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Humanitarian needs remain high despite improvement in rainfall over the Horn

  • Key Message Update
  • East Africa
  • April 2023
Humanitarian needs remain high despite improvement in rainfall over the Horn

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The East Africa region continues to face a large-scale humanitarian crisis characterized by extensive areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), the persistence of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, and pockets of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), despite a favorable start to the March to May rains over much of the Horn of Africa that has helped to ease drought conditions. The continuation of high levels of acute food insecurity across East Africa is due primarily to three consecutive years of drought that have eroded livelihoods and assets; four consecutive years of flooding in South Sudan; episodic or protracted conflict across the region; and severe macroeconomic conditions throughout. More recently, despite an overall favorable start to the Gu/Genna rains, spatial and temporal disparities have slowed recovery in some areas of the Horn. Though humanitarian assistance needs remain outpaced by the scale and severity of need, sustained high levels of food assistance are preventing more extreme outcomes in southern and central Somalia and parts of southern and southeastern pastoral Ethiopia.

    • In the Horn, the start of the 2023 long-rains/gu rains is supporting some improvement in pasture and water resources, as well as the start to land preparation and planting in agricultural areas, as the region slowly begins to recover from the historic five-season drought. However, the cumulative impacts of the shock – including consecutive below-average crop harvests, massive declines in livestock herd sizes, and reduced availability of milk for consumption and sales – have significantly eroded households’ assets and coping capacity and continue to limit access to food and income. Additionally, flooding from the ongoing rainfall is reported to have caused the destruction of infrastructure, agricultural land, and crops in Somalia and Ethiopia and contributed to 70,000 livestock deaths in Ethiopia. Combined with persistent atypically high staple food prices, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes or worse remain widespread in Somalia, northern and eastern Kenya, and southern and southeastern Ethiopia. In addition, there are likely households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in southern and central Somalia, and levels of acute malnutrition and mortality remain elevated in many areas. The sustained provision of significant levels of humanitarian assistance remains critical to mitigating the severity of food consumption gaps, acute malnutrition, and mortality in the Horn.

    • In northern Ethiopia, especially in Tigray, moderate economic recovery since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement in November 2022 is resulting in slight improvements in income-earning opportunities. However, access to food and income remains lower than pre-conflict levels due to high food prices and limited labor migration opportunities, as many people lack the means to travel. Overall, the cumulative impact of the 2020-2022 conflict, including the destruction of livelihood systems, continues to drive Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in Tigray. In the absence of humanitarian food assistance, poor households are likely to face widening consumption deficits or engage in severe coping strategies such as begging. Some woredas along Eritrea's borders are partially inaccessible for humanitarian assistance due to insecurity caused by armed groups, constraining food access in these areas.

    • In South Sudan, protracted and episodic conflict, successive years of severe flooding, and sustained poor macroeconomic conditions have deeply eroded household resilience resulting in sustained Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Greater Piobr Administrative Area, with some households likely experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Upper Nile and Jonglei. In the other areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are prevalent driven by episodic conflicts, deficit crop production and resultant early depletion of own-produced stocks, seasonal outmigration of livestock that has reduced milk and income access, high food prices, and general poor macroeconomic conditions. In Sudan, above-average 2022/23 crop production improved food access, but the cumulative impact of persistently poor macroeconomic conditions coupled with episodic conflict is sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the worst conflict-affected areas in South Darfur, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile states. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Abyei Administrative Area, where recent inter-communal clashes continued disrupting livelihood activities and food access. Weak Sudanese currency and the high costs of production and transportation sustained atypically high staple food prices in the post-harvest period limiting food access among purchase-dependent households.

    • In Yemen, levels of conflict in March remained relatively low as peace negotiations continued, though hostilities surged in Harib district of southern Marib. Nonetheless, the economic situation has continued to worsen in areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG), driven mainly by the loss of revenue from the sustained halt of oil exports amidst the threat of drone strikes by the Sana'a-based authorities (SBA). Food prices remain above average and income-earning opportunities remain highly limited nationwide, with millions dependent on humanitarian food assistance as a key source of food. In March, about 13 million people (around 40 percent of the population) received food rations equivalent to approximately 65 percent of the standard food basket; by late March, social support typical of Ramadan also increased, temporarily improving food consumption among poor households. Despite this, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes persist across most of Yemen given highly eroded livelihoods and purchasing power. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain likely in Marib governorate due to active conflict and high displacement burden. In Hajjah, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to improve to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) around April following the start of the agricultural season.

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are to be sustained in Rwanda, most of bimodal Uganda, and western Burundi, driven by average seasonal crop harvests, enhanced cross-border trade, and typical livestock production. However, localized successive, below-average seasonal harvests coupled with high staple prices are driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in several northern areas, particularly in the unimodal Karamoja region of Uganda and in northern and eastern Burundi. Food security outcomes are expected to worsen in these areas as households face depletion of own-produced food stocks with the approaching April-May lean season in Burundi and the ongoing January-August lean season in the Karamoja region in Uganda. However, the ongoing above-average rainfall in March is expected to improve crop and livestock production, enhancing food access and food security outcomes in the coming months. Insecurity in Karamoja will likely continue hindering access to agricultural and grazing land, minimizing the benefits of the ongoing rains. Humanitarian assistance continues to sustain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes among refugees/asylum seekers in Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda but recent and ongoing conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are causing new displacement, creating pressure on humanitarian assistance that is grappling with the funding shortfall.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. East Africa Key Messages April 2023:  Humanitarian needs remain high despite improvement in rainfall over the Horn, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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