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Very large assistance needs and Famine risk will continue in 2018

  • Alert
  • Global
  • December 12, 2017
Very large assistance needs and Famine risk will continue in 2018

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Figure 1. Peak population in need of emergency food assistance (2015-2018)

Sources: FEWS NET, OCHA, Southern Africa RVAC
Note: See Figure 2 for illustration of countries included in these estimates.

Following unprecedented food assistance needs in 2017, little improvement is anticipated during the coming year. Across 45 countries, an estimated 76 million people are expected to require emergency food assistance during 2018. Four countries – Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria – face a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5). Given that no improvement in underlying conditions is expected in these countries, the provision of humanitarian assistance will be a primary determinant of whether Famine is averted. Governments, international agencies, donors, and other stakeholders should make all possible efforts to resolve conflict, ensure humanitarian access, and provide timely, multi-sectoral assistance to prevent large-scale loss of life.

Conflict will be the primary driver of food security emergencies during 2018 including in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In these countries, ongoing insecurity will continue to disrupt livelihoods, limit trade and market functioning, displace households, and hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Poor rainfall, and its impact on crop and livestock production, will also contribute to a high level of need in some countries. In parts of the Horn of Africa, a severe drought during the past 18 months has decimated livestock herds and sharply reduced crop production, particularly in Somalia and southeastern Ethiopia. Forecasts also indicate that below-average rainfall is likely during the spring 2018 rainy season, in part due to the ongoing La Niña. In addition, rainfall in some pastoral areas of West Africa has been mediocre to poor for a third consecutive year, and forecasts for the upcoming seasons in Southern Africa and Central Asia indicate an increased likelihood of drier than usual conditions.

As a result of conflict, below-average rainfall, and a range of other shocks (e.g., currency depreciation, Fall Army Worm), an estimated 76 million people are likely to require emergency food assistance during 2018 (Figure 1). This figure is 60 percent higher than in 2015 and only slightly lower than the 83 million people in need during 2017. The decline between 2017 and 2018 is due, almost entirely, to improvements in Southern Africa. The size of the food insecure population is likely to grow in most other countries. Thirteen countries are expected to have more than one million people (local populations, IDPs, and refugees) in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse and in need of emergency assistance during 2018. These include: Yemen (>15 million); Syria, South Sudan, DRC, Ethiopia, and Nigeria (5.00–6.99 million); Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan (3.00–4.99 million); and Kenya, Iraq, Uganda, and Pakistan (1.00–2.99 million) (Figure 2).

Four countries face a credible risk of Famine during 2018. In Yemen, a country which relies on maritime imports for 80 percent of its food, the closure of all ports to commercial trade risks a major deterioration in food insecurity, which is already severe. In northeast Nigeria, while humanitarian access has improved in some areas, a Famine may be ongoing in remaining inaccessible areas of Borno State where access to food has been limited by ongoing conflict. In South Sudan, ongoing conflict and hyper-inflation have led to extreme levels of food insecurity. In the absence of assistance, Famine would be likely in many areas, including Wau county, central Unity State, and northwest Jonglei State. Finally, in Somalia, a severe drought during 2016 and 2017 has driven high levels of livestock death and three consecutive below-average crop harvests. While assistance may have prevented Famine in Somalia during 2017, the large loss of livestock and forecasts for poor 2018 rains mean that continued assistance flows are critical. FEWS NET also remains very concerned about Ethiopia’s Somali Region where severe food insecurity persists, especially among displaced pastoral households.

Figure 2. Estimated peak size of the population in need of emergency food assistance during 2018

Sources: FEWS NET, OCHA, Southern Africa RVAC
Note: A standalone version of this infographic can be found here.

FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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