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Intensification of conflict limits humanitarian access and activities

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Yemen
  • August 2016
Intensification of conflict limits humanitarian access and activities

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outcomes through January 2017
  • Key Messages
    • A major food security crisis is expected to continue in Yemen, with western governorates projected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3 or 3!) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity through at least early 2017. 

    • Urgent humanitarian assistance is needed for an estimated 7 to 10 million people who will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food security outcomes during the scenario period.

    • According to the Task Force on Population Movement, the number of internally displaced persons in Yemen increased by approximately 7 percent between April and June 2016. IDP populations across the country are likely facing some of the most severe food security outcomes. 

    • An intensification of conflict in August 2016 after the recent suspension of peace talks in Kuwait has reduced humanitarian access and activities in certain conflict-affected areas of the country. 

    • According to WFP, wheat flour prices generally fell in July after the end of Ramadan although prices at many markets still remain well above pre-conflict levels. The highest wheat flour prices were observed in Ta’izz and Shabwah governorates. Reduced purchasing power caused by low household incomes and high prices is a key driver of food insecurity at this time.

    Current Situation
    • After the recent suspension of peace talks in Kuwait, on-the-ground fighting and airstrikes have intensified in Yemen. This fighting resulted in the closing of the Sana’a International Airport for several days in mid-August, though it has since reopened for humanitarian flights only (WFP, Danish Refugee Council et al., Agence France-Presse)
    • Conflict continues to restrict humanitarian access and activities. For example, MSF pulled their staff from Hajjah and Sa'dah governorates in August due to concerns about staff safety after repeated airstrikes on local hospitals. Additionally, WFP had been unable to secure access to Ma’rib governorate for their operations between January and June 2016, though they were able to access the governorate in July. WFP also reported that as of June 2016, they had only limited access to Ta’izz governorate and that access to Al Bayda’, Al Jawf, Hajjah, Ibb, Lahij, and Shabwah governorates remained unstable.
    • According to the Logistics Cluster’s August 22, 2016 Access Constraints map, conditions along major roads varied, although many roads were reportedly closed in the southwest (Ta’izz and Lahij governorates) and in the north (parts of Sa’dah, Amran, Hajjah, Sana’a, Al Jawf, and Ma ’rib governorates). Compared to the Cluster’s June 2016 map, there appears to be a deterioration in road conditions between Aden and Ta’izz City, while road access from Sana’a City to Sa’dah and in Abyan governorate have improved. There have also been reports that a key bridge between Al Hudaydah and Sana’a City was destroyed by airstrikes during the past month (NRC).
    • According to the Task Force on Population Movement’s most recent report, there was approximately 2.2 million IDPs in Yemen as of June 2016. This represents a 7 percent increase compared to April 2016 levels with the largest number of new IDPs located in Hajjah (78,000 individuals), Sana’a (69,000 individuals), and Dhamar (49,000 individuals) governorates. Similar to previous months, Ta’izz and Hajjah governorates continue to host the country’s largest IDP populations with 533,000 IDPs and 448,000 IDPs, respectively.  
    • Media reports indicate that there are ongoing discussions about moving at least certain functions of the Central Bank from Sana’a City to Aden, which follows a request in early August that international banks limit Central Bank officials’ access to reserves held outside of the country (Business Insider, Asharq Al-Awsat). Oxfam reports that as of August 15th, the official exchange rate was stable at 250 YER/USD and ranged from 290 to 298 YER/USD on parallel markets in Hajjah, Amran, and Ta’izz governorates. UNICEF also reports that government salaries may not have been paid in July.
    • Data on food imports into Yemen during the month of July are showing mixed results. According to data from FleetMon, there has been a normalization in the number of unique bulk ship arrivals in Yemen (a proxy for food imports) with 24 ships arriving in July 2016. This compares to an average of 14 ships per month during the 2014 year and 15 ships in June 2016. However, this information differs from data from the Logistics Cluster that suggests that the number of ships has been falling over the past several months. Additionally, the Logistics Cluster indicates that 191,050 MT of wheat flour was imported in July 2016, compared to 196,684 MT in June and 289,509 MT in May. Yemen requires approximately 233,000 to 250,000 MT of wheat each month, according to estimates from FAO.
    • High food prices continue to be a key driver of reduced food access for poor households. In the post-Ramadan period, the national average of wheat flour prices declined 7 percent between June and July but remained similar to 2015 levels during the same period (-2 percent) and above pre-conflict levels (+33 percent) (WFP). For the first time in many months, wheat flour prices at Attaq market in Shabwah governorate exceeded those observed in Ta’izz governorate, previously the highest in the country, at a price of 250 YER/kg, or 38 percent above the national average[1]. Additionally, compared to the pre-conflict, national average, prices in both governorates remain quite elevated (Ta’izz: +60 percent; Shabwah: +83 percent) and are likely limiting food access for poor households. Although the exact drivers of the high prices in Attaq are currently unknown, conflict may have obstructed trade flows. Additionally, key informant reports suggest that there may have been a crackdown on smuggling activities in southern parts of the governorate, which could have negatively affected supplies.
    • Preliminary results of a SMART nutrition survey conducted in Sa’dah and Sana’a governorates by UNICEF/MoPHP in May 2016 suggest a prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), measured by weight-for-height z-score, that are generally similar to pre-conflict levels, with the possible exception of Sana’a’s Dry Temperate zone where GAM levels may be deteriorating. More specifically, in the Sana’a Temperate Highlands zone and the Sana’a Dry Temperate zone, the assessment found a prevalence of GAM of 8.4 percent and 16.0 percent, respectively. This compares to a GAM prevalence of 7.4 percent (95 percent CI: 5.2 to 10.5 percent) for the governorate in 2011, according to the 2011 CFSS. Meanwhile, in highland and lowland areas of Sa’dah, the prevalence of GAM was estimated to be 9.9 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. This compares to GAM levels of 9.0 percent (95 percent CI: 6.1 to 13.3) and 10.4 percent (95 percent CI: 8.1 to 13.3 percent) in highland and lowland areas, respectively, before the conflict in June 2014.
    • While global acute malnutrition (GAM), measured by weight-for-height z-score, in Sa’dah governorate does not appear to shown any major deterioration between 2014 and 2016, it should be noted that the estimated GAM prevalences determined by mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) are indicating concerning levels of acute malnutrition (12.7 percent in lowland areas and 15.0 percent in highland areas) and are in line with the IPC nutrition protocol’s “critical” thresholds. Additionally, these MUAC-based estimates of GAM suggest that the nutritional situation in highland areas may be deteriorating compared to 2014 levels when GAM was found to be 9.3 percent (95 percent CI: 7.0 to 12.3 percent).

    [1] The national average is based on data from six markets where price data is available prior to February 2015: Aden, Al Hudaydah, Amran, Hajjah, Sa’dah and Sana’a.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of August 2016 to January 2017. However the following assumptions have been updated:

    Oil exports and foreign reserves: Although media reports (Al Arabiya, Qatar News Agency) indicate that oil production and exports may have recently started up again at low levels, oil exports will not return to pre-conflict levels during the scenario period. In turn, foreign reserves will likely remain low, which will result in a slight to moderate depreciation of the Yemeni Rial against the US dollar.

    Projected Outcomes through January 2017

    A major food security emergency is ongoing in Yemen and is expected to continue through at least early 2017. For an estimated 7 to 10 million people who are projected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food insecurity, urgent humanitarian assistance is needed to reduce food consumption gaps, treat acute malnutrition, and rebuild livelihoods. Populations of greatest concern include poor households in Ta’izz governorate and IDPs across the country who will likely face larger food consumption gaps, in line with Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Food insecurity in other areas of western Yemen are also expected to remain elevated and in line with Crisis (IPC Phase 3 or 3!). Some areas (Hajjah, Sa’dah, Sana’a, Amran and Ad Dali’) would have likely faced worse food security outcomes in the absence of currently ongoing, large-scale humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile in Hadramaut and Al Mahrah governorates, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity is expected to continue given that these areas have seen less severe impacts of conflict on household livelihoods and food access. 

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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