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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to increase as the lean season approaches in Southern Africa

  • Key Message Update
  • Southern Africa
  • September 2023
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to increase as the lean season approaches in Southern Africa

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The recently concluded main season harvest is supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in northern surplus-producing areas of Zimbabwe, central and northern areas of Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi, and the northern province of DRC as households access food from their 2023 harvested stocks and income from crop sales. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are widespread in areas where poor household food stocks are gradually depleting, and households increasingly depend on market purchases where food prices remain largely higher than the five-year average. However, Crisis IPC (Phase 3) outcomes are present in parts of the region that recorded poor harvests following the impact of Tropical Cyclone Freddy and prolonged dry spells, particularly in southern Malawi, central and southern Mozambique, and parts of southern Zimbabwe, and conflict in eastern DRC. The return of IDPs in Cabo Delgado has improved accessibility by government and humanitarian organizations, driving Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes.  
    • Consumer price inflation in South Africa, Lesotho, and Mozambique continued its disinflationary trend in August as prices of staple commodities slowed. However, in Malawi, Angola, Madagascar, and the DRC, headline inflation has been increasing along with food inflation, which is expected to continue to negatively impact household purchasing power, particularly as market food purchases increase and food stocks decline. Fuel price inflation increased in August and will likely quicken in September after petrol and diesel prices increase. The recent increase in global oil prices will likely lead to higher agricultural input and transportation costs, with the region’s 2024 cereal crop planting seasons set to commence in October 2023.
    • Following the conclusion of the 2023 harvest, poor households across Southern Africa are engaging in seasonal off-farm income-earning activities such as petty trade, casual labor and construction, producing and selling vegetables, firewood, and bricks, and artisanal mining to earn income. However, increased competition, poor liquidity among better-off households, and low demand for products and services are limiting poor household earnings. In the coming months, poor households are likely to increasingly engage in agricultural labor opportunities with the start of the 2023/24 agricultural season. However, the ongoing strong El Niño will likely result in a delayed and erratic start to the rainy season, particularly in Zimbabwe, southern and central Mozambique, southern Malawi, and southern Madagascar. An erratic and delayed start will likely impact cropped areas and income-earning opportunities. Close monitoring of rainfall totals and distribution will be required to assess the severity of adverse impacts on cropping conditions for the 2023/24 harvest. Governments and donors should prepare now for rising food assistance needs in 2024. 
    • Based on historical trends during a strong El Niño, there is concern that acute malnutrition rates will likely rise across Southern Africa due to below-average harvests impacting household food availability and access, along with high staple food prices and limited income-earning opportunities for poor households. Lower-than-normal household purchasing power is also likely to impact household dietary diversity and food utilization negatively. In August 2023, UNICEF reported that 2023 severe acute malnutrition admission trends continue to be within the long-term average, with Zimbabwe and Angola recording slight declines in admission trends. However, during the 2016/17 El Niño, Zimbabwe recorded a 25 percent increase in severe acute malnutrition cases. Overall, a potential rise in acute malnutrition rates is likely to be exacerbated by inadequate access to treatment amid ongoing funding gaps.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Southern Africa Key Message Update September 2023: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to increase as the lean season approaches in Southern Africa, 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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