatively alleviated the severity of food insecurity in other areas of concern. Should a resurgence of conflict prevent populations from accessing typical food sources or food assistance, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely.

    • Across the greater Horn of Africa, rainfall from October to mid-November has been up to 300 percent above average. In many areas, riverine flooding and flash floods disrupted agricultural activities and led to some crop losses, caused livestock losses, or resulted in at least temporary displacement. Worst-affected areas include southern and southeastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and eastern and coastal areas of Kenya. Elevated flood risk is anticipated through late November. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated through December or January. As the rains subside, however, average to above-average cultivation and gains in herd size and milk production as a result of plentiful vegetation are likely to drive improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • Despite near-average Meher harvests in Ethiopia and near-average unimodal harvests in Sudan, localized crop losses and high food prices are driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in several areas. In Ethiopia, locust infestation, erratic rainfall performance, and conflict are contributing factors to local crop losses, and herd sizes remain below-average in Somali region. In Sudan, high food prices as a result of macroeconomic shocks are expected to sustain below-normal labor-to-cereal terms of trade, limiting food access among IDPs and poor households who rely on labor income. IDPs in South Kordofan and in Jebel Marra in Darfur are populations of highest concern.



    • Deyr/Hagaya rains in southern and southeastern Ethiopia were significantly above average in October, resulting in one of the wettest Octobers on the historical record. Localized flooding occurred in Oromio, SNNPR, and Somali Regions, displacing 205,000 people and causing localized crop and livestock losses. A flooding risk continues for these areas as rainfall for the rest of the season is forecast to be above average. Localized, negative impacts are expected; however, the above-average rainfall will also lead to favorable pasture and crop development.
    • National Meher production is expected to be average due to generally favorable June to September Kiremt rainfall. Meher production is expected to improve household and market food availability nationally. However, poor Kiremt rains in parts of northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and northern Afar resulted in poor production prospects for the ongoing Meher harvest in these areas.
    • Prices for commodities such as maize, sorghum, and wheat are expected to slightly decline seasonally from October to December, although prices are expected to remain above average. From January to May, increases in grain prices are expected, reducing the purchasing power of market-dependent poor households. In pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to increase; however, they are unlikely to keep pace with staple food price increases. As a result, livestock to grain terms of trade are anticipated to decline and remain below average. This will continue limiting pastoral households’ ability to purchase sufficient grain to meet their basic needs.
    • In areas including lowlands of East Hararghe, Guji, and Bale Zone in Oromia and Northern Afar, where Kiremt rainfall was below average, and in the border areas of Western Somali and Oromia where insecurity is affecting the movement of pastoralists, poor households are expected to face constraints to typical food access. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in these areas throughout the scenario period. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the rest of the country due to the likely average Meher harvests, improved livestock productivity, and near-normal herd sizes that are facilitating household food access.

    For more information, see the Ethiopia Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.


    • October 2019 was one of the wettest months on record since 1981, according to preliminary satellite-derived data. A forecast of continued above-average rainfall in November is likely to cause localized, negative impacts to crop and livestock production and food access in the short term, due to disruptions to livelihoods activities. According to reports by humanitarian actors, more than 100,000 people have been affected in northeastern, central, and coastal Kenya; 14,000 people have been displaced in riverine areas; and more than 30,000 sheep and goats and 110 cattle and camels were killed in Mandera and Wajir.
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in most pastoral areas and some marginal agricultural areas through late 2019. Many poor households are still recovering from the impact of the 2018/19 drought on livestock and crop production, while above-average staple food prices continue to constrain household food access. Sentinel site data collected by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) in September indicated worsening trends in food consumption in several pastoral areas, indicative of the continued low quantity and quality of food. According to analysis of SMART survey data conducted by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group in August 2019, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition likely remains extremely high in Turkana South, Turkana North, and in Laisamis and North Horr sub counties of Marsabit.
    • Despite the lingering impacts of the drought and current negative impacts of heavy rainfall, food security is most likely to improve in the medium-term. The availability of the unimodal long rains harvest from high and medium potential areas in November is expected to lead to a gradual decline in food prices from November onward. In addition, the above-average shorts rains season is most likely to lead to above-average bimodal maize production and significant gains in livestock productivity, as witnessed in the 2018 long rains season. The anticipated benefits to household food and income sources are expected to drive widespread improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes by late 2019 or early 2020.

    For more information, see the Kenya Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.


    • Sustained, large-scale food assistance continued to play a critical role in mitigating food gaps for many poor households in October, sustaining widespread Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in pastoral areas and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone. However, due to slow recovery from recurrent drought in central and northern pastoral areas, river flooding and flash floods in riverine and low-lying agropastoral areas, and protracted conflict and displacement, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity is expected to persist in Somalia through the end of 2019.
    • Although earlier forecasts indicated an increased likelihood of above-average Deyr rainfall, rainfall in October has been exceptionally above average, leading to flooding and the displacement of an estimated 182,000 people, mainly in Beletweyn district. This is expected to delay main Deyr crop production and prolong the lean season, but flood-recession cultivation and off-season Deyr planting that occurs after flood waters recede in December are expected to be above normal. Based on historical trends, the total main and off-season Deyr cereal harvest from January to March is most likely to be above average.
    • In the absence of planned and funded food assistance from November onward, food insecurity is likely to worsen in the short term. In the absence of assistance, more widespread deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is anticipated through January in northern and central pastoral areas and settlements for internally displaced persons (IDPs), due to the extended impacts of the poor 2019 Gu season rainfall and previous droughts. Food security is expected to improve in early 2020, as the October-December Deyr rains are likely to ultimately support above-average harvests and improve livestock herd sizes, which will lead to improved household food availability and access.

    For more information, see the Somalia Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.

    South Sudan

    • In October, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes remain widespread across South Sudan despite the ongoing harvest. Based on August 2019 South Sudan IPC analysis, an estimated 4.5 million people are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity during the October 2019 to January 2020 harvesting period in the presence of planned humanitarian food assistance. However, it is likely that the number of households experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and the severity of food insecurity in Maban, specifically, is higher than originally anticipated due to flooding that has caused displacement and losses of crops and food aid commodities at the household level, in addition to disruptions to food assistance delivery, trade flows, and market functioning.
    • Food insecurity is most severe in Ulang, Maiwut, and Maban counties of Upper Nile and Duk county of Jonglei, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes exist due to the impact of flooding on household crop production and food access. However, the availability of the harvest and natural food sources has relatively reduced the severity of food insecurity in other counties of concern, including Yirol East and Cueibet of Lakes, Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, and Budi of Eastern Equatoria, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) exists. Large-scale humanitarian food assistance also continues to mitigate more severe outcomes in several areas of concern, such as Leer, Mayendit, and Panyijiar counties of Unity and Rumbek North of Lakes. In September, more than 2 million people were reached with food assistance
    • Food security is expected to slightly improve from October 2019 to January 2020, driven by the availability of the harvests and seasonal food sources. Although 2019/20 national crop production is still expected to be similar to or slightly better than last year, cereal production deficits are now likely to be higher than previously anticipated in areas affected by flooding. Household sources are most likely to remain inadequate to cover most households’ minimum food needs, given the depletion of productive household assets over the course of the protracted conflict.
    • Although the number of conflict events is anticipated to decline as a result of implementation of the peace deal, food security is expected to deteriorate from February to May 2020. Household food gaps will likely widen due to cereal production deficits, especially in flood-affected counties, and due to seasonal declines in livestock production, fish, and wild foods. Poor macroeconomic conditions and rising food demand, driven by returnees, are expected to sustain high food prices and constrain food access.  Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected, though past trends indicate humanitarian food assistance is likely to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in some counties in 2020.
    • In the event that the peace deal does not hold, and a resurgence of conflict prevents populations from moving in search of food sources or restricts humanitarian access for a prolonged period of time, food insecurity would likely worsen. Poor households who did not harvest or do not own livestock with few income sources to access food would be at risk of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in counties where there are already high levels of acute food insecurity. Full implementation of the September 2018 peace deal, an end to conflict by all parties, and a scale-up of assistance is needed to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods.  

    For more information, see the Sudan Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.


    • High staple food prices resulting from significant macroeconomic difficulties, combined with persistent insecurity in conflict-affected areas and flooding late in the rainy season, are contributing to higher than normal emergency food assistance needs in Sudan in late 2019. These needs are expected to persist into at least May 2020, particularly as the lean season approaches in agricultural and agropastoral areas.
    • Agricultural harvests starting in October 2019 are expected to be average to slightly above average at the national level. In the near term, these harvests should contribute to improvements in food access. Between October 2019 and January 2020, most areas of Sudan will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, although parts of South Kordofan, Jebel Marra in Darfur, parts of Red Sea White Nile and northern Kassala will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Increased number of IDPs and poor households in areas most affected by insecurity will face increased difficulty meeting their food needs as the lean season approaches. Continued depreciation, increasing staple food prices, and early exhaustion of staple food stocks in flood-affected areas are likely to drive the need for increased humanitarian assistance February and May 2020. Parts of South Kordofan, Jebel Marra in Darfur, and parts of Blue Nile, White Nile, North Darfur, South Darfur, Kassala, and Red Sea states will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May.

    For more information, see the Sudan Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.


    • In bimodal areas, food stocks from the first season harvest and declining market prices have improved food access for the poor. Meanwhile, above-average rainfall since June has prompted early planting for the second season. In most areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to prevail through May 2020. However, heavy rainfall is leading to flooding and waterlogging in low-lying areas and mudslides in mountainous areas. Substantial risks are expected to persist through November given a forecast of significantly above-average rainfall.
    • In Karamoja, food supplies from the unimodal and first season bimodal harvests are improving food availability and firewood/charcoal-to-sorghum terms of trade. In southern and central areas, the harvest is completed or ongoing and outcomes have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In Kaabong, where the harvest has just commenced, reliance on market purchases and below-average incomes are sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. These outcomes are expected to persist until the harvest improves conditions to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in November.
    • According to UNHCR/OPM, Uganda now hosts a total of 1,347,360 refugees and asylum seekers. Arrival rates have declined in 2019, driven largely by the relative peace in South Sudan and reduced displacement risk in DRC. Ongoing humanitarian food assistance is expected to support Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in these populations through December, when anticipated ration cuts between January and May will likely lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    For more information, see the Uganda Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.


    • Ongoing conflict continues to disrupt livelihoods, reduce incomes, and drive very poor macroeconomic conditions including significantly high prices of food and non-food commodities. It is estimated that approximately 17 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, representing the largest food insecure population in the world. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists under a worst-case scenario in which conflict significantly disrupts port operations or cuts off food supply for a prolonged period of time.
    • Fuel shortages since September have impacted humanitarian operations in Sana’a and other Houthi-controlled areas in northern and central Yemen. This has negatively impacted livelihoods and exacerbated logistical challenges already faced in delivering assistance. Despite these and conflict-related constraints, humanitarian assistance has scaled-up in 2019, driving some food security improvements. Assistance deliveries are expected to continue during the projection period, though delays and pipeline breaks remain possible.
    • Conflict and flooding in western areas of Yemen have increased displacements and led to access constraints. In September, increased conflict was observed in Al Hudaydah and Hajjah. In Aden, conflict subsided in September after high levels in August. However, escalated conflict in surrounding Abyan and Shabwah provinces is ongoing. Meanwhile, heavy rainfall since late September is causing flooding in southern areas of Yemen.

    For more information, see the Yemen Food Security Outlook from October 2019 to May 2020.

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1]


    • Food reserves from an above-average Season 2019 B harvest, above-average season 2019 C production, and ongoing production of bananas, roots, and tubers are supporting food availability. Above-average rainfall forecasted for September to December is likely to support another favorable harvest in December-January. This is expected to boost household stocks and support low food prices, sustaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through May 2020. However, localized areas affected by flooding and landslides will likely experience worse outcomes.
    • According to ISTEEBU, the prices of staple foods have remained atypically stable between June and October. This is likely the result of several consecutive seasons of average to above-average harvests. Given favorable production prospects for the Season 2020 A season, prices are expected to increase only slightly through the peak of the lean season in November and will likely remain below three-year average levels through May 2020.
    • High malaria incidence across the country remains a concern. Information on the extent to which malaria has affected livelihoods is limited, but it is likely that some households are being impacted by the inability of income-earners to work alongside increased nutritional needs and health costs. While there is insufficient evidence to indicate that this is driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, significant health and nutrition interventions are needed.
    • According to UNHCR, 900 Burundian refugees returned from Tanzania in the first two weeks of October. That number is about one fifth of the biweekly target implied by the August 2019 agreement between the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania to repatriate all refugees within one year.  WFP continues to provide significant levels of humanitarian food assistance to newly arrived returnees and Congolese refugees, which is sustaining Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in these communities.

    For more information, see the Burundi Remote Monitor for November 2019.


    • September to December 2019 Season A rainfall has been above average across the country and forecasts indicate rainfall for the remainder of the season will be average. Average harvests are expected from December 2019 to February 2020. Prices of staple foods are below the three-year average and are anticipated to remain low throughout the projection period. These factors will drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through May 2020.
    • Despite the generally favorable production prospects, relatively heavy rainfall also increases risk of flooding in lowlands across the country and of localized landslides, particularly in the Western province. These disasters are likely to cause the loss of household assets and destruction of crops in some areas. Some households will face difficulty meeting their basic food and non-food needs immediately following these events, though the government and humanitarian partners are prepared to respond swiftly with assistance.
    • According to the National Institute of Statistics, food prices in Rwanda increased between August and September by 4.4 and 2.4 percent for rural and urban areas respectively. FEWS NET and East African Grain Council data show that the price of maize, the cereal most consumed in Rwanda, has been increasing since June and reached its 5-year average level in August and September. That price increase is partly related to the closure of the main border post between Uganda and Rwanda which remains closed despite discussions for a reopening. As the price of maize grain and flour are generally lower in Uganda than in Rwanda (Figure 1), the resumption of normal trade between the two countries would likely contribute to lowering food prices in Rwanda, thus improving households’ access to food.
    • Although they are gradually being integrated to the national social and economic systems, camp-based refugees (estimated population of 147,000) remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance. WFP Rwanda has reported that without additional funding, it will likely cut its food and cash-based assistance to camp-based refugees and other vulnerable groups. In the absence of assistance, these populations would likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    For more information, see the Rwanda Remote Monitor for November 2019.


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


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



    Impact on food security outcomes

    South Sudan

    Delays in implementation of the signed peace deal that lead to an uptick in conflict

    An increase in conflict events would restrict household movement, disrupt access to markets and collection of wild foods, cause new displacement, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance. More widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be expected. In areas of concern, some households who have not harvested, own no livestock, or have limited to no access to food assistance would likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be highest in areas of heavy conflict.


    Disruptions to humanitarian food assistance or food imports

    The absence of humanitarian assistance in areas of northern Yemen would likely result in a sizeable increase in the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), particularly as households previously receiving assistance begin to engage in more severe coping strategies in order to try to meet their food needs. Should food imports be disrupted, Food prices would quickly rise and, if prolonged, food availability on local markets would decline. Food security outcomes would worsen with some areas likely to deteriorate to Famine (IPC Phase 5) in a worst-case scenario.

    Horn of Africa

    (southern and eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, and southern and central Somalia)

    Continued heavy rainfall through November/December, resulting in widespread, large-scale river flooding and flash floods

    Widespread flash floods or riverine flooding would likely increase the scale of crop damage, displacement, loss of livestock, and destruction of infrastructure. Crop and livestock loss would result in reduced food availability and a significant loss of income at the household level, while disruptions to trade flows and infrastructure would drive additional food price increases. The risk of both vector- and waterborne diseases would also rise. Reductions in food availability and access would likely lead to an increase in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    Figures The rainy season in northern pastoral areas, cropping areas in Ethiopia, and unimodal areas are from June to October. Rainy s

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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