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Above-average rainfall brings some relief in the Horn of Africa, but food assistance needs remain high in May

  • Key Message Update
  • East Africa
  • June 2023
Above-average rainfall brings some relief in the Horn of Africa, but food assistance needs remain high in May

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • East Africa continues to face a severe humanitarian emergency characterized by widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, the persistence of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes in parts of Ethiopia, and a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Somalia and South Sudan. This is driven by the compounding impacts of the historic 2020-2023 drought in the Horn, conflict, four consecutive years of flooding in South Sudan, and sustained poor macroeconomic conditions. Since mid-April, the ongoing conflict in Sudan has escalated food assistance needs, disrupted livelihoods and the delivery of basic services, displaced over 1.3 million people, caused hundreds of civilian deaths, and deteriorated food security outcomes in the worst-affected areas. Meanwhile, the above-average March-May rainfall across the Horn has brought some relief from consecutive years of drought, contributing to a gradual recovery of livestock production. Additionally, an average to above-average seasonal harvest is expected in the coming month, which is expected to enhance food and income access. Humanitarian food assistance continues to mitigate the deterioration of food security outcomes across the region, but serious concern remains about worsening conditions in part of Ethiopia due to the pause in assistance distributions.

    • In the Horn, above-average March to May rainfall generally supported crop production activities and the gradual recovery of livestock production, enhancing the region's access to food and income. Upcoming seasonal crop production is generally expected to be average to above average. However, millions of poor households continue to experience severe constraints in accessing food and income due to the lasting impact of the 2020-2023 drought, including depleted livestock herds and persistently high staple food prices. In addition, flash floods following heavy rainfall in Somalia and Ethiopia have reportedly destroyed crops and assets. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse outcomes are widespread in Somalia, northern and eastern Kenya, and southern and southeastern Ethiopia, with humanitarian assistance preventing more severe outcomes in many areas. A credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists among displaced and pastoral populations in the worst drought-affected areas of central Somalia. In Ethiopia, food assistance remains vital to saving lives, and there is grave concern for worsening acute food insecurity outcomes in the coming months due to the recent pause in assistance distributions.

    • Unprecedented fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan since mid-April has caused extensive disruption to markets and trade flows, the banking and health systems, basic infrastructure, and humanitarian operations, as well as led to the displacement of over 1.3 million people and deaths of hundreds of civilians. The most heavily affected areas include Khartoum and El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, the latter of which has experienced rising ethnic violence. The conflict has led to a rapid deterioration in food security conditions, likely resulting in widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across the country, while Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to emerge in parts of greater Darfur and Kordofan during the June to September lean season. An immediate cessation of the conflict and the formation of an aid corridor is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods and facilitate the delivery of assistance to prevent severe hunger.

    • In South Sudan, food assistance needs have escalated as the Sudan crisis has led to an influx of over 75,000 people into the country, the majority of whom are South Sudanese returnees. Most returnees are arriving in the northern border regions of Renk and Melut in Upper Nile state, Aweil North and East of Northern Bahr el Ghazel state, Pariang of Unity state, and Abyei Administrative area, and have increased competition over limited resources. As a result, households are increasingly facing large food consumption gaps, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Panyikang and Fashoda counties in Upper Nile state also remain of high concern due to the impact of multiple years of flood and persistent conflicts, sustaining Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with pockets of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Humanitarian assistance is mitigating more severe food security outcomes, particularly in parts of Unity and Jonglei states, but continues to face obstacles to delivery due to insecurity, food shortages, and logistical challenges. 

    • In Yemen, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes persist across most of the country, driven by poor economic conditions from years of protracted conflict, above-average food prices amid limited access to income, reductions in humanitarian food assistance, and recent flooding that destroyed homes, infrastructure, and crops. Despite the negative impact of floods, the above-average March-May rainfall benefited agricultural activities and increased income from agricultural labor, while the availability of pasture is expected to support livestock body conditions. In addition, food prices declined in areas controlled by the Sana’-based authorities (SBA) following reduced importation costs, marginally increasing food access. However, food prices rose in late May in the areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG), mainly due to currency depreciation amid worsening government revenue shortages. Meanwhile, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist in Marib due to the ongoing conflict that continues to disrupt livelihoods and drive population displacement, recent flooding, and sustained reductions in humanitarian assistance.

    • In Rwanda, most of bimodal Uganda, and western Burundi, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are sustained due to the increased food availability from season B harvests,  average access to income generation, and enhanced cross-border trade. However, in Karamoja, Uganda, and Northern Lowlands livelihood zone in Burundi, consecutive seasons of below-average crop production, coupled with high food prices, frequent cattle raiding and road ambushes, and below-average income-earning opportunities, drove Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in May. Following the above-average March to May seasonal rainfall, crop harvests and livestock production are expected to improve significantly, enhancing access to food and income and contributing to improved food security outcomes, particularly in Rwanda, Burundi, and bimodal Uganda. The ongoing regional conflicts in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are driving an upsurge of refugees and returnees to Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, overstretching limited resources for humanitarian assistance. Inadequate funding has led to further reductions in food assistance; however, humanitarian food assistance continues to sustain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes among refugees in Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. East Africa Key Messages June 2023:  Above-average rainfall brings some relief in the Horn of Africa, but food assistance needs remain high in May, 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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