Skip to main content

The eastern Horn of Africa continues to face a historic humanitarian emergency

  • Key Message Update
  • East Africa
  • February 2023
The eastern Horn of Africa continues to face a historic humanitarian emergency

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • A historic, five-season drought, recent and ongoing conflict, and macroeconomic challenges continue to drive high levels of acute food insecurity across the East Africa region and Yemen. Four consecutive years of widespread floods are also contributing to acute food insecurity in South Sudan. The humanitarian emergency in the eastern Horn of Africa remains of highest concern, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread and there are households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In parts of southern Somalia and parts of southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, humanitarian food assistance is most likely preventing more extreme outcomes. In February, FEWS NET joined humanitarian partners in assessing that the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains credible in Somalia through at least June 2023 if poor gu rainfall results in crop failure and if humanitarian food assistance is not delivered as planned, specifically in rural areas of Burhakaba district of Bay Region and among the displaced populations in Baidoa and Mogadishu towns.

    • In the Horn of Africa, the October to December 2022 short-rains/deyr rainfall season culminated in a fifth consecutive below-average rainfall season. While rainfall deficits were not as severe as initially forecast, the cumulative impact of drought resulted in significantly below-average January/February 2023 harvests in Somalia and Kenya, including localized instances of crop failure. Livestock deaths continue to be reported in the worst drought-affected locations, and many surviving livestock have unsalable, poor body conditions with low to no milk production. While staple food prices are starting to subside from their peak, staple food prices are still well above average across the region due to national and regional cereal production deficits, together with high food, fuel, and agricultural input prices linked to the Ukraine crisis. Conflict is also contributing to food insecurity, as highlighted by the displacement of 185,000 people in Laas Caanood, Somalia. High levels of humanitarian assistance remain critical to mitigating the severity of food consumption gaps, acute malnutrition, and mortality amid widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Somalia, southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya. The areas of highest concern include rural areas and IDP settlements in Bay Region and Mogadishu of Somalia; Borena, Afder, Dawa, and Liban zones of Ethiopia; and Turkana and Marsabit counties of Kenya.

    • In northern Ethiopia, the aftermath of the 2020-2022 conflict – which devasted local agricultural production and market systems – continues to result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. However, relative calm has allowed for the expansion of food assistance delivery, with WFP reaching over 535,000 people from late December to late January. As of early February, OCHA reported new areas are becoming accessible in Central, Eastern, and Northwestern zones, but some areas remain inaccessible, primarily those along the Eritrean border. Basic services, including banking, telecommunications, electricity, and transportation services, are also gradually being restored in major towns.

    • In South Sudan and Sudan, conflict, floods, and poor macroeconomic conditions remain key drivers of acute food insecurity. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread in conflict- and flood-affected areas of South Sudan, as most households were unable to engage in normal livelihood activities, and market functioning is significantly disrupted. Most recently, conflict between state and non-state armed groups in the Upper Nile-Jonglei border region and inter-communal conflict in Pibor Administrative Areas displaced tens of thousands of people away from their typical cultivation and livestock grazing areas. In southern Unity, several hunger-related deaths have been reported. Meanwhile, in Sudan, many conflict-affected and poor households in Darfur, Blue Nile, Kordofan, Kassala, and Red Sea states continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, while Stressed (IPC Phase 2) persist more broadly across the country. While the conclusion of the 2022 main harvest is improving food availability and driving a decline in food prices, cereal prices are expected to remain more than three times the five-year average in the coming months, limiting household purchasing power and access to food among households that primarily purchase their food.

    • The conclusion of the second-season rains and harvests in Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, and are largely expected to support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes; however, poor rainfall performance and high staple food prices are driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in northern Uganda and northern and eastern Burundi. Karamoja, Uganda, is of highest concern, where FEWS NET estimates the late 2022 harvest was 50-80 percent below normal, and around 40 percent of households harvested little to no own-produced stocks. Additionally, insecurity in Karamoja – largely characterized by livestock raids and theft – is disrupting normal livelihood activities, hindering households’ access to crop fields, livestock grazing areas, and markets. In Burundi, households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones are expected to have food consumption gaps during the April-May lean season due to a locally poor harvest and associated reductions in labor income, coupled with high food prices.

    • In Yemen, the protracted impacts of conflict and the economic crisis are expected to result in widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, in addition to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Marib and Hajjah. While an informal state of cease-fire is generally holding, an uptick in conflict and displacement in frontline areas was recorded in January. Additionally, oil exports from areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG) remain on hold due to the threat of drone strikes directed by the Sana’a-based authorities (SBA), contributing to a negative outlook for foreign exchange revenue and, given a heavily import-dependent economy, food and non-food commodity prices. Despite ongoing food assistance, millions of households in Yemen are likely facing food consumption gaps due to significantly above-average food and non-food prices and insufficient income-generating opportunities.

    • Reduced food consumption in terms of both quantity and quality for an extended period is contributing to extremely high levels of acute malnutrition in many areas of the region. This is exacerbated by high disease prevalence and frequent disease outbreaks (diarrhea and measles), limited or disrupted access to health services and sanitation facilities, and sub-optimal maternal and childcare and feeding practices. Recent survey data indicate the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) exceeds the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent in many areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Moreover, analysis of standard and proxy nutrition survey data confirms or projects the prevalence of Extremely Critical levels (GAM ≥30 percent) in parts of Tigray and southern/south-eastern Ethiopia; parts of Turkana and Marsabit counties and Mandera county in Kenya; and spread in several governorates in Yemen.  

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top