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Increased number of people projected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) across the region

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • March 2016
Increased number of people projected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook By Country
  • Events That Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • As the peak of the lean season continues, most countries in the region expect the main harvest to be delayed by up to a month. This extension of the lean season has resulted in atypically high demand on local markets among all household wealth groups and continued high food prices. 

    • A number of countries in the region experienced increased rainfall from mid-February through March. These rains will likely improve pasture conditions and the availability of water for livestock. This late season moisture is too late for crop recovery in most drought-affected areas, but may benefit cropped areas that were planted very late in the season. 

    • Although national crop estimates are still forthcoming, the region is anticipating a second consecutive year of below average maize supplies. Supplies for the 2016/17 consumption year will be significantly below average because of the El Niño related drought. National level cereal deficits are expected to be much higher than normal for the majority of countries. Staple prices continue to be above the five-year average in a number of countries facing an extended lean season period. In Mozambique and Malawi, February maize prices are more than double the five-year average across major monitored markets. Maize (white) prices on the SAFEX market also increased slightly between January and February. 

    • In typical years households normally experience increased food availability from mid-March to April due to access to green foods and the start of the main harvests, however this year poor households in several parts of the region continue to face livelihood protection and food deficits. Poor households in Lesotho, southern Mozambique, southern Madagascar, and southwest Zambia are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and these outcomes are expected to continue through September due to the anticipated below-average harvests. Similar outcomes are expected in several other SADC countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and southern Angola.

    Outlook By Country


    • Most of the country is facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. Poor households that are not receiving humanitarian assistance are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to livelihood protection deficits because of high prices and lower than normal earnings from agricultural labor due to El-Niño induced drought conditions in the central and southern region.
    • The magnitude of maize price increases this year is atypical. In January, prices ranged from 190 – 243 MWK/kg. In comparison to last year, the percentage increase is between 85 – 155 percent higher. The prices of maize grain are expected to continue trending significantly above average for the entirety of the Outlook period. In the absence of additional imports, subsidized maize supplies through ADMARC depots are estimated to run out in March, about one month before the harvest is expected to begin.
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes are only expected to continue through March, in the presence of assistance. There is the possibility that assistance will also continue in April, but additional information is still forthcoming. By April, in the absence of any assistance, food insecure districts in the central and northern regions of the country will be in IPC Phase 2 and outcomes in the south will deteriorate to IPC Phase 3. These outcomes will improve after the harvest in May, and Phase 1 and Phase 2 outcomes are expected in areas from June to September.

    To learn more, read the complete Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • Despite significant rainfall in mid-March, drought conditions linked to El Niño remain across much of the southern and central regions. The rainfall improved some pastoral conditions and water availability, but were too late to recover wilted crops planted in late January. However, these late rains could allow some poor households to plant short-cycle crops if they are able to access seeds, which would contribute to their diet from June through September. 
    • With crop failure already apparent in many southern areas, much of the central region is also facing prospects for a poor harvest. The below-average rainfall has not facilitated the normal development and maturity of staple crops, so yields will be low. FEWS NET currently estimates that nearly 600,000 people are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), requiring emergency food assistance, while an additional 600,000 are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Needs estimates are likely to rise based on results from the March food security assessment led by the Technical Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN), which will be released in early April. 
    • Staple food prices have continued to rise, which is limiting food access for poor households as they increasingly rely on market purchases. In February, the average price for maize grain in major markets monitored was 121 percent above the five-year average. Prices of some major substitute staples, maize meal and rice, were up compared to the five-year average in markets monitored, by 43 percent and 22 percent, respectively. These price increases are atypical, as they generally remain relatively stable throughout the consumption year.
    • According to the National Center of Emergency Operations (CENOE), nearly 300,000 people will receive food assistance in March, delivered by the Government of Mozambique, WFP, and the COSACA Consortium of NGOs with DFID funding (composed of Concern, Oxfam, Save the Children, and CARE). After March, there is no programmed food assistance nor large-scale seed distribution plans. Beyond the outlook period through September, the number of people facing acute food insecurity and the severity of outcomes will increase until the next harvest in 2017, in the absence of further assistance. 

    To learn more, read the complete Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • An El Niño-related drought is ongoing in the South and West, with certain areas facing one of the driest rainy seasons in 35 years. Although sufficient rainfall in central and northern parts of country will contribute to near-average harvests in those areas, staple food production at a national-level will likely be below average due to significant declines in production in drought-affected areas.
    • Poor households in the south, particularly in Androy, Atsimo Andrefana, Tsihombe and Ambovombe, will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between February and April 2016 due to the effects of two consecutive years of below-average crop production in 2014 and 2015 and an ongoing, extended lean season caused by drought-related delays in 2016 harvests.
    • Between April and August, main season harvests will slightly improve food insecurity in the South, although many households will still face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes given the effects of expected below-average harvests. Crop failures in the districts of Tsihombe and Ambovombe, however, will likely result in a continuation of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes for affected populations in these districts.
    • Looking towards the next lean season (December 2016 to February 2017), food insecurity will likely escalate across drought-affected areas of southern Madagascar both in terms of severity of outcomes and the magnitude of the food insecure population. Emergency humanitarian assistance to save lives, treat and prevent acute malnutrition, and protect livelihoods will be needed for worst affected populations.

    To learn more, read the complete Madagascar Food Security Outlook Report.


    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes continue in most parts of the country and these outcomes are expected from February to September. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes have persisted in parts of the southwest since August 2015. Households in this area are hard hit by El Niño-induced drought conditions and are already exhibiting stress signals, including migration to Namibia in search of labor and desperate livestock sales. Food security outcomes in this area are likely to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and September. 
    • Many households are relying on industrially processed meal. Maize prices remain high and are expected to be above the five-year average from February through September due to atypically high market demand, an extension of the lean period, depreciation of the local currency, poor seasonal progress, as well as below-average production prospects for the 2015/16 season. Zambia’s formal maize exports continue to decline as maize surplus volumes diminish. 
    • Current stock levels are low, and will result in significantly below-average opening stocks for the 2016/17 marketing year. Despite this, the upcoming harvest in May and FRA maize stocks are adequate to meet national needs through the next marketing season that ends in April 2017. 

    To learn more, read the complete Zambia Food Security Outlook.


    • In February, the President of Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster in view of the El Niño-induced poor rains and the escalating food insecurity situation. An appeal has been made for USD $1.5 billion for food and other emergency needs.
    • In the typically marginal production areas in the south, (including Matabeleland, Masvingo, Midlands, and Manicaland Provinces) households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to low levels of assistance and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in the presence of assistance. Households in these areas will face food gaps from April onwards due to little or no access to the green harvest in March/April, the end of assistance programming in March, and very poor harvest prospects in May. These outcomes will continue through September. Immediate assistance is needed to protect livelihoods and reduce food consumption gaps.
    • In the traditionally cereal surplus areas in the north most areas are experiencing a combination of Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and 2!), in the presence of assistance. Household production from previous seasons stocks are very low or depleted and market demand is increasing. Access to green consumption in March/April will be limited due to the ongoing drought conditions and poor harvests prospects. The food security situation is expected to improve slightly in these areas during the harvest period from May to July. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue from August through September as local maize supplies dry up and prices increase. 

    To learn more, read the complete Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.

    Countries Monitored Remotely[i]


    • Following a recent drought assessment in Lesotho, food insecurity from January to June 2016 is expected to increase to 27 percent of the rural population. This projected increase is more than double the estimated food insecure population that was projected back in May 2015 by the Lesotho Vulnerable Assessment Committee (LVAC). This rise is attributed to the poor 2015/16 rainfall, the El Niño-induced drought, and well above-average staple food prices. 
    • Most very poor and poor households are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the outlook period, with a significant portion of households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between June and September. Acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to deteriorate further in the absence of ongoing social safety-net programming. 
    • According to the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), this season is ranked as the driest and second driest in 35 years across most of the country. Drought conditions resulted in less area cropped this season, wilting and damaged crops, as well as water shortages for humans and livestock. On-farm labor opportunities are extremely limited, as are other typical livelihood strategies households may use to earn incomes for food purchases during the peak lean season. Current household purchasing power is quite low and food prices are well above average. Current observations indicate a below-average 2016 harvest in the coming months, which is expected to contribute to increased food insecurity beyond June.

    To learn more, read the complete Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.

    [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.

    Events That Might Change the Outlook

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

    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes

    Entire region



    Increases in global fuel prices.Even earlier than normal increases in staple prices, further constraining food access in a number of countries across the region.
    Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana  Continued improvements in rainfall. Improved pasture conditions will improve livestock body conditions and should increase livestock selling prices, which would improve household purchasing power. 


    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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