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Worsening food insecurity and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among refugees in settlements

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • September 2023
Worsening food insecurity and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among refugees in settlements

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, the onset of the September to December second-season rains has eased the atypically dry conditions observed from June to August. The above-average rainfall in September in eastern, northern, and parts of central Uganda has supported the start of typical second-season agricultural activities, including land preparation, plowing, and planting, with some households already weeding by late September. Forecasted El Niño-enhanced above-average rainfall in the second season is expected to generally favor above-normal cereal and perennial crop harvests from November through January. However, the heavy rainfall is expected to negatively impact legume production and cause waterlogging in riverine and wetlands areas. In the mountainous areas of eastern and western Uganda, mudslides or landslides are anticipated to result in the temporary displacement of people and livestock, while overflowing rivers and flooding are expected to cause damage to residential homes and public infrastructure. 
    • In the greater north, Teso sub-region, and parts of eastern Uganda, first-season crop production was below-average, sustaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through September. Most poor households have limited access to agricultural inputs and are unable to afford to hire labor for planting large plots of land ahead of the enhanced second-season rainfall. Slightly below-average agricultural labor income and minimal remaining food stocks from the first season harvest are supporting minimally adequate food consumption. The onset of rainfall has triggered vegetable growth, which is supplementing households’ food sources. Following the start of the second season harvest in November/December, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected due to the anticipated increase in food availability and improved financial access to food with the seasonal decrease in staple prices.
    • In Karamoja, below-average and erratic rainfall between April and August caused poor short-cycle harvests in August and September. Consequently, poor households saw only minimal improvements in food access and availability in the post-harvest period. However, the slightly increased access to own-produced food, declining staple prices in July and August, and improvements in the value of charcoal, firewood, and daily wages relative to sorghum have temporarily reduced the number of households facing acute food insecurity in Karamoja. However, minimal food stocks, severely weakened coping capacity, livestock asset depletion, and low purchasing power are sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes into 2024. In August, the caseload of acutely malnourished children (6-59 months) being treated with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) remained above the five-year average. However, it is trending 48 percent lower than last year’s figures due to timely identification, referral, and treatment. While acute malnutrition typically improves following the September harvests, sustained poor dietary intake is expected to keep levels of acute malnutrition elevated. 
    • An increasing number of refugees in settlements are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes in September following poor first-season harvests, high competition for labor, and amid the reduction in humanitarian food assistance in July. Roughly 80 percent of refugees receive monthly rations equivalent to approximately 30 percent of their daily 2,100-kilocalorie requirement per person. Findings from a FEWS NET field assessment in September indicate that many households are sharing their rations, limiting the number of days rations last. Refugees reported they were increasing their engagement in agricultural and casual labor or labor migration— including to South Sudan— to gain access to income and food. Some better-off households hire land from the host community to cultivate larger plots, though prices are high, and households have limited access to inputs. In settlements in northern Uganda, several refugees reported an increase in households relying on negative coping strategies to access income or food, for example removing children from school, selling household and productive assets, and early marriage. The upcoming October Food Security Outlook report will share more information from the recent FEWS NET field assessment. 
    • Retail staple food prices remain seasonally low following the first season harvest, which ended in August. Between July and August, maize, millet, and sorghum prices were generally stable across most monitored markets, while some markets saw declines ranging from 8 to 60 percent. The seasonal decrease in prices has improved financial access to food for households, particularly the urban poor, who remain highly purchase-reliant for food. Overall, in August, the price of staples remained higher than the five-year average for most food items, except for maize grain, which ranged from 6 to 29 percent below the five-year average in most monitored markets. The retail price of beans was largely stable month-on-month between July and August. However, in Amudat and Nakapiripirit, bean prices increased by 25 to 33 percent in August due to the sustained deficits from four seasons of below-average bean harvests. Following global trends, the recent rise in fuel prices is expected to increase transport costs in Uganda and keep staple prices elevated before the November/December harvest. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Key Message Update September 2023: Worsening food insecurity and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among refugees in settlements, 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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