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Funding shortfalls expected to contribute to increased food insecurity among refugees

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • June 2017 - January 2018
Funding shortfalls expected to contribute to increased food insecurity among refugees

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • As of June 12, the total number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda reached 956,822. Humanitarian assistance is a key source of food and income for refugees and most are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with ongoing assistance. However, WFP is expected to face funding shortfalls in 2017 and may be required to cut rations, as occurred in May. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in the absence of humanitarian assistance. 

    • In southern and central Uganda, poor households have improved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with the harvest. In northern areas, where the harvest will take place one month late, improvement to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected in July/August. Due to the combined impact of below-average rainfall and Fall Armyworm, national production is expected to be 15 to 30 percent below average. Similar to late 2016 and the first half of 2017, exports to the region are likely to be below average for the remainder of 2017.  

    • In Karamoja, the lean season is expected to end in August when the green harvest arrives. Until then, poor households in Moroto, Napak, and Kaabong are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as income will be insufficient to purchase adequate food at very high prices. In August, very poor households are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January. 


    Current Situation

    In bimodal areas of Uganda, atypical rainfall was received in February, but rains were below average and erratically distributed from March to May (Figure 1). Total cumulative rainfall for the season was 15-35 percent below average in many areas, but average in areas surrounding Lake Victoria (Figure 2). Currently, rainfall is concentrated in northern Uganda, which typically receives rainfall from June to August.

    Rainfall in February prompted some farmers in southern, central, and western Uganda to plant early. Although rainfall was below average, it was sufficient for the majority of crops to reach maturity in these areas. Crops in these regions are at the advanced vegetative stage and households have access to green harvests of maize, beans, and vegetables. In northern areas, though, many farmers planted as late as early May and crops are in the early vegetative stage. These crops will require June to August rainfall to reach maturity.

    In Karamoja, atypically heavy rainfall was also received in February, although few farmers planted early as a result. Rainfall in March and April was below average and erratically distributed, and many farmers delayed planting until May. Typically by this time, short-cycle sorghum, maize, beans, cowpeas are at the advanced vegetative stage. However, due to delayed cultivation, crops are currently at the early vegetative stage.

    A rapid field assessment conducted by FEWS NET in May, which took place in most districts of central, western, and eastern Uganda, observed the presence of Fall Armyworm (FAW) in all districts visited (Figure 3). Approximately 40 percent of farmers interviewed reported the presence of FAW on their crops. The severity of infestation, though, varied within and across districts. Some farmers had lost a relatively small proportion of crops to the pest, while others reported losing over half. On average, 20 percent of crops among those who reported presence of the pest were infested by FAW. FAW was only observed on maize, but some farmers reported infestation of other crops. The majority of farmers had not applied pesticides to control the spread of FAW, citing the cost of pesticides and prevalence of counterfeits on markets as deterrents. As a result of below-average rains and FAW, there are concerns that production will be poor. This will follow below-average production in 2016.

    Pasture conditions and water availability are poorer than normal throughout Uganda due to consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall. Poorer than normal livestock body conditions were observed in the cattle corridor. Similarly, in Karamoja, rangeland quality is poorer than normal due to late and below-average rainfall and over grazing. Kaabong, Moroto, Kotido, and Amudat continue to host a higher than normal number of livestock from South Sudan and Kenya. The presence of these livestock has put additional pressure on rangeland resources. Although most poor households do not own large numbers of livestock, some are paid in-kind with milk for herding the livestock of better-off households to grazing areas. Given that livestock body conditions are below average, poor households are likely receiving less than normal amounts of milk from better-off households. 

    Below-average production in 2016 and expected below-average first season production in 2017 has put upward pressure on staple food prices. Prices have been above average since late 2016. In May 2017, the price of maize was 150-200 percent above both last year and the five-year average across Uganda (Figure 4). Local maize supply increased slightly in May, though, as harvests from Kamwenge, Mubende, Hoima, Masindi, and parts of Busoga entered markets, and prices declined in June. The retail price of a kilogram of beans is near average across the country, as bean supplies from May harvests in Kiboga, Kibaale, Hoima, Mubende, and Busoga, and imports from Rwanda replenished supplies.  

    Uganda remains one of the key exporters of maize and sorghum in the region. Exports of maize to Kenya increased significantly between the fourth quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017 due to poor harvests in Kenya. However, exports were still 64 percent below average as harvests were also poor in Uganda. Exports of maize to South Sudan in the first quarter of 2017 were two times higher than the first quarter of 2016, showing a gradual recovery of exports to South Sudan. Despite this, exports were still slightly below the four-year average, due to conflict-related disruptions to trade and low purchasing power among South Sudanese.

    Above-average prices have decreased food access in many areas of the country. In several districts of northern Uganda, poor households had below-average November/December 2016 harvests and exhausted their stocks much earlier than normal. Consequently, poor households are heavily dependent on market purchases to access food. Although many have coped through selling additional livestock and seeking casual labor opportunities, poor households’ income is insufficient to purchase all food and non-food needs at above-average staple food prices. In northern and some eastern areas, where the harvest is delayed, poor households are heavily dependent on markets and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In southern and central Uganda, poor households are now less reliant on markets with the harvest and food security has improved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    In Moroto, Napak, and Kaabong, poor households rely primarily on market purchases to access food during the ongoing lean season and well above-average prices have lowered food access. Households are engaged in typical coping strategies, including increased sale of natural products, alcohol brewing, and consumption of wild foods. However, some households are experiencing food consumption gaps and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    As of June 12, over 1,277,000 refugees, including 956,822 South Sudanese refugees, are hosted in Uganda. Nearly 800,000 South Sudanese have arrived since July 2016. The influx of refugees in the first five months of 2017 was greater than expected and in May the Regional Refugee Response Plan was revised to project 1,025,000 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda by December. In May, WFP faced funding shortfalls and was forced to cut rations due for refugees who arrived after July 2015 to a half ration of cereal, but maintained a full ration of all other commodities. In June, a full ration was again provided. Refugees also receive a plot of land from the Government of Uganda upon arrival, typically around 900 square meters, to both establish a settlement and cultivate crops. Refugees who arrived by December 2016 were likely able to plant some crops, but have not yet harvested. With humanitarian assistance, alongside other minor sources of food and income including wage labor and petty trade, it is likely that most South Sudanese refugees have minimally adequate consumption and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).

    National Level Assumptions

    Between June 2017 and January 2018, projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • ENSO conditions are currently neutral. The IRI/CPC ENSO forecast as of early June indicates the most-likely scenario is for ENSO neutral conditions through early 2018, with current positive Sea Surface Temperature anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific beginning to decrease through mid to late 2017. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral and the IOD is forecast to be positive in mid and late 2017.
    • Total cumulative rainfall during the April to September main rainy season in Karamoja is expected be average to below average. Given the delayed onset and erratic distribution of rainfall so far, the harvest is expected to arrive in August, one month late, and be 20-30 percent below average.
    • The September to December second rainy season is expected to start on time and be average to below average. The key driver of possible below average rainfall is the forecast positive IOD during the rainy season.
    • Bimodal first season production is expected to be 15-30 percent below average due to the combined impact of the FAW outbreak and below-average rainfall. Production prospects vary across regions (Table 1).
    • The presence of FAW is expected during the second agricultural season and given the wide-spread occurrence of FAW in early 2017, it is likely to impact crops at a similar or greater level than was observed during the first season. Second season cereal production is expected to below average due to forecast average to below-average rainfall and the presence of the FAW.
    • Agricultural activities including bush clearing, plowing, and planting for the bimodal second season are expected to begin on time in September and be available at typical levels and usual wage rates. Agricultural labor in Karamoja is expected to be available at slightly lower than normal levels.
    • Pasture and water resources in the cattle corridor are expected to remain below average through September following poor rainfall and overgrazing. Conditions are likely to improve to average in November following second season rainfall. Livestock body conditions and milk production are expected to be slightly below average to average throughout the outlook period.
    • Livestock prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, but be slightly below average during the outlook period.  
    • Staple food prices are expected to slightly decrease through September as first season harvests enter markets, after which prices will increase through January. Despite seasonal fluctuations, prices are likely to remain well above average throughout the outlook period.
    • Exports of maize and beans to Kenya, South Sudan, and Rwanda are expected to continue according to seasonal trends, but at volumes below last year and the four-year average due to likely below-average first season production in Uganda.
    • No major livestock disease outbreaks that would necessitate quarantine periods or lead to the closure of livestock markets are anticipated.
    • Due to ongoing conflict in South Sudan, it is expected that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda will continue to increase throughout the outlook period. WFP plans to distribute a full ration to refugees who arrived after July 2015. However, WFP requires 70.6 million USD to provide this assistance through the end of the year and despite new pledges in June, funding from pledges has not been received to guarantee the continuation of assistance at planned levels. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, poor households’ food security is improving in southern and central areas of the country following the harvest. Most poor households are consuming cereals, beans, and vegetables from their harvest and improved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in June. In Teso, Lango, and parts of Acholi, where harvests are expected to arrive late, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely through July/August, after which they will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Poor households’ food stocks are likely to be restored to near normal levels, with some exceptions in northern regions. Food stocks are only expected to last through September, though, as many poor households are likely to sell more production than normal, incentivized by high prices, to purchase non-food items and to repay debts accrued during the past year. The second season harvest will arrive in November/December and will also be somewhat below average. During the outlook period, it is likely poor households will face relatively greater difficulty meeting all of their basic food and non-food needs in October, after first season production is exhausted and before second season production arrives. At this time, households are likely to be more reliant on markets and will face atypically high staple food prices, which will lower food access. Overall, though, poor households are expected to meet their basic food and non-food needs and remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through typical livelihood activities.

    Of concern are poor households in Moroto, Napak, and Kaabong of Karamoja and refugees from South Sudan. In Karamoja, poor households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as income will be insufficient to purchase adequate food at atypically-high prices. In August, with the harvest, households are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January. Most refugees rely on assistance as their primary source of food and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). Although WFP plans to provide full rations to refugees, funding is not guaranteed for the continuation of assistance throughout the outlook period. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, it is expected refugees would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Current food security outcomes, June 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Decadal rainfall in Bushenyi, southwestern Uganda, Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS)

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. CHIRPS-estimated rainfall anomaly, percent of normal, March 1 – May 31, 2017

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Maize crop destroyed by Fall Armyworm in Serere District, Pingire Subcounty, May 10, 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Percent increase in maize prices in May 2017 compared to last year and the five-year average

    Source: WFP and Farmgain data

    Figure 7

    Table 1. FEWS NET estimates of June-July first season production in based on the impact of rainfall and Fall Armyworm

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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