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Drought in Ethiopia and conflict in South Sudan and Yemen sustain food security Emergencies

  • Food Security Outlook
  • East Africa
  • October 2015 - March 2016
Drought in Ethiopia and conflict in South Sudan and Yemen sustain food security Emergencies

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict continues to be one of the principal drivers of food insecurity in the region. More than 4.8 million people have been displaced by the conflicts Yemen, South Sudan, and Burundi, while others who remain in areas directly impacted by conflict have limited access to their livelihoods and humanitarian assistance. In eastern Ethiopia, El Niño-related dryness has led to a severe drought in many areas, which is expected to contribute to a large-scale food security Emergency in 2016.

    • Southern Afar and northern Somali Regions in Ethiopia are experiencing the greatest acute food insecurity following the El Niño-related poor rainfall during the March to May Diraac/Sugum and June to September Karan/Karma seasons. Many zones in these regions are already in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in October, as a large proportion of households face greater food consumption gaps and higher risks for malnutrition and excess mortality. From January to March 2016, the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones are also expected to move into Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • In addition to southern Afar and northern Somali Regions, below-average June to September Kiremt production and June to August harvests in Belg areas has also eroded household food availability and access for many in other areas of Afar, northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and central and eastern Oromia, as well as the lowlands of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). Most poor households in these regions are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least March 2016.

    • In South Sudan, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity persists in Guit, Koch, Leer, and Mayendit counties in Unity State where households face limited market access and household food availability is severely limited.  Protracted conflict disrupts livelihoods for displaced households who have limited access to labor incomes, markets, and humanitarian assistance.  Food prices remain well above average, exacerbated by below-average crop production in 2015.

    • In Yemen, poor and displaced households in conflict-affected governorates of Al Badya, Al Hudaydan, Ataq, Haijah, Lahij, Sa’dah, and Ta’izz are likely to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through at least March 2016.  Continued active conflict restricts livelihoods, reducing access to markets, labor opportunities, and humanitarian assistance. Concern surrounding the Yemeni rial’s (YER) exchange rate with foreign currencies continues as households rely heavily on food imports and the depreciation of the rial could likely contribute to increased food prices.

    • Staple food prices remained more than double their respective 5-year averages in October in conflict-affected markets in the Greater Upper Nile States, and at least 33 percent higher than in February in Yemen. Trade is disrupted in conflict-affected areas resulting in constrained market supplies.  Maize prices are increasing in line with seasonal trends in Somalia, Uganda, northwestern, central and southern Tanzania, as stocks tightened. However, maize prices declined in Kenya, northern Tanzania, southeastern and southwestern Ethiopia, consistent with seasonal trends, at the onset of the October to February harvest. In most markets in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Uganda sorghum prices are increasing atypically or remaining stable as household stocks become depleted.

    • As El Niño continues well into 2016, river and lakeshore flooding is likely to intensify through December in localized areas due to on-going heavier-than-normal rains over flood-prone areas of East Africa. Flooding has already contributed to household displacements along the Shebelle River, the lowlands of central and southern Somalia, the Tana River, and Lake Victoria.  The above-average rainfall, however, is expected to enhance agricultural production significantly in most non-flooded areas.

    Outlook by Country
    • In 2015, eastern Ethiopia had a severe drought. The drought contributed to low crop production for both the Belg and Meher harvests, poor livestock health, low water availability, and lack of demand for agricultural labor.
    • A major food security emergency is projected for the coming year. Already, some northern pastoral areas have moved into Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
    • The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team (EHCT) has early estimates that 15 million people will likely need food assistance in 2016, around half covered through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) and the rest through emergency assistance. Needs are likely to be particularly high in July and August 2016 during the peak of the lean season in Meher-producing areas. In many areas of the country, lean season may start early this year.
    • The most food insecure areas include southern Afar and northern Somali Region, areas already in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in October. Also, the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones are expected to move into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from January to March 2016.
    • Other areas at risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) include lowlands in Arsi and West Arsi Zones in central Oromia and some areas in the northeastern highlands, including parts of Wag Himra and North Wollo Zones in Amhara. These areas are currently projected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through March.

    To learn more, read the complete Ethiopia Food Security Outlook.

    • Most areas of western and central Kenya are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as the long rains harvest and imports continue to keep markets well supplied. Food security is likely to improve further following the start of the short rains in October and the start of the long rains harvest in the northern Rift Valley. However, above-average October to December short rains may result in damage to crops and post- harvest losses.
    • In pastoral areas, above-average short rains are likely to increase the availability of rangeland resources and eventually increase livestock productivity, increasing both milk production and income from livestock sales. Improvements in household food consumption are expected starting in November. Most pastoral households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while some will move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December. Areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in October, which received hardly any rain in 2015, are expected to move into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as herds slowly recover and households gain better access to labor markets.
    • In marginal agricultural areas, the likely above-average October to December short rains will lead to an increase in area planted and encourage more investment of time and resources into agriculture. Higher demand for agricultural labor will increase household incomes, increasing food access from markets almost immediately. After short-cycle crops like legumes are harvested by December, households will have food from their own production. Most households are expected to move to None (IPC Phase 1) by December and remain in None (IPC Phase 1) through at least March.
    • During the forecast above-average October to December short rains, flash floods in lowland areas, river flooding, and lake shore flooding are likely. Flooding will displace households, increase the incidence of water- and vector-borne diseases, and limit physical and economic access to markets. Some flooded areas may move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    To learn more, read the complete Kenya Food Security Outlook.

    • Despite expected above average October to December Deyr rains, over one million people will remain in Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phases 3 and 4). The most food insecure people are in riverine areas of Lower and Middle Juba and Middle Shabelle and Guban Pastoral livelihood zone in Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed Regions.
    • Food security is expected to improve between January and March 2016 in pastoral and agropastoral livelihood zones. Expected improvement will be driven by increased livestock production, the anticipated above-average Deyr harvest in January/February 2016, and income from agricultural labor. Some pastoral areas in both southern and northern regions are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).
    • In the event of severe river floods along the Shabelle and Juba Rivers, a high risk with heavy Deyr rainfall both in the area and in the rivers’ catchments in the Ethiopian highlands, food security outcomes in riverine areas are likely to deteriorate from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis or above (IPC Phase 3 and 4), while floods hinder agriculture and trade.

    To learn more, read the complete Somalia Food Security Outlook.

    South Sudan
    • The September IPC Food Security and Nutrition Analysis estimated that 2.4 million people would remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), primarily in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. Similarly, FEWS NET’s own analysis finds the same areas of concern. Both analyses suggest that protracted conflict has disrupted livelihoods, led to a worse economic outlook for South Sudan, constrained functioning of markets, reduced market access, and made the delivery of humanitarian assistance very difficult. All of these factors continue to lead to very severe acute food insecurity.
    • Staple food prices have remained very high, despite slight seasonal declines from August to September. For example, the September sorghum price in Rumbek was 109 percent higher than last year. Difficulty purchasing fuel, high transaction costs for trade, depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) against the U.S. dollar (USD), and associated low food import volume are likely to continue due to a variety of macroeconomic drivers. This will lead to continued very high staple food prices that limit household food access.
    • An estimated 2.54 million people were displaced by conflict from December 2013 to the first week of November 2015. Acute food insecurity is expected to remain atypically elevated during the harvest from October through December for approximately 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States.
    • Sporadic conflict has displaced households in all parts of South Sudan, even in Greater Equatoria. While Greater Equatoria is not as severely acutely food insecure as Greater Upper Nile, if sporadic conflict continues to disrupt trade and displace households, the number of households needing humanitarian assistance is likely to grow, especially as the lean season is expected to start early in March instead of May across the country.
    • Food insecurity is expected to deteriorate significantly from January through March in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. Early depletion of the limited harvest, lack of access to markets, lack of access to humanitarian assistance, and lack of access to typical food and income sources will continue to make a large number of people acutely food insecure.

    To learn more, read the complete South Sudan Food Security Outlook.

    • Driven by protracted conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile States, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities remain acutely food insecure. The largest concentration of food insecure people is in Darfur, and there are a significant number of food insecure people in South Kordofan.
    • The June to September main rainy season started a month late. Rainfall was between 25 and 120 percent of average. Consequently, planted area was lower than normal. Many crops were planted late and may not have enough time with sufficient soil moisture to reach maturity. There are high chances of crop failure in parts of Kassala, Gadaref, North Kordofan, North Darfur, East Darfur, and Sinnar States.
    • From April to September, 23,000 people were displaced from Giessen, Bau, and Tadamon Localities to government-controlled areas, primarily in Damazin, Roseries, and Bau Localities. The recently displaced have very little access to food due to their highly limited incomes. Many have already reduced their food consumption.
    • Due to below-average rainfall, there is currently less pasture than usual in wet-season grazing areas. Consequently, livestock have been migrated earlier to the southern croplands. This is likely to lead to more resource-based conflict between farmers and cattle herders and between cattle herders over access to grazing.

    To learn more, read the complete Sudan Food Security Outlook.

    • Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected in bimodal areas through March 2016, with food stocks available from the first season harvest. Increasing steady rains, although delayed by at least three weeks, are enabling ploughing, planting and weeding activities and providing labor income for poor households. Above average harvests are expected in November through January.
    • In Karamoja, below-average harvests are limiting household access to own-produced foods and the reconstitution of stocks during the current post-harvest period. Households will purchase more food than usual from the market and for a longer period of time in order to meet food needs. Very poor households may not be able to afford all livelihoods protection needs and will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between October 2015 and March 2016.
    • During the October to December season, El Nino is generally associated with average to above-average rainfall over Uganda, which may support harvests. However, in some places, these rains may cause greater than usual water-logging of soils in flood-prone areas, and may result in some local agricultural production losses.

    To learn more, read the complete Uganda Food Security Outlook.

    • In Yemen, important information gaps remain. Nonetheless, recent data from WFP mVAM surveys, household interviews, a UNICEF SMART survey, and NGO partners all confirm that a significant population faces severe acute food insecurity. These data, along with information on water availability, food prices, and income, also suggest that food security has deteriorated substantially since last year.
    • It is likely that significant populations are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, especially those trapped in active conflict areas or displaced. The risk of acute malnutrition also remains high due to the high disease burden and reduced access to health care. Although information is limited, it is likely that at least six million people are currently in need of food assistance. Although vital assistance is being provided by humanitarian partners, the scale of current needs is well beyond response capacity.
    • Available evidence indicates that most typical sources of income for poor households have been adversely affected during the conflict, while food prices in most areas have been well above pre-crisis levels. A continuation of current trends of reduced household income and increased food prices could lead to deteriorating food security outcomes in the coming months.
    • In late October, reports indicated that the Yemeni Rial (YER) began to depreciate against the U.S. dollar (USD) and other currencies, at unofficial rates. With Yemen’s heavy reliance on food imports, including for 85 percent of its cereals consumption, depreciation of the Rial would likely put further upward pressure on food prices.

    To learn more, read the complete Yemen Food Security Outlook.

    Countries monitored remotely1

    • Season B harvests were below normal in conflict- affected areas as the main agricultural activities were disrupted. New violence continues to put pressure on livelihoods in Kirundo, Muyinga, Makamba, and rural areas outside Bujumbura. Poor households in these areas will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, despite some improvements with harvests in December and January.
    • A below-normal season B harvest, above-average food prices, limited labor opportunities, and further political unrest will make the September to December lean season more severe than normal in these areas.
    • Despite reducing number of feeding days by half, in September WFP provided humanitarian assistance respite to more than 100,000 Burundians affected by the ongoing crisis in Kirundo, Makamba, and Bujumbura Marie Provinces. This is in addition to the ongoing humanitarian assistance to the already identified food-insecure population. However, funding gaps starting in from November will continue to challenge humanitarian agencies as they may be forced to further reduce their rations and continue to decrease nutrition activities.

    To learn more, read the complete Burundi Remote Monitoring Update.

    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is anticipated to continue, for poor households, in the Southeastern Pastoral and Obock pastoral areas, through most of 2015. This is attributed to overall below-average seasons from late 2014 through 2015, constraining household production and purchasing capacities.
    • The influx of approximately 28,000 people from Yemen, since March 2015, has placed additional pressure on sources of food and labor income, specifically during the June through September lean season when the supply of labor demand is at its lowest.
    • However, the onset of anticipated near-normal October to February Coastal Heys/Dadaa rains is expected to provide some relief to drought-affected pastoralists in the Southeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone and the Obock areas. Poor households are likely to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between January and March 2016.

    To learn more, read the complete Djibouti Remote Monitoring Update. 

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity is likely to persist among poor households in the Bugesera Cassava Livelihood, Central Plateau Cassava and Coffee, and the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro Pastoral Zones through early December. Limited household food stocks from below-average Season B production, heightened food prices, and reduced labor opportunities through most of 2015 have reduced poor households’ purchasing power.
    • According to the United Nations Humanitarian Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), about 69,205 refugees from Burundi remain in Rwanda. Although the influx of refugees has subsided from the peak in April, renewed political tensions in Burundi could cause an increase in refugee flows into Rwanda and neighboring countries. The influx of refugees continues to put pressure on income and food sources for poor households in host communities.

    To learn more, read the complete Rwanda Remote Monitoring Update.

    • Prices were mostly stable between August and September, despite below-average harvests earlier this year. The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) purchased maize in surplus-producing areas in the Southern Highlands, and now is selling maize in areas of low production in central Tanzania. This helped stabilize maize prices. Staple food prices will likely increase as demand rises during the unimodal and bimodal lean seasons in November/December.
    • In the Rift Valley and nearby midlands, households had to purchase food earlier in the year due to low production. However, as agricultural labor became more available in September and October, households that were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) moved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). These areas are unlikely to enter Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until the next Msimu harvest starts in April/May.
    • After slowing in August, the number of refugees and asylum-seekers arriving from Burundi to the Nyarugusu and Nduta Camps in Kigoma Region increased, with 9,727 people arriving from October 1 to 29. This population is likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) even with continued humanitarian assistance.

    To learn more, read the complete Tanzania Remote Monitoring Update.

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

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

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



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya

    Excessive rains, through early 2016, precipitate substantial pre-and post-harvest losses

    Poor households face consecutive poor harvests during the first quarter of 2016, reducing food access for poor households, amidst higher than average prices. Projected food security outcomes likely to worsen from Minimal (IPC Phase 1) to Stressed (IPC Phase  2)

    Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen

    An end to on-going, protracted conflict in conflict-affected areas

    A significant increase in household food access, as humanitarian access is restored, labor opportunities and markets open up, while productive capacities begins a tenuous recovery

    South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Ethiopia,

    Increase in the level of humanitarian assistance access and delivery

    Food access for conflict-affected households would improve significantly; food security outcomes to improve with greater access and availability of assistance

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Ethiopia: Poor seasonal rains leave land fallow in Midaga Tola Woreda, East Hararghe Zone, Oromia Region, September

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: WFP

    Figure 2. Sudan: Nominal price of sorghum, fatarita variety, Kadugli, South Kordofan State, SDG per 90 kg sack

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/FAMIS

    Figure 3. Yemen: Average Diesel Prices (line indicates official price prior to the conflict)

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: WFP

    Figure 5


    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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