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Conflict erupts in Sudan, increasing already high humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa in April

  • Key Message Update
  • East Africa
  • May 2023
Conflict erupts in Sudan, increasing already high humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa in April

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The East Africa region continues to face a severe humanitarian crisis characterized by widespread areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), the persistence of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) in parts of Ethiopia, and credible risks of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Somalia and South Sudan. This is due primarily to the lasting impacts of the historic 2020-2023 drought, (though favorable rainfall to date during the March/April to May/June long rains/gu/genna rains over much of the region has led to some relief); four consecutive years of flooding in South Sudan; conflict across the region; and poor macroeconomic conditions. Recently, the outbreak of conflict on April 15 in Sudan has led to a rapid deterioration in food security conditions, particularly in major urban centers and across Greater Darfur. Additionally, heavy rainfall in April has resulted in flash floods in multiple areas across the region, causing population displacement, killing livestock, and impeding planting. Despite record-high humanitarian needs and ongoing funding constraints, high levels of humanitarian food assistance continue to prevent more severe outcomes, particularly in pastoral areas of the region and among displaced populations.

    • In the Horn, rainfall in April continued to bring relief from the 2020-2023 drought, supporting agricultural activities and the progressive recovery of livestock production due to rejuvenation of rangeland resources. However, millions of households continue to experience reduced access to food and income due to massive declines in livestock herd sizes and high levels of debt accrued during the drought. In addition, flash floods from the ongoing rainfall have reportedly caused the destruction of crops and livestock and impeded planting in affected areas across the region. An estimated 70,000 and 4,000 livestock were killed in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively. This comes on top of the ongoing impacts of conflict and persistent above-average staple food prices on households’ livelihoods and purchasing power. 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 Somalia. While active conflict has ended in northern Ethiopia, the lasting impacts of the 2020-2022 conflict – which destroyed livelihood systems – continues to drive Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Tigray as of April.

    • The ongoing conflict in Sudan since mid-April continues to severely disrupt trade and market functionality, restrict population movement, prevent delivery of humanitarian assistance, and disrupt access to basic services including electricity, healthcare, and banking. This has led to a rapid deterioration in food security conditions, particularly in major urban areas and across Greater Darfur. The new conflict on top of already poor macroeconomic conditions and high cost of living is anticipated to result in a rapid increase in the population that is facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes across the country, with the largest increases anticipated in densely populated urban areas such as Khartoum, El Geneina in West Darfur, and across the greater Darfur region.

    • In South Sudan, the cumulative impacts of multiple years of flooding and conflict – combined with persistent poor macroeconomic conditions and high food and non-food prices – have eroded livelihoods and household resilience, resulting in widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes across the country and sustained Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Greater Pibor Administrative Area. Some households are likely experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Panyikang and Fashoda of Upper Nile, while a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in northern Jonglei and parts of Upper Nile, given the large share of the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). In addition, recent conflict in Sudan has already caused an influx of an estimated 25,000 South Sudanese returnees, a number that is likely to continue increasing and overstretch humanitarian support.  

    • In Yemen, levels of conflict in April remained relatively low in much of the country. Nevertheless, economic conditions remain poor across the country due to the impacts of years of protracted conflict and, in areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG), severe shortages of revenue and foreign exchange that are currently worsening due to the sustained forced halt of oil exports. Meanwhile, unexpected above-average rainfall to date during the March to May 2023 first rainy season benefited agricultural activities in highland areas, but also led to widespread flooding that displaced thousands of people and damaged homes and assets. Given overall highly limited income-earning opportunities, and above-average food prices, millions of people remain dependent on humanitarian food assistance as a key source of food. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes remain widespread across most of Yemen. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Marib due to the impacts of ongoing conflict, recent flooding, and sustained reductions in humanitarian assistance. In Hajjah, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes have likely improved to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) given the recent cereal harvest and a seasonal increase in labor opportunities associated with the start of the agricultural season.

    • Across most of Rwanda, bimodal Uganda, and western Burundi, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are expected to be sustained by availability of food stocks from previous seasonal harvests, enhanced cross-border trade, and typical livestock production. On the other hand, below-average crop production, coupled with high food prices and below-average income-earning, is driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone in Burundi and in the Karamoja subregion in Uganda. However, the ongoing above-average March to May seasonal rainfall is expected to improve crop and livestock production, enhancing access to food and income and driving improvements in food security outcomes across most of these countries. Despite reductions in assistance provision due to funding shortfalls, humanitarian food assistance continues to sustain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes among refugees in Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. Nevertheless, recent and ongoing conflict in Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is driving new population displacement, likely to put additional pressure on limited resources for assistance.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. East Africa Key Messages May 2023:  Conflict erupts in Sudan, increasing already high humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa in April, 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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