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High prices and conflict sustain elevated needs amid lean season peaks

  • Key Message Update
  • East Africa
  • September 2023
High prices and conflict sustain elevated needs amid lean season peaks

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In August, humanitarian needs remain atypically high in East Africa as local lean seasons peak across much of the region, aggravated by historic weather shocks, protracted and newly emergent conflicts, and persistently poor macroeconomic conditions. In unimodal South SudanSudan, and meher-production areas of Ethiopia, millions continue to face food consumption gaps prior to the main harvests that typically begin in September and October. In pastoral areas of the Horn, the impacts of the historic drought and atypically hot and dry conditions during the dry season continue to drive widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes in several areas, despite some seasonal improvement in livestock production during the March/April to May/June rains. In southern, southeastern, and northern parts of Ethiopia, western Sudan, and north-central South Sudan, some households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Humanitarian food assistance continues to mitigate more severe food security outcomes in some areas, but serious concern for worsening conditions persists amidst the ongoing scaling down of assistance due to funding shortfalls, insecurity challenges, and the USG pause of funding in Ethiopia. In the coming months, forecast above-average rainfall in the Horn driven by El Niño conditions is expected to sustain the recovery of crop and livestock production, except in flood-affected riverine and low-lying areas, where population displacement and crop losses are likely. 
    • The ongoing conflict in Sudan continues to drive deteriorating food security conditions, resulting in widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across the country and increasing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Khartoum, large urban centers in Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, and in parts of White Nile and Blue Nile. In addition, some households in El Geneina are likely facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the peak of the lean season due to the extensive violence and displacement that significantly disrupted household mobility and assistance delivery. In its fifth month, the conflict continues to undermine household access to food and income sources through damages and destruction of critical infrastructure and disruption of livelihood economic activities, including trade and crop cultivation. Moreover, the conflict has displaced an estimated four million internally and about 1.1 million to neighboring countries. Despite increasing needs, humanitarian assistance continues to face crippling challenges to delivery due to the insecurity, bureaucratic hindrances, looting of humanitarian assets and food, and risks of divergence.   
    • In South Sudan, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread across the country as the lean season peaks in unimodal areas. Atypically high staple food prices continue to rise, exacerbated by disruption to trade flow with Sudan, regional tightening of food stocks, persistently poor macroeconomic conditions, and a delayed and poor first harvest in bimodal Equatoria states. Upper Nile, Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Jonglei remain areas of greatest concern with widespread Emergency (IPC phase 4) outcomes and some households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) along the Jonglei-Upper Nile border due to sustained livelihood erosion and aggravated by the influx of about 250,000 returnees and conflict-related disruption of cross-border trade with Sudan. Food assistance will seasonally decline following the start of the harvests in October while needs are expected to remain high, particularly in the north with the influx of returnees. Furthermore, a necessary scale-up in assistance is likely to be hindered by anticipated large funding shortfalls.  
    • The scale of acute food insecurity in Yemen remains high, with widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes at the governorate level. Millions likely face food consumption gaps, largely linked to highly limited opportunities for income-earning alongside very poor macroeconomic conditions. Economic conditions are more severe in areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG), also resulting in above-average and rising food prices. Though active conflict remained suppressed in August, IRG-controlled areas continue to face severe revenue shortages largely due to the blockade of oil exports from IRG-controlled ports by the Sana-based authorities (SBA). The poor provision of public services in IRG-controlled areas, with blackouts in Aden reaching 20 hours per day in August and delays in payment of salaries for civil servants, have precipitated an increase in civil unrest. Only limited and temporary relief is expected from the 1.2 billion USD grant committed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to support the IRG economy, with the first installment deposited in early August. 
    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes persist in the Eastern and Northern areas of Burundi and in the greater north and Teso sub-region of Uganda, while Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes continue in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda. Poor households are facing food consumption gaps in these areas due to the depletion of food stocks following below-average harvests, high and increasing staple prices, and reduced access to income due to low wages. On the other hand, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes continue in Rwanda, most of the bimodal areas in western, central, and southern Uganda, and western Burundi, largely supported by increased food availability from near-average to average main season and season B harvests, which have stabilized food prices and enhanced access to income from the sale of crops. Ongoing conflict in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan are contributing to rising numbers of refugees across these countries, while funding shortfalls are forcing a scaling down of assistance. In Uganda, refugees living in settlements are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to limited access to income-generating opportunities and high market prices resulting in poor financial access to food amid scaled-down humanitarian assistance. In Burundi and Rwanda, refugees and asylum seekers receiving assistance are expected to face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes while facing declining ration sizes. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. East Africa Key Message Update September 2023: High prices and conflict sustain elevated needs amid lean season peaks, 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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