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Impacts of COVID-19 and drought leads to early depletion of own foods and Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • July 2020 - January 2021
Impacts of COVID-19 and drought leads to early depletion of own foods and Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In areas of the region where rainfall performance was poor, households did not receive meaningful harvest and are expected to continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Moreover, conflict in DRC and Cabo Delgado of Mozambique continues to disrupt livelihoods and agriculture activities and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are also expected to continue. In areas where the harvest was better and households are consuming own foods, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. As households deplete staple foods from own production in October, southern parts of Malawi, Lesotho, and northern Zimbabwe will start experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Parts of Ituri province in DRC where conflict is significantly limiting household engagement in normal livelihoods, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are projected to emerge in October.


    Democratic Republic of the Congo 

    • June marks the beginning of the main season B harvests in northeastern and central-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Agricultural production is expected to be below average due to the combined impact of climate-related disruptions, including heavy floods in central-eastern DRC, the security situation and COVID-19 control measures.
    • Although the government has introduced restrictive measures to contain the large-scale spread of COVID-19 nationwide, the disease has already reached 13 of the country’s 26 provinces in three months, progressing at an alarming and concerning pace. To date, DRC has reported 7,039 confirmed cases, with a fatality rate of 2.4 percent. The containment measures, and travel restrictions in particular, have had a significant impact on households’ livelihoods.
    • Since April 2020, Uvira and the surrounding area has experienced torrential rainfall, causing floods and substantial damage to property. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 500,000 people have lost almost all of their food reserves and their livelihoods as a result of the floods, leaving them at serious risk of food insecurity. The emergency in this part of the country is almost certain to worsen, despite efforts by humanitarian agencies, whose response plans remain severely underfunded (just 12 percent, according to OCHA).
    • A new outbreak of Ebola virus disease has recently been reported in Mbandaka and Bikoro Territories of Équateur province (the 11th Ebola epidemic recorded in the DRC), just as the authorities declared the end of the epidemic in Nord-Kivu and Ituri Provinces. This 11th epidemic, which has already claimed six victims and comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, could adversely affect the quality of life and food security of households in the province, which is considered the breadbasket of the city of Kinshasa. The situation could worsen during the current lean season and as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, requiring a rapid response to limit the spread of the disease to neighboring regions.
    • Between June and September 2020, those provinces experiencing security concerns, displacement and natural disasters (Ituri, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï and Kasaï-Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these shocks and crises affect households’ livelihoods. Other eastern provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Between October 2020 January 2021, households in Djugu territory (Ituri province) will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as a result of severe food consumption gaps and having exhausted all available crisis strategies, while other areas affected by conflict and mass displacement (Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Kasaï and Kasaï Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). More stable areas of the provinces will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    To learn more, see the June 2020 Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook.


    • The Government of Madagascar has lifted many of the measures previously enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19, allowing economic activities to resume to some degree. The movement of people is not restricted, except to and from Analamanga and Antsinanana regions.
    • Income sources among poor households are below average in several areas. For example, remittances in southern Madagascar remain lower than normal as laborers cannot migrate as usual to western and northern Madagascar, as these areas are only accessible by national roads that pass through locked-down cities.
    • On average, prices remained steady or decreased minimally from April to May in the south despite the onset of the harvest period due to expected below-average production. Staple food prices in urban markets also decreased, by 10 percent, but remain above average.
    • Most areas of the country are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), including in the three major cities, where ongoing humanitarian food assistance is sustaining Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes. In southern areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist and are anticipated to persist through October, after which food security will moderately deteriorate with the onset of the lean season.

    To learn more, see the June 2020 Madagascar Food Security Outlook.


    • Across most of the country, rural households are consuming food from the recent harvest, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected through January 2021. However, some areas in the southern and northern regions registered localized production shortfalls. In these areas, households who harvested less are expected to exhaust food stocks atypically early. In the worst affected areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected from September to December 2020, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely in January 2021.
    • In urban areas, many poor households are currently facing food and income gaps due to impacts of COVID-19 on the economy. Households dependent on trading, casual labor, and employment in domestic labor, teaching, hospitality, and the tobacco sector have been worst affected by reduced income-earning. Due to lack of alternative livelihood options and limited savings, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through September 2020, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes then expected through January 2021 alongside economic recovery and resumption of income-earning.
    • According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Malawi has likely produced over 3.7 million tons of maize – about 11 percent above last year and 28 percent above the five-year average. Production of most other key food and cash crops is expected to be above average. However, production of tobacco is expected to be approximately 6 percent below last year and 10 percent below average. Production of cotton is also expected to be below average, given declines over the past six years. Reduced production of these crops will likely reduce income-earning for some households. Meanwhile, retail prices for the maize staple are expected to remain significantly above average through at least January 2021.

     To learn more, see the June 2020 Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in the semiarid areas of southern Mozambique following crop failure and/or significantly below-average main season production. As the conflict intensifies in Cabo Delgado, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes also persist in this area, as an increasing number of people are displaced and lose access to their typical food and income sources. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are mostly present in areas where poor households are still recovering from previous shocks (cyclones, floods, and drought). In all other areas of the country, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected due to favorable food availability and access. Beginning in October 2020, food security is likely to deteriorate across southern Tete and other southern and central areas as poor households will have exhausted their below-average food stocks much earlier than usual and be employing unsustainable coping strategies driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
    • As of June 29, Mozambique has 883 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in thousands of poor households in urban and peri-urban areas losing sources of income. A recent IPC analysis carried out by the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) and partners estimated that approximately 15 percent of the population of Maputo and Matola are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
    • In May, the price of maize grain in central and northern markets decreased or remained stable. In the south, the price of maize grain has started to decrease due to increased supply of maize grain from the central region. However, the price of maize grain in these areas remains 20-60 percent above the five-year average. The price of maize meal and rice remained stable in May, except in Maputo, where the price of rice rose by 40 percent likely due to some temporary supply constraints.

    To learn more, see the Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • Although food security outcomes are better than previously anticipated in areas of the country, high humanitarian food assistance needs persist and are expected through at least early 2021. Despite the harvest, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across the southern, western, and extreme northern parts of the country throughout the outlook period due to below normal access to both food and income. Humanitarian assistance is currently improving outcomes to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) in some areas of the country.
    • Outcomes in some typical surplus-producing areas in the north are better than previously anticipated, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) present and expected from June to September. As livelihoods in these areas are mainly crop dependent, the somewhat favorable crop production and access to income, while below normal, is sufficient for poor households to meet their minimum food and some non-food needs. From October through January, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in surplus-producing areas as food stocks dwindle or are depleted and households are reliant on markets for food. Urban areas are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) although Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected as the informal sector restarts following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the economy slowly dollarizes.
    • Economic volatility and depreciating parallel market exchange rates are progressively constraining livelihoods and disposable incomes. The official annual inflation rate in May stood at 786 percent and the local currency depreciated by over 80 percent between May and mid-June. In late June the government shifted from a fixed official foreign exchange system to a new auction system.  However, volatile macroeconomic conditions are anticipated throughout the outlook period. 
    • COVID-19 related measures continue to constrain access to food and income for market dependent households even as government has progressively relaxed some restrictions. In mid-June, the informal sector re-opened on the condition operations register with local authorities and COVID-19 control measures are observed. National borders remain closed except for essential goods and services; inter-city and rural-urban transport services remain banned. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase driven mainly by returning citizens from South Africa and Botswana.
    • The 2019/20 official maize production estimates are about 30 percent below average. In response to inflationary pressures, in April the government increased maize and small grains producer prices by about 80 percent, followed by a 30 percent incentive for deliveries through the end of July. Maize grain and maize meal imports mainly from South Africa continue although local supplies remain low. Shortages of some basic food items mainly maize grain, maize meal, sugar and cooking oil continue across most markets. Maize grain and maize meal prices are projected to remain significantly above average throughout the outlook period.

    To learn more, see the June 2020 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.

    Countries Monitored Remotely[i]


    ·As of June 29, there are 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lesotho. Testing has been limited with testing capacity reported at 150 people per day. The border closures and South Africa’s lockdown have impacted seasonal employment opportunities for poor households in Lesotho, as well as remittance inflows. Households that normally migrate to South Africa around May to July for harvesting labor opportunities are currently unable to do so and, consequently, income and remittances have been below average since April/May.

    ·The relaxation of the COVID-19 control measures in Lesotho on May 6 has slightly improved economic activity in both rural and urban areas, although engagement in livelihood activities has not fully returned to normal. Rural households are engaged in several income-earning activities such as crop and vegetable sales, casual labor, and petty trade. In urban areas, salaried and wage employment such as security guards, cleaners, domestic workers, and informal workers, make up some of the low-income urban earners who form very poor and poor households. Although businesses have begun operating at near normal levels since the relaxation of the COVID-19 control measures, the border closures and local sanitary control measures are delaying the supply of goods, limiting trade transactions, and impacting household incomes.

    ·Maize meal prices in Maseru have been generally stable from October 2019 to March 2020. According to prices published by the Bureau of Statistics, maize meal prices in Maseru increased by approximately 9 percent from March to April 2020. April maize meal prices in Maseru were 12 and 5 percent above last year and the five-year average, respectively. This increase in maize meal prices primarily affected urban populations as rural households are relying on their recent harvests during this period. According to key informants, markets are well stocked despite delays at the border that are resulting from sanitary measures put in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

    To learn more, see the June 2020 Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.


    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Southern Africa



    Resurgence of COVID 19 and increase in government restrictions

    Resurgence of COVID 19 infections in the region will result in more hard lockdowns which will further harm income from both informal and informal sectors in urban areas.   For rural areas, this will significantly affect household income for both staple and agriculture input purchases. The region will see a surge in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and a higher population.

    Zimbabwe and Lesotho  

    Increased demand for South African grain in the East Asian countries resulting in significant price increases

    These countries depend heavily on South Africa for maize grain and are expecting to benefit from the increased supply following the 2020 bumper harvest. However, in the event of increased demand for the South African grain in Asian countries, this might result in significant increases in prices of grain in the region.



    [i] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to countries above, where FEWS NET has a local office, reporting on remote monitoring countries may offer less detail.

    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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